Compiled by Jesse Wood
James Milner for Boone Town Council
James Milner is running for Boone Town Council. Below is a prepared candidate statement drafted when he filed his candidacy earlier this summer. Following the statement is Milner’s responses to a variety of hot-topic questions at the Boone Area Chamber’s “Candidate Forum” held in early October.
As most of you are aware, I have filed to run this upcoming election for Town Council of the Town of Boone. As citizens, we are faced with challenging issues that affect all of us. It is important that we have leadership that is willing to face the issues and work hard to resolve them. I want to share with you what I feel the issues are, and what I will be supporting over the next few months during this campaign season.
I believe in relationships. Those that know me know that I am passionate, helpful and committed. My love for the Town of Boone is broad. My wife, Catharine and I are raising our son, Peter in this place we call home. I believe that it is not what you are, but who you are. In my time here in Boone, I have learned that a handshake and your word goes a long way. I am a proud graduate of Appalachian State University with a BSBA in Finance and Banking (2004). Should I have the honor of serving on Town Council, I want to work to build better relationships within the community, region and Appalachian State University.
I am a business owner; I have owned my own business since December 2005. I am pro-business and want to make it easier on all business owners to start and conduct business within the Town of Boone. I will be an advocate for residential property owners that can be adversely affected by commercial fringe properties. In this regard, should I have the privilege of serving on Town Council, I will work to make Boone a place of economic development and where we can all enjoy a high quality of life.
Being a young entrepreneur, I saw a need to gather and cultivate other young entrepreneurs and assisted in starting what is now Young Professionals of Boone. Young people bring new and fresh ideas; we have different perspectives. Over the next few weeks and in an effort to be transparent and have open communication, I will be introducing my social media outlets to share with you what we are doing. The time is now; to give young people a chance to serve you, the citizens, businesses and institutions. For the past seven years, I have served on the Board of Directors for the Western Youth Network. I believe in its mission of being a resource to our community in assisting youth reach their full potential, giving them the tools and skills to make their lives just a little easier. Therefore, should I have the opportunity to serve on Town Council, I will bring fresh ideas and perspectives to these issues and make a commitment to work together with other council members. I firmly believe in introducing new ideas and perspectives that embrace our past by building upon what has made Boone the center of the High Country today.
I am a commercial real estate agent; this is what I love and through professional development I have spent five years gaining a better understanding of this subject matter. I am pro-growth, but in a controlled manner. I feel that the Unified Development Ordinance provides a solid foundation for orderly growth. However, I want to have discussions in those areas which have created division in our community and limited growth.
These issues, and so many others, cannot be resolved or addressed alone. I decided to run for Town Council after consultation and prayer. I decided to run because I know that now is the time to roll up my sleeves, speak up and face these issues head on. Citizens, this is a non-partisan race, and I am proud to say that I am an unaffiliated independent. My loyalties are with the Town of Boone, that is, the people of Boone. With negativity often surrounding politics, it is time to embrace positivity. I look forward to working with like-minded people, those with experience and expertise that can make the Town of Boone better—not only for my child, but for yours, and for generations to come.
Join me in making this election season one that leads to improvement. I urge everyone to participate, and to take pride in voting so that you may say that you care about the issues and that you have selected the best people to approach and resolve those issues.
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?
James Milner: Thanks so much. Not only running my own business and being in a commission based industry you know how to operate with very little. You know how to be fiscally conservative and manage money very well. Some days are good. Some days are bad, but I have been doing that since 2004. Also, in my service with WYN we are currently operating close to a $500,000 budget. I have served two terms as treasurer, one term as chair and I know how to be a good steward of a larger pot of money per se. In doing so, I think that you sometimes have to make hard decisions and those decisions aren’t always easy ones to make.
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?
James Milner: I would just say that like so many other people have said, I believe that sitting down and talking is important. It does have to be done in an open forum, so that it can be transparent to what is critically important which is the citizens and the Town of Boone. That is where the problem is: we’re not thinking about the town, the community and its citizens instead of partisan politics, so let’s do what’s right for the town and right for its citizens and meet publicly and come to a compromise. There are not any winners or losers. It’s about working together. It’s a symbiotic relationship between the two and that’s what’s important.
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?
James Milner: I do support the Town of Boone finishing what it started. [If] the intake could not be at its proposed location, what’s vital in so many different ways is that we secure a new source of water. Water is key for all development and re-development. Until a final decision is made, we should be good stewards of the water that we have and find ways to address how we allocate water. I think there are ways of how we allocate water with the N.C. discharge schedule, the 60 percent rule. More importantly I would put pressure on the administration of the town to get the information that the town needs to in order to make informed decisions.
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?
James Milner: I would say the critical part of my campaign is relationships and we have to fix this relationship with the county commissioners. It’s just that simple. If we fix that relationship, we can work to get the sales tax distribution back into the budget and not make the job of the new town council more difficult when they try to prepare the budget for the next fiscal year. I understand the current town council had to make some very hard decisions, but basically did everything they could without increasing taxes on property owners. I don’t feel like that was a good way to go about it. Boone collects the most money. We are the busiest community with the most services and further more I think that we should work with the county to, part of that relationship is working with the county to get the old high school site closed and continuing the water allocation that property currently has.
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?
James Milner: You wont find anyone who is more knowledgeable of the Unified Development Ordinance than me. I use this document everyday. I am dealing with other commercial real estate brokers, developers, people and business who want to invest here in the Town of Boone but find this document so cumbersome. While I applaud the effort of current town council to rewrite it, it’s only been done after several years. This was a recommendation from the 2030 land use master plan to rewrite this document, and it only took four or five years for them to do it. I talked about incentives versus mandates. I think there are so many different ways to go about that whether it is density or parking, whether it is floor area ratios. I am a big proponent of mixed-use development and doing it right, but this controlling document needs some streamlining and it needs some revisions.
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?
James Milner: What I would say, like some of the other candidates, it does get resolved through fixing the UDO. Like I was saying earlier, incentives versus mandates. All the UDO does is mandate you the property owner or potential property owner what you can do with your property. If we gave incentives and actually took the time at the table with a developer whether it’s planning staff or town council, what is it that you want to do? How can we help you? Let’s share the vision together. I think we would see a redevelopment of these blight properties and encourage, allowing the UDO to encourage redevelopment would make it easier as well. Just want to speak very quickly to storm water is a critical issue facing the town of Boone, and it’s my opinion that we need to provide a public-private partnership to fix the problem and not have it on the backs of property owners.
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?
James Milner: I think we can all recognize the economic development has been at a standstill for a long time. We will not another Appalachian State University. But for a second imagine the Town of Boone without ASU and its impact that it has on the town. I think we have to find businesses that are wiling to invest here inside the town of Boone and personally, I want to go out and recruit employers that will fit within our character and our high quality of life here in Boone. The tech industry, the health care, these are growing expanding industries where they can utilize the resources of ASU and the people who want to make a commitment to live here in the town of Boone. I am pro-business and I recognize that this town backbone is the small business owner, so I want to make it easier not just on new businesses but on small businesses as well.
Moderator: What are your views concerning the Daniel Boone Parkway to relieve traffic congestion in the Town of Boone?
James Milner: I feel there needs to be some type of solution to get traffic through the town. This idea of taking, there are a lot of different ideas, this one idea of taking it on the backside of Village of Meadowview going out around the old high school property back out 105 is the most viable in my opinion. I would want to do some more investigating on that because I don’t really know a whole lot about the Daniel Boone Parkway.
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?
James Milner: You know I don’t want to discuss this anymore. I want to come and provide a solution. I think the solution is a comprehensive plan as I said that addresses both 321 specifically, Clement down to Meadowview Drive out 105 . Those of you that know me, know I serve on the Board of Adjustment. I am hearing case after case after case of where these property owners are wanting an abatement of their fines because of the UDO and the code after spending $30,000 to $60,000 plus. It’s just not right. We do need to provide a solution. I agree with Matt said that I think it’s a town, federal and state and even the property owners. Everyone has a stake in the proposition. Everyone has a buy-in per se. The only thing I wanted to add is if capital improvements are so important why was it stripped away from the budget that was passed this town council.
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?
James Milner: The keyword is relationship, and there is a established relationship that has to continue to be cultivated. In order for that relationship to be cultivated, it takes leadership and expertise. It takes someone willing to sit down at the table and say what’s good is for you, is also good for me. However, we need to keep open lines of communication and listen to that other partner whenever they speak and not do all the talking ourselves and not make them jump through so many hoops. I just also want to speak briefly on development on campus. While there is core main campus development, it is important to work with ASU to where development affects transitional zones and work with them to mitigate any negative impacts.
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?
James Milner: I would just say regarding Howard Street, it’s more of the same. It’s just another example of how something gets drug out over a long period of time without something we the citizens of the town of Boone are happy with. It goes back to a critical point that I have talked about a lot tonight – relationships. The question needs to be asked why are these property owners downtown not on board? What can we do to sit down with them and ask them what will it take to either acquire the right of way or move this project forward if that is the obstacle, let’s find a solution for this problem. I love downtown. I am all about walking downtown. I want it to be safe. That is very important, but if you remove parking spaces like John was saying, you have to provide solutions of where these people will park. I think the town really needs to consider, and I would be in favor of providing, a more suitable solution for parking in downtown.