Compiled by Jesse Wood
Brad Harmon for Mayor
Brad Harmon is running for mayor. Below is a prepared candidate statement drafted when he filed his candidacy earlier this summer. Following the statement is Harmon’s responses to a variety of hot-topic questions at the Boone Area Chamber’s “Candidate Forum” held in early October.
(From prior HCPress.com article … Statement to come)
Brad Harmon is the owner of Dixie Pride, located in downtown Boone.
Harmon, a registered Republican, said he was running for three reasons: ensure safety for people in the town; end the “squabble” of the old Watauga High School property – “it should have been handled differently;” and for the remembrance of the older folks who were born in Boone.
“I remember people who were born here and what they started out with,” Harmon said.
Video: Closing Statement from Candidate Forum
CANDIDATE FORUM Q&A
- Moderator: Given the fact Boone operates a multi-million dollar budget, what is your business experience and how will that benefit you in this position and what’s your best financial experience as well?
Brad Harmon: I have 41 years business experience behind me with my families business and also in the food industry and plus working with the department of corrections and volunteer fire department. Being accountable is one of the most important things, and that is something which I am trying to work on and further that with the government here and then being more business friendly and bringing in more business here. So I have been talking with other people on that. Those are the things which I am willing to work with and work for the people here. That is honor to everybody that is to serve mankind.
- Moderator: Having witnessed disturbing and disruptive conflicts between the Boone Town Council and the Watauga County Board of Commissioners, what is your plan to work with other governing bodies with the best interest of the taxpayer and greater community in mind?
Brad Harmon: Well, first things first. We have to have a communication between all the departments and we have to work together. My thing is I want to sit down with the county commissioners and try to resolve the situation that we have especially with the old Watauga High property and also want to work with the other communities we have here, being Blowing Rock, Seven Devils, Hound Ears, and work with them on solving a lot of our problems we have here. Water being another one. It takes a community to work. I want to do that for us, solve the problems and bring in new businesses.
- Moderator: Do you support moving forward with New River intake project and if not what do you see as alternative plan to ensure adequate water availability for growth and development of the area?
Brad Harmon: Water intake is an indisputable fact of Boone. That is going to grow because of our location. We have searched for water sources; the problem with the approach so far is a mess to say the least. Costly studies, unfulfilled applications and acting less than neighborly has the water intake project incomplete and costing Boone taxpayers millions. Rather than acting [inaudible] and taking what we want, we need to work with every agency and municipality to obtain the water we need in the future in the most economic manner, both monetarily and environmentally. It would not be easy, but there is a solution. I do not look to this project. There are other alternatives. It would cost more to go out that direction. We should look locally and also possibly tap into other areas – Seven Devils or Blowing Rock.
- Moderator: How do you see the change to the ad valorem sales tax distribution and the pending real estate revaluation impacting the town’s budget and how should it be addressed?
Brad Harmon: Well, first things first: I think we need to rework everything with the taxes, and just basically stop the waste that we have. There is a bunch of waste that we have done and used the property that we have. Sell it correctly, and talk with the county commissioners. County commissioners are willing to talk. I’ve spoken with them about their issues, and they are issues that we can meet over and that are not bipartisan. We need to talk and get that money back to help Boone. As a business owner, I do not believe in raising any taxes on any season. That would be the last straw, so that is what we need to do. We have to work together, and the county commissioners we have to work with them.
- Moderator: The Chamber, of course, is very interested in what happens to business here in this community. How do you see the UDO impacting the business that currently operate in or wish to operate in the Town of Boone, for example, the old Watauga High School property?
Brad Harmon: Well, let’s start with the  plan. It’s just a plan. We need to relook at that constantly for it’s a guideline. For the UDO speaking as a business owner, it’s nice to have those things, but we need to remember that businesses trying to come in here need to have a fair play in this and there are a lot of things with that they try to punish businesses especially on other areas like design, coloration, those types of things and that can turn a business against you. So my thing is that needs to be completely overhauled.
- Moderator: Many vacant properties exist in Boone what would seem desirable tracts and many on major roads near the center of town. What would you propose to help move these properties from eyesores to useful properties?
Brad Harmon: Well as a business owner, I can tell you first hand why a lot of businesses do depart from this area. When I was redoing my building, I kept getting told by the planning department, ‘Oh this is your last setup of what you need to do.’ When you are done, they come back in and give you a whole list of more. Then when you decide do coloration or anything, it was alienation and fight for what you were fighting for. They are anti-business right there. Straight out. We need to make it more business friendly and work with them. Olive Garden was trying to come in and I can tell you one of the reasons that may have been their ax here was of Watauga County, Boone is the only one that does a water usage fee where we have to pay 1,000 per table basically before you can pay for those tables for your restaurant.
- Moderator: In the Town of Boone long-term plan related to economic development, it states area residents support different and more expanded economic activity only if it increases the opportunity for stable, higher-wage jobs and enhances the quality of life for existing residents. What specifically would you propose to do to accomplish this type of development?
Brad Harmon: Well, I have been talking with some banks and other business leaders here on ways we can bring in more businesses, and I have a couple up my sleeve right now that I am considering that would replace TRW and Shadowline and I want to see about bringing those in here. Those types of industries that I am thinking about will not only require people who do have a degree but other people who just have the high school diploma. We have to bring all types of businesses in here to let them develop and have a chance here in our community. I want to work with the community and hear what they have to say, but I think we have to open that door for all businesses to come in here but we have to have a town that works great with businesses and talks them and helps them instead of hindering them. Talking to other businesses, I get to hear that all the time up on King Street.
- Moderator: What are your views concerning the Daniel Boone Parkway to relieve traffic congestion in the Town of Boone?
Brad Harmon: That is an interesting subject because the town of Boone has always had a traffic problem ever since I was a small kid. There is no real solution to that but I think there are ideas that could be talked about but the bottom line is we are always going to have a problem with traffic. We have to deal with it. I don’t want to take and put a parkway in here that bypasses it because it will take away from revenue from downtown. People are coming here to Mast General Store, F.A.R.M. Café, Mountaineer Mania, ASU, things like that. They will not take that road. I’ve seen other proposals that would even take north of Boone. That was 25 – 30 years ago. I am not in favor of it. I want us to see our money going to the center of town.
- Moderator: In light of projected 10-20-100 year flood maps, what are your thoughts on surface water mitigation in the Town along U.S. 321?
Brad Harmon: Well, as growing up I got to see a lot of flooding because my grandparents had a home on highland avenue, so I got to see that an awful lot. So, we have had some serious injuries and one death that happened right there near McDonald’s there with the child. We are going to have a hard time with this and we do need to work this out. It’s going to take time for us to get the correct information from the department of engineering and see what can possibly do. But I do agree we need to utilize storm drainage into that that could possibly even help us with our water situation that we are trying to have a solution thereof. We need to reevaluate this area and make sure we don’t’ have those things happening again.
- Moderator: Share your vision on how you would like the town and ASU work together in the future. What major issues do you see htat need to be addressed and how would you work toward solutions?
Jenny Church: The Town of Boone likes to contract out studies for every decision we make, which is a good thing because it is good to be informed. But we always contract those out to other states and agencies when we have the experts here in town. To remain a professor, you have to produce research, diaries, journals, you have to stay current and published. We should let the planning department and the students in the master’s programs and professionals already here that experience Boone on a daily basis conduct those studies because they will have Boone’s best interests at heart because they live here and work here. They can do the study for a lot cheaper than $35,000 or $40,000 or whatever it is that we are charging and the students can get real life experience in the area they are attending school.
- Moderator: Regarding Howard Street: You know the only change taking place in 22 years is a one-way road from Depot Street to Water Street. As a businessperson in this community, I am frustrated that there is an awful lot of talk regarding and not a lot of action. Comments?
Brad Harmon: Being a business owner in downtown, I know about the Howard Street program and what it’s safety issues are, especially with being on the downtown Boone Development Association and hearing that and talking about it. I am not in favor of changing the way they are wanting to do it as a one-way street, and now they want to snake it through Howard Street and make it look more European. The reason I want to keep it as a two-lane road is as the new Appalachian Theatre coming inline, we are going have trucks coming in and out of there whenever they do a performance, live concert, or play, those trucks are going to have to have either way of coming in and ASU has trucks coming in. I think what we need to do is increase a walkway for the students, but we’ve got to keep that traffic flowing because a lot that goes in right between there.