By Nathan Ham
Nine candidates are vying for five spots on the Boone Town Council as early voting continues through October 30 with Election Day falling on November 2.
Eric Brown, Christy M. Cook, Rebecca Nenow and Edie Tugman are running for two unexpired terms where each seat will be held for two years. Todd Carter, Jon Dalton George, Benjamin Ray, Virginia Roseman and Eric Woolridge are running for the other three spots on the Boone Town Council. The top two vote-getters will receive four-year terms while the person that finishes third will get a two-year term. Adrian Tait has withdrawn his name from the race.
Through interviews and the “Meet the Candidates Forum” put together by the Boone Area Chamber of Commerce, each candidate shared some information on their background, their time in Boone and what they would bring to the Boone Town Council.
Eric Brown is a Boone native and has lived here his whole life. He attended UNC-Chapel Hill where he double majored and graduated with a degree in economics and another degree in romance languages.
“The motivation for doing this is encouragement from people around me. They encouraged me to take a step and they could tell that I was very fair and that I cared about the community, so that’s what led me to this,” Brown said. “I want to make sure to put myself out there, attend and listen to all meetings and keep up with more about what’s happening locally. Being accessible to the community is a key priority.”
Brown said that some of his priorities for the council would be healthcare-related and being there for local business owners. He also hopes that as Boone moves forward, development is done smartly.
“From a municipal setting, we are going to have some good expansion. But at the same time, if we’re going to dream, let’s dream big. Let’s use what we can with our resources to also make smart decisions about how we develop,” Brown said.
Brown has spent time living both inside and outside the Boone town limits during his life in the High Country, so he feels like it is important that the town and county have a strong, positive relationship.
“I’d like to value the relationship between Boone and Watauga County. I’ve lived outside of Boone in areas like Deep Gap, I have family now currently in Blowing Rock. I know there are a lot of business relationships that go inside and outside of Boone. The shops, businesses, schools, churches, all of these things are to be listened to and respected very much in a good way that would affect a positive relationship,” he said.
Christy M. Cook
Christy M. Cook served in the United States Air Force and came to Boone in 2002. She is currently a full-time faculty member at Appalachian State University. Education is one of her highest priorities should she be elected to the town council.
“I am specifically running for Boone Town Council to listen to, partner with and advocate for the K-12 population, which is now right around 4,700. I am listening to them and their families and caregivers, as well as other key stakeholders tied to that population. I believe strongly that they are our legacy and I would like to create as many opportunities for this segment so that they would stay here as young professionals,” she said.
Cook said she supports the town’s sustainability goals of climate neutrality in municipal operations by 2030, transitioning municipal operations to 100% clean renewable energy by 2040 and transitioning the entire town of Boone to 100% clean renewable energy by 2050.
In addition to her priorities as a council member, Cook wants voters to know that she is interested in what they have to say and any ideas they want to share about how to make Boone better.
“The goal is to serve the citizens of the town of Boone. I am very approachable. I am definitely open to any kind of conversations from local leadership, both current and past,” Cook said.
Rebecca Nenow’s family moved to Boone in 2005. After graduating from UNC-Chapel Hill and hiking the Appalachian Trail, she returned to Boone and started Resupply, a business that offers refills on personal and household care products as well as items to live more sustainably.
“I am interested in the sustainability of Boone, not only in terms of energy but also our growth, a sustainable economy and sustainable government that includes the voices of our town’s people,” Nenow said.
Nenow is focusing her campaign efforts on providing Green Energy and solutions for reducing Boone’s carbon emissions, sustainable growth for the local economy, affordable housing, weatherization of homes and supporting transportation alternatives to vehicles.
Edie Tugman first came to Boone in 1964 and has moved in and out of the High Country as jobs required. She worked for almost 22 years in the insurance industry and for a large regional hospital system managing loss reduction. She feels like being able to smartly manage the growth of Boone will be a big focus for the upcoming town council.
“I think there are so many things on the horizon. There has not been a long-range plan for Boone since 2006,” Tugman said. “The present council has started working on a project now for a new downtown business zoning and historic overlay. I think those are amazingly important but I think we also need to be looking at larger Boone and how we are going to manage growth in the larger area of Boone and not just downtown.”
Tugman says she is very pro-business, particularly the local businesses that have worked hard to be where they are today.
“I really believe in the preservation of the integrity of Boone. I recognize that we could not survive without the national chains and the big stores and that they are an important part of our general commerce, but I think that local businesses are the heartbeat of this community and I think that it is really important that we do everything we can to preserve the integrity of downtown and create a buffer between commercial and residential,” she said.
Virginia Roseman has lived in Watauga County since 1997 and lived in the Boone town limits since 2008. She attended Western Carolina University where she studied child development and family psychology. She started her career working in the local school system before transitioning into working at Horn in the West for eight years. Her time at Horn in the West was one of many things that made her appreciate what Boone has to offer.
“That was something that really instilled in me that I needed to be part of my community. Through that avenue, I learned I wanted to be part of what makes Boone great,” Roseman said.
Roseman previously served on the Boone Board of Adjustments and the Boone Tourism Development Authority (TDA). Currently, Roseman serves as the town council liaison to the Historical Preservation Commission, Cultural Resource Board, as well as the Boone TDA. By serving in these positions, Roseman has been able to see the broad appeal of Boone outside of just residents and students.
“The way I look at Boone is it’s not just simply the people that live in Boone. We have a community that chooses to work in Boone, that chooses to bring economy into Boone. So you have to look at the whole encompassed picture,” Roseman said.
Jon Dalton George
Jon Dalton George is a recent graduate from Appalachian State and considers himself an activist for many causes in the community.
“The four or five years I have spent in the town of Boone I have really worked to make this a better place. I have advocated for voting rights and protected voting sites in town and made sure everyone could vote easily and accessibly,” George said.
George is the Founder and President of the Boone Fair Housing Task Force that started in March of 2020. He has also spent time serving on the town’s Board of Adjustment since February of this year.
Housing activism has been something really important to George and he plans to continue that on the town council.
“We worked on addressing substandard housing in the area and conditions people were living with, we felt like the market wasn’t really equitable in the way that it should be or following specific standards that the town or state had in place,” he said. “Bringing an activist perspective to things, I feel like I have been in the moon, I’ve been in these council meetings and know how things work. I think being an incumbent probably gives me a little bit more drive in that regard. Even though I’m the young one, I think I’ve got a little bit of experience too.”
Todd Carter grew up in Hendersonville and attended UNC-Chapel Hill. Most recently, he has been working at Hospitality House of Northwest North Carolina for the past 10 years and has previous experience working in for-profit companies as well.
“I am well equipped to look at both sides of the issue having managed large budgets and having worked the last 10 years as a community activist and non-profit leader in Boone,” Carter said. “I care tremendously about this community.”
Working alongside people every day that are struggling to find permanent housing in the High Country has been Carter’s main motivation to fight for affordable housing in Boone.
“I have been working on the fair housing issue since almost when my feet hit the ground here. I know the struggles, I know the people who have experienced the struggles, and I want to get something done about it,” Carter said. “That is my commitment. We are actually going to provide accessible housing to the workforce, to single-income families, and it should not take a single-income family with three children having to make $38 an hour to live in Boone. I am here to fight for the people, people are my passion, I am excited to be running and I am excited to take my next step in activism for the people of Boone.”
In addition to housing, Carter says he hopes to improve relationships between the town and the county and hopes to pass a non-discrimination ordinance for the town.
“Boone is about more than just the people who can vote in a town council election, it’s about all the stakeholders that come to Boone and can enjoy Boone. I think it is about listening to all sides and understanding that there has to be more transparency between the leadership at Appalachian State and the Boone Planning Commission and making sure that we are protecting the history and the culture of Boone,” Carter said.
Benjamin Ray has lived in the High Country for 15 years and has been a resident in Boone for nine years where he owns his own real estate firm. He graduated from Lees-McRae College with a business degree and loves to call Boone home.
“People really are my heart. Boone has been the most amazing place to live. I get to drive through the beautiful campus every day to see the energy and vibrancy of this town. It’s a pleasure to be a real estate agent in a place like this. It’s so easy to sell Boone, North Carolina. I travel a good bit and always love coming home to this place,” Ray said.
Working in real estate gives him a background that he feels like he needs to tackle housing issues in Boone.
“Affordable housing for our locals who are the backbone of this community that work so hard to keep this economy growing is something I feel like really needs to be something we address in the very near future. We also need to understand our growth gracefully and work together as a town and county to understand growth in a common-sense way,” Ray said.
Eric Woolridge moved to Boone in 1997 and went to Appalachian State University. He has previously worked with the Watauga County Tourism Development Authority and went on to start Destination by Design, which he has operated for about the last nine years.
“One of the big reasons why I’m running is I have been encouraged to do so by people that have followed my career in local government over the years. I also love the fact that this is a non-partisan election, I have always been an unaffiliated voter,” Woolridge said. “I’m ready to give back and serve the community.”
Woolridge says some of his biggest priorities include solving the parking problems in downtown Boone, expanding downtown beautification efforts, connecting all of Boone with multi-use paths and greenways, revitalizing the Horn in the West Amphitheater and connecting the Greenway to Rocky Knob Mountain Bike Park. Woolridge played a major role in the creation of Rocky Knob bike park and the expansion of the Greenway during his time with the TDA.