Compiled by Jesse Wood
Oct. 20, 2013. High Country Press asked candidates in the Blowing Rock Town Council and mayoral races four questions. As the candidates respond, answers from those running for Blowing Rock Town Council will be posted here and those running for mayor will be posted here.
Current Blowing Rock Town Councilman Dan Phillips is running for mayor of Blowing Rock. He is challenging incumbent J.B. Lawrence.
Dan Phillips Bio/Statement
- HCP: Considering Blowing Rock’s lackluster population growth in the past decade, as an elected official, what would you do to attract new residents – both full-time and seasonal – to Blowing Rock in terms of being an attractive place to live, work and play?
Dan Phillips: To answer this question correctly one must first understand the real issue in Blowing Rock. We do not lack for people in Blowing Rock, except perhaps for the dead months of winter. Our problem is that we have drifted away from being a “Resort Community” with a full time local population to support it and shifted, at an accelerated pace, to a “high volume tourist” environment with all the seasonality problems that comes with it. Older folks dream of going back to what we were and younger folks push hard to be a part of the fast paced 21st century environment that rapidly changing transportation and communication systems drive.
To be a “year round full service” community with 21st century advantages while maximizing the benefits of our unique position of being one of the most attractive tourist destinations in North Carolina we must do several things.
We must first look to recruit some new businesses that are more balanced for year around employment rather than pure tourist driven. Some of this would be done by looking forward with some higher tech infrastructure improvements. High speed wireless.etc.
We are going to have to look for and work with some public private development opportunities.
We are going to have to work with companies both in the high country and off the Mountain to recruit businesses and young people to our town. This is going to require working with our Chamber and approaching the Universities to recruit and retain some of these great college students to stay up here.
We have to market having the best elementary school in the state.
We have to market that we are a safe community with a short commute to at least 5-6 regional or Major Transportation hubs.
We have to Market the Middle Fork Greenway.
We have to Market The Equestrian side of our Community.
- HCP: What ideas do you have to address infrastructure needs of Blowing Rock in an aesthetically pleasing manner?
Dan Phillips: Addressing infrastructure means to stop kicking the repairs down the road to future councils It takes courage to tackle these issues now. This has been neglected for 25 years plus and the problems associated with the rain this summer reminded of this need big time.
Burying power lines , adding curbs and gutters and providing clean water to our citizens is the first responsibility of the elected officials . These would improve aesthetics immediately.
- HCP: While maintaining the charm of Blowing Rock, how would you support economic development and tourism in terms of getting new businesses to fill empty storefronts and keep current businesses operating in town?
Dan Phillips: The charm of the village has been and always will be the people who live here and our Main Street. What a lot of people miss is that the family owned Small Businesses are a lot of the charm. We have to protect them and the historical architectural if we are going to save the charm.
We have a unique opportunity to “have our cake and eat it at the same time”. The availability of new development space on “the seven acre track” and the old and new hospital property offer us an opportunity to develop those things Blowing Rock needs to support an economically viable “year round” community while protecting the charm of the village. We need to actively recruit and support the most appropriate businesses to populate those properties. At the same time we need strong management of the inevitable changes to Valley Boulevard and Main Street to insure that we don’t loose the one strong industry we have in Blowing Rock – tourism.
The development of the new Post Acute Care facility and potentially a Continuous Care Retirement Community around it offers great potential for economic growth. However, to take maximum advantage of that potential we need to ensure that many of the 200-300 people who work there actually live in Blowing Rock. This means Blowing Rock must attract and support a young working families. i.e. It must have housing and “life support” business as well as “free time’ attractions that bring these people here and keep them here.
I don’t have all the answers, but, I’ll certainly give this issue a strong focus.
- HCP: Generally speaking, how do you see the Town of Blowing Rock evolving years from now? Do you see this evolution in a positive or negative light for both tourists and/or locals?
Dan Phillips: The lack of vision is why I got involved in the game of politics. The lack of term limits can cause leadership to get stale or arrogant or both.
In mine and others opinion Blowing Rock does not know who it is when it wakes up in the morning. It wants to be what it was 20 years ago and so do I.
It’s population as you mentioned is decreasing and businesses are struggling, but all the while any change scares everyone to death.
Rightfully so because change is racing at us at the speed of the widening of the highway. This town, from a development point of view will grow more in the next 10 years than it has in the 25.
When you mention change people automatically assume that you are for it.
Right now all the development will be based on the car count coming through on the by-pass.
Town is not ready for it and neither is the leadership.
If not properly managed, what will grow will be chain stores, fast foods stores and franchise stores.
When you ask visitors why they come here and why current residents would leave 90% say it is because of they like the charm locally owned small businesses.
When started this run I stated that I wanted to have everyone talking about the key issues. Your questions proves the point that everyone is talking about these important issues.
Now what it comes down is to there will be a lot of different ideas about how to fix the problems but hopefully I have shown the citizens I am not afraid to raise the issues but I am willing to put out some potential solutions.
The best ideas that I have heard have come from talking with the citizens that have not been allowed to have a voice.
If they elect me as Mayor, I will not be waiting for them to come to me I will be coming to them asking for help and letting them know what is going on long before the meetings, so the old ways of the past will be gone for good.
May God Bless Blowing Rocks Past, Present and Future
Candidate for Mayor