Compiled by Jesse Wood
Jennifer Pena for Boone Town Council
Jennifer Pena 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 Pena’s responses to a variety of hot-topic questions at the Boone Area Chamber’s “Candidate Forum” held in early October.
Today, I announce my candidacy for a seat on the Boone Town Council.
I am proud to call Boone home, as a wife, mother, and a concerned citizen. My husband Gus and I feel so privileged to raise our four-year-old daughter Vivian in this beautiful place.
I teach history at Wilkes Community College, so I have a professional commitment to celebrate and protect the rich heritage of this area. I also understand the importance of meeting the challenges faced by a strained economy and the recent actions of the County Commission which deprived Boone of a major revenue stream. We need to protect and enhance our traditional neighborhoods. We need to figure out how to grow responsibly while at the same time protecting our natural resources for future generations. We need to expand and enhance our recreational and public spaces. We need to encourage volunteerism and community activism so that all of us have a voice in the future of Boone.
When I first came to Boone years ago as a college student, I fell in love with the town. The warmth of the people, beauty of the natural surroundings, a vibrant downtown, friendly neighborhoods, arts and culture – all of that made it an ideal place not only to spend my college years but also to eventually call home permanently.
I believe the future of Boone is bright; and I look forward to working with fellow citizens and town council members to protect its past and embrace its future.
I welcome questions about my campaign. Please feel free to reach me at:
623 Forest Hill Drive
Boone, NC 28607
Facebook: Friends of Jennifer Pena
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?
Jennifer Pena: I have experience of several years working in nonprofits. I understand the issues they face with their budgets and very difficult fundraising situations and very restrictive budgeting situations as well. Also have experience working with budgets at Wilkes Community College as well in very difficult times the last few years that we’ve all been dealing with. Also I am really enthusiastic about being apart of the Boone Town Council, so I can welcome as many business opportunities as possible to be presented to the Town of Boone. I would also really be in favor of incentivizing different programs to encourage more local businesses and more business to come into Boone from outside.
- 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?
Certainly, I think we are all very tired of the issues between the Boone Town Council and the county commissioners and obviously there have been a lot of finger pointing, people being upset at both groups. I think it really comes down to the fact that this communication that we all want, only works when we have willing, honest, responsible individuals who come to the table and are ready to make sacrifices. You can’t come in with an agenda of your independent issues and what you think is best for you. It has to be what’s best for your constituents, what’s best for the town of Boone, what’s best for the county. It’s not about your own personal agenda, and I am very much against the partisan behavior that we’ve seen. We definitely need to sit down and have more conversations. But I really think until people are willing to be mature and be responsible and honest and open that is not really going to work.
- 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?
Jennifer Pena: Yes. I think certainly we need a lot more information and once we are on the town council that would make it a lot more available to us. So that would be the goal to fully understand the situation and have all the information that is available before we have to make this important decision. That said at this point, I do think the intake is a good plan under certain circumstances. We absolutely have to have it locally controlled. We cannot under any circumstances have water flowing into unregulated areas around the county. We can’t have something, that Quint mentioned, like The Cottages showing up all over the county on every slope that surrounds us. That is a possibility if the water is allowed to flow wherever people want to have it. I think the town is very pleased that The Cottages is not their problem. We also need to make sure that regionalization does not happen to our water. We’ve seen what happened in Asheville, so under no circumstances would I like that to happen to the people in Boone.
- 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?
Jennifer Pena: Certainly an unfortunate situation, and it definitely goes back to idea that there are individuals on the county commissioners that are just bent on picking fights with the Boone Town Council and that is unfortunate. There is no reason for that. That said, I think we need to continue to grow our businesses and make Boone as profitable as it can be. If need be, we have to go line by line through the budget and eliminate what is not necessary. Obviously, it is going to be a difficult process to go through. We are going to need intelligent, thoughtful, resourceful people who actually care about their constituents to make these choices, and further I think the absolutely last thing we should do is raise property taxes. Obviously, if that is what it comes down to then that is what we’ll have to do. But certainly going line by line carefully and methodically through the budget is one of the safest things we’ll be able to do.
- 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?
Jennifer Pena: I support the UDO. I think it something that is needed for quite some time to provide clarity for these processes for people. It may not be a perfect document, but I feel it’s been needed. I am very pleased that it is coming out hopefully in January. I am also anxious to examine it as we move forward. If there are areas that need more attention in the future, I think we should certainly revisit it on an as needed basis. But in terms of finally creating a more streamlined document that will hopefully make the process simpler for businesses and the public, I think it is something that has been needed. As well as, I also think we need documents that protect the people in Boone. There are certain things that they want. Steep slope ordinances, view sheds, and things of that nature. We need documents that protect those things to keep Boone the way it is.
- 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?
Jennifer Pena: Obviously these vacant properties are a terrible eyesore. They are unsafe. People are fed up seeing them in what should be our beautiful town. We need to be doing what we can. I like what I heard about working with developers, realtors and town planners and staff to try to come up with incentive programs and try to help these developers to create the spaces that are going to benefit our town and be lot safer, hopefully be more mixed-use development that will benefit everyone in the long run.
- 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?
Jennifer Pena: I think we definitely need to ease some of these tensions with opening new businesses and inviting new development into Boone. Certainly, I like the idea of liaisons who are knowledgeable but also approachable and able to work with new groups interested in coming in. There are several aspects that need to be considered here. We need watch what we are doing with our water intake. Water needs to be available for these businesses but also maintained locally. We also need to make sure we are looking towards mixed-use development. We don’t need more things like student housing at this point. We have a surplus of about 2,000 apartments right now for students. We need to make sure that we have residencies that are affordable to families and young professionals. Dealing with these other issues can make Boone more attractive and inviting for more businesses and developers.
- Moderator: What are your views concerning the Daniel Boone Parkway to relieve traffic congestion in the Town of Boone?
Jennifer Pena: I certainly think that anything that takes away from the traffic that is going into downtown or to our local businesses is a real problem. We need to make sure that if we do consider something like this that it does not negatively impact downtown. I think that is something I have heard form several people who are concerned about potentially bypassing that area to alleviate some of the traffic flow. There are traffic studies that are being put into practice right now and I would be very interested in seeing what they say and talking further with local business owners as well as residents in areas that could be impacted by this.
- 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?
Jennifer Pena: This is obviously a real critical problem that hasn’t any good solutions. It has been discussed extensively over the years. I think we need a separate authority that will handle floodwater mitigation. We have had some discussions with local business owners in the flood plane, who are desperate for a resolution to this problem. I am glad that the dialogue is continuing and ramping up at this point. I think it’s up to the town and planners to get together with these business owners that finds a solution that works for them. We definitely need to have them at the table for these conversations.
- 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?
Jennifer Pena: Well Appalachian is the reason I fell in love with this place and the reason I came here in the first place. The love of Boone is the reason I am still here. These two entities are symbiotic. They live and die by each other. I think it is fantastic that we can relate so well to each other. I don’t think there is anything better than a game day Saturday in the fall walking through downtown. I think it is great. I really agree with a lot of what other folks have said about working closely with the students and faculty and the resources available there. I am glad we have interns downtown. I just think we need to maintain and nurture that relationship in the future.
- 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?
Jennifer Pena: I definitely agree with the idea something needs to be done to this area. Something needs to be done sooner than later. That said going through committees, going through councils, it takes time. It’s frustrating. It’s annoying. People want action, and I think we want to do the best that we can once we are on the town council in a timely manner but we also have to take care of the issues like potential sewer problems, safety issues and things of that sort. I would definitely be in favor of looking back at the proposal of this area and talking to business owners and revisiting this and see if we can come to some better solution that would at least alleviate some of the concerns with the area now and maybe in the more long term make it want everybody would really be happy about seeing.