Word for Word: Candidates for Watauga County Board of Commissioners Answer Questions at Election Forum

Published Tuesday, October 16, 2012 at 12:41 pm

Candidates for Watauga County Board of Commissioners: (from left) Tommy Adams, Billy Kennedy, Vince Gable, John Welch, Perry Yates and Virginia Roseman. Photo by Jesse Wood

Compiled by Jesse Wood

Oct. 10, 2012. On Tuesday night, the Boone Area Chamber presented the “Meet the Candidate Forum” at the Watauga County Courthouse. Chamber President Dan Meyer asked a variety of questions to the candidates for Watauga County Board of Commissioners – Republican Tommy Adams, Democrat Billy Kennedy, Republican Vince Gable,  Democrat John Welch, Republican Perry Yates and Democrat Virginia Roseman.

Boone Area Chamber Dan Meyer was the moderator. Each response was limited to one minute. After the questions, the candidates were allowed two minutes to pitch their candidacy in a closing statement.

Below is a complete transcript of the candidate’s answers. Parts of a few responses were inaudible and are noted so in the transcript. Also in a few cases, a candidate’s response was slightly edited for clarity.

Meyer: What do you consider to be the number one issue, challenge or priority for action that you will face in the county commission, and what solutions do you favor?

Tommy Adams

Tommy Adams: The county issues are similar as to that of the state and the nation – jobs and the economy. The first thing we should do is focus on economic development for Watauga County, making sure we have a friendly business environment for folks to come up to Watauga County that locate their businesses here. Also working with Appalachian State University – we have a tremendous resource at the university. The kinds of technology and ideas that are coming out of the university are fantastic. At the county [level], we need to encourage a partnership and relationship with the university. We also need to look at some of the things the economic development commission is proposing to the Watagua County Commissioners. The Economic Development Commission, the EDC, has some great ideas in terms of a Class A Industrial Park that will bring more economy to this area. So jobs, the economy, making sure that we as county commissioners regulate wisely, not heavy handedly and encouraging business. Plenty of people want to call Watauga County home; we’ve got to make sure they can find meaningful work here to support their family.

Billy Kennedy

Billy Kennedy: I’ve been here for 32 years and I’ve been working and paying taxes in the county for a long time. I think education is a key to making this an appealing place for business. We need to make sure, lots of people want to move to Watauga County, we need to make sure we have a workforce that is educated and ready for work. We also need to look at a long term plan for this county, [so] the residents can decide what they want this county to look like in 10, 20, 30 years, and I believe I am ready for that. I want to listen to y’alls concerns. I’ve talked to thousands of people and just want to make sure that both voices are heard and that everybody gets a say in how this county develops instead of just a few. As our population grows – and it’s growing pretty fast – we need to make sure our funding for education keeps up with the growth with the population. As the population goes up and economy goes down, you can drop behind. We have one of the best school systems in the state, and we need to makes sure it stays that way and make this an appealing please for businesses and for people to live.

Vince Gable

Vince Gable: Economic development, jobs are extremely important in this community as they are across this land. However, in Watauga County we have to balance that with the unknowns of what’s going to happen in the economy. We are facing a revaluation in the calendar year in 2013 that will take effect in 2014. We have to be careful that we balance our budget and our economic position, so whatever happens on that revaluation that we are not hurt, and some of our most vulnerable people could be hurt as far as tax revenue coming in. We have to be careful at the same time; we have to strive for more jobs, better paying jobs and the atmosphere where companies can grow and prosper and want to come here. Thank you.

John Welch

John Welch: Well, I think the important thing that the county commissioners should be doing is marketing this county. Obviously, the priority of mine and most of us is education, public safety, recreation and especially economic development. When we attract good, permanent, well paying jobs for the people of this community, our tax base expands; we bring in more revenue for the priorities that we as a county set forth. Obviously for me education – I was born and raised in this county. I have two children, one currently in school in Mabel. My six-month-old son will be in school soon. It’s very important that we take care of the education system in this county. What attracts companies to this county is not only education but the quality of life.

Perry Yates

Perry Yates: Being from Watauga County and living here all my life, I think the county needs to become more business friendly just as the chamber produced last week. At 8.1 percent unemployment that we have in Watauga County I think we need to seek all kinds of industry to come to Watauga County, so we can stimulate our job growth and economic growth. When you produce jobs, you produce more taxes, you produce more revenue. Then you have money to spend on education and other things like that. We have one of the great education systems in the state of North Carolina. But we also need to expand on that by offering more vocational jobs in teaching people at the high school level the vocational traits in our ever changing global economy. When 50 percent of the people nation wide, college graduates, don’t have a job when they leave and 30 percent are living at home with mom and dad, I think we need to look and see and assess ourselves and train children with good vocational traits.

Virginia Roseman

Virginia Roseman: I am kind of glad to be following all these gentlemen on these questions. Many of them express some of the same, similarities of my feelings. Education should always be a priority in our community. We need to educate the young in order to have a strong future. But also I know that business growth is very important, and part of Watagua County being a strong [inaudible] we have to bring the right companies. We have to make sure we are going to grow healthy. We have a wonderful university within our county and we are very fortunate to have all the things we have. But part of growing – if I am correct, Watauga County is one of the fastest growing counties in the United States. That means, it is our job that we do bring jobs, we do strengthen the education system and do do what is best for the county at large. So I believe the main issue needs to be healthy growth. The way we attack it is to talk with the people and do what’s best for them.

Meyer: Please share your perspective on the value and purpose of the ETJ, annexation and property rights in one minute?

Billy Kennedy

Kennedy: The ETJ is more of a town issue than a county issue. Set up for towns to grow in an orderly fashion. We need to make sure the infrastructure is there. People need place to put there trash. Schools need roads. County commission has a valuable role to make sure all those needs are met so that we can keep growing as a county. As far as ETJ, not such an issue out in the county. A lot of the people where I live don’t really worry too much about that. They do want to worry that their property values are maintained. To me, it’s the council’s responsibility to make sure that everybody’s property is protected and grows in value. Cause the biggest investment most people make is there home and their land and I want to make sure they have those rights protected.  

Vince Gable

Gable: Since I’ve been a county commissioner the ETJ and concerns over the town and how it relates to people who live in the ETJ has been one of the major factors that I’ve been questioned on and had to respond to. I have talked to both Senators Soucek and Jordan on this issue and supportive of them and their endeavors in this regard. The problem with the ETJ is the ETJ is historically to provide a town to be able to look at a piece of property and an area where citizens live where they are going to look toward annexation in the future not to just control them forever and have a complete reign over what they do and their property rights. In the ETJ right now they have one seat on the advisory board and that advisory board has been overruled by the town council on almost every issue. They do not have representation.

John Welch

Welch: Well, when the situation with the ETJ was going down, the one question I had was we’re talking about having a seat at the table for these folks. Where was the seat at the table for the people who want to be in the ETJ? I don’t live in the ETJ, but I believe that those people that live in the ETJ deserve a voice and have their opinions heard. My question is where was the public hearings when this bill was introduced? Why were we not having an open conversation as a county regarding the issues of the ETJ and putting it out there for everybody to look at, examine and find ways to work through it? As a county commissioner I would have facilitated that conversation. It’s really interesting to see how a portion of our county residents were being singled out by this ETJ bill without having one big conversation as to what the actual issues are.

Perry Yates

Yates: When you look at the ETJ and the regulations, the town according to the N.C. General Statues, has to have a plan in place and facilities in place to offers those people services. There is nothing wrong with voluntary annexation. We’ve heard the senators and house [representatives] talk about that. The problem I’ve had with the ETJ is when you have regulation without representation; that is un-American. I think you need to be able to vote and have your voice heard in the town. As Mr. Gable alluded to, there is one seat on the board. Nobody from the ETJ in Boone has a voting right on any of the town councils. I’ve heard it said the ETJ doesn’t pay taxes. Neither does college students. But everybody has a right to vote – including college students. If you are being regulated by a government you need the right to vote. I think the county and the town need to sit down and find a good median, middle of the road and work this out in the future.

Virginia Roseman

Roseman: The ETJ is very important to a community and its ability to grow if needed. It’s also a way to protect those. Many people who move to Watauga County have chosen locations within the ETJ. One, they knew their property was going to be protected under certain type of criteria of what could be built in that zoning. That was important to them. That was the choice they made. They chose to live in an ETJ neighborhood. There are ETJ sections of it that petition the town to become part of that program. They do this knowing that they are getting protection. If they are not having a voice, I do agree that is something that needs to be look into and addressed. There is always growth. Growth needs to happen. By talking that is how we find out where there are problems. I know many people who are very happy with the ETJ. They are proud with the fact that their homes are protected.  They understand that they do not have the voting rights within the ETJ and therefore they eliminate some … [ran out of time]

Tommy Adams

Adams: The ETJ power is that in the state of Raleigh, it’s a model that has been applied across the state and it works pretty well if you are in Charlotte-Mecklenburg County, Raleigh and Wake County, but that model has been used in Watauga County and Boone and doesn’t apply as well as it would off the mountain. The property in the ETJ is stuck there. There is no plans to annex the property. Its’ been there for years and years. If you look at property values. It actually reduces the value of a lot of property. The regulation, the town imposes on ETJ residents who can’t vote in the town of Boone. It’s reducing property values for a lot of land owners. The issue is a personal property rights issue and I’m a personal property rights advocate. The idea of personal property rights was revolutionary when this country was founded – something that our ancestors in England didn’t get to enjoy. They worked the land the landed gentry owned. Personal property rights are something to be protected at the county level, the state level and the national level.

Meyer: Most of us in this room have insurance to protect us now and we have insurance for investments for 401Ks or retirement plans to consider the future. What investments are you willing to insure the future of Watauga County – for instance, the high school property, economic development or infrastructure enhancement?

Vince Gable

Gable: Last night, we had a meeting with the Economic Development Commission over the old high school property and their visions for a Class A Industrial Park in this county. This is something we sorely need. It’s something that is definitely a good program, and something that needs to be definitely addressed. We have to balance that with what we are able to spend and what may happen to us in the future. No one has a crystal ball and knows what’s going to happen to our economy. So we have to be careful. The commissioners last night supported the program, but we do not support it being used on the old high school property. We are looking to sell that property and bring money that we have gained off of that property back into the county. Get that piece of property back on the tax rolls and making some tax money – ad valorem and sales tax – and employment.

John Welch

Welch: Well, I was at that EDC joint meeting last night. I found it interesting that the number of ideas bouncing around the road. Selling the old high school property and taking a portion of those proceeds and investment it in somewhere else in this county. I think what we can’t be is shortsighted and look at just a Band-Aid for now. We need to look at investing down the road. What we need to do is take a look at what the EDC is talking about and finding a way to bring in good paying jobs. Not the $7.50 an hour jobs that’s going to be created with this multi-use facility with student housing and retail. We need to find the $15, $20, $25 hour jobs that will bring qualified people in this county that will put our people to work and expand the tax base and then we can invest in other things such as education, public safety, recreation.

Perry Yates

Yates: This question goes back to what I said in my first answer. When you create jobs, you increase your tax base, you increase your revenue and you have more income to spend at the government level. I think the county commission and the town and all the municipalities need to sit down and have a proactive, long range plan to bring in industries into Watauga County. That means infrastructure, that means utilities, that means roads. We used to discuss a bypass. We haven’t talked about that lately around the town. There’s a lot of things we have to do. But the first thing you have to do is address the debt issue that we have in the county. We owe a lot of money as a county in Watauga County. I don’t think we can look at spending more money until we address that debt issue. We have to start paying as we go and looking toward a future and having a fund out there to bring jobs to Watauga County.

Virginia Roseman

Roseman: Part of looking at the future and insurance of Watauga County is thinking always about the children and what’s best. How are we going to provide them a county that they want to stay in and keep them their home? Yes, Mr. Yates did a wonderful job of mentioning jobs, the infrastructure, the businesses, the roads – everything that would need to take place in order to have this happen. But what we need to do is we need to insure that we are protecting this beautiful county that we have, so that if anything that is going to come into this area needs to be a compliment to the beautiful county of Watauga County and its going to enhance our quality of life and its going to enhance our children’s quality of life. I am not going to let nay job come into this county if it is not in the best interest of this county. So therefore I feel what we need to do is look at what I call the healthy growth plan. We need to figure out what is healthy growth for Watauga County and how do we get there and that’s going to be the foundation to build off of.                                                                                                                        

Tommy Adams

Adams: I was at the EDC meeting, and I think the idea of a Class A Business Park is a wonderful idea. I think we need to pursue that and look into the possibility of bringing in some large businesses in this area at an industrial park. When we talk about development, I am for the free market choosing what businesses want to come up here. That’s how we create jobs – the free market. You provide them an environment here in Watauga County. If that’s with an industrial park or if that’s partnering with the ASU, we provide a very business friendly environment here in Watauga County and folks will come bring jobs. I am not going to dictate what job I want or what job I don’t want. I want jobs for all citizens – if they are graduating form Appalachian and want to stay in Watauga or if they are a long-term resident. So I think we probably need to look into selling the old high school property and setting aside some of that money for economic development if that’s a new Class A Business Park or some other opportunity that comes down, we need to pursue that.

Billy Kennedy

Kennedy: I do believe that business growth is the key to the future of Watauga County> Recreation and tourism is a big part here. ASU is a big player in the business community up here to. So we need to make sure all those work together. I am big believer of infrastructure. The current business park has been full for 20 plus years. I am all in favor of a new Class A Business Park. I would love to see the new better paying jobs up here. I believe 40 percent of the people in Watauga County are making less than $10 an hour. That’s not a living wage. That’s real serious issue to me. How can families make enough money to support their kids and those kids need parents at home, so $10, you can’t be a one-parent working family. So I think we need to look together to make sure we keep putting money into the infrastructure as we have available. The debt is not such a big issue. It’s declining and it will free up some money as that debt payment comes down every year until it’s paid off.

Meyer: Do you favor the creation of a youth recreation facility. If so where should it be and how should it be funded and by youth, I am talking about like the current discussion of the YMCA or the pad that has always been prepared into the new Watauga High School?

John Welch

Welch: I am in favor of creating some type, whether it’s through public/private partnership, a youth rec center. I think if you were at the school board meeting last night and heard the youth risk behavior survey that was reported to us, you will notice that there is a need for that in this county. If you look at it, if you are a part of the parks and recreation, you have a very small window of activity that you can take part in, and if you are snowed out for a basketball game, you are at home, if you are not at [inaudible], you are at home. We need to find a way to keep our youth engaged. From all walks of life, from all backgrounds, we need to find a solution for this that has been going around this community for 20 years. It’s needed.

Perry Yates

Yates: I think your YMCA is a wonderful idea. I think we all have to look at it as Watauga County citizens. We have to provide property from any where form four to five to ten acres. You also have to have seed money, any where from, I think they said, $450,000 to $500,000. And you have to have three-year pledges from approximately 50 to 150 households and companies to fund the YMCA. I think the YMCA is a wonderful idea, but I think it’s going to take time to get to Watagua County to where we can bring it to fruition. I also think in the mean time we have facilities that our county has bought and paid for. There are gyms. I know when we have snow days a lot of kids can’t afford to go skiing. Maybe we could go to the county parks and recreations and say, ‘Lets open these gyms,’ lets give these kids something to do structurally so that they can have physical exercise and also relieve their minds as well. I think there is a median there. There is a need for YMCA but also we need to use our facilities at the present time that we have available.

Virginia Roseman

Roseman: I do believe that our youth do need a place to go to for themselves, but yet we need something that’s for the community, that covers all bases from the littlest to oldest members of our community. So I am not looking at a youth rec center. I am looking at a rec center for Watauga County. That’s what I want to see come to this area. Rather if it’s funded from within, we go to an outsource private entity come to the area, that is to be addressed, that is to attack when it becomes available. We have looked at the YMCA, and I was at that meeting. It was interesting at some of the information – how much money would need to come up. I think the $1 million they had asked that we come up with before we proceed further. That’s a lot of money. Where it should be? That’s for the county to talk about and decide. It’s a county facility, therefore we need to come to the table and talk about this together.

Tommy Adams

Adams: I think that everyone knows that Watauga County is recognized across the country as a fantastic hub of recreation – outdoor recreation in the summer, winter, spring and fall we have all kinds of opportunities for visitors to come and enjoy the High Country. But with that said, there has been a need identified for quite some time that we need an indoor recreation center. I was at the YMCA meeting and was intrigued with what they had to say. What I am in favor of is not the county taking on another responsibility of staffing, manning, building, marketing a recreation center. If we are going to go that route, why wouldn’t we pursue something like the YMCA. They are the best in the business at doing it. We could partner with them. In terms of funding, we don’t have a crystal ball. We can’t look at the budget in the future and say we have X number of dollars for something like this. But if the community shows enough interest and is willing long term back up a YMCA, then I think the commissioners should consider what they have in the budget and maybe help with the initial seed money, but I am not here to say that the county will pay for it completely.

Billy Kennedy

Kennedy: Well the county commissioners do need to be looking long term. They need to be setting what the county needs to be in 20 years. I’ve been to all the meetings on this rec center. I was at the Y meeting. I was at the Economic Development Commission meeting. My son was in the swim team at the high school. They couldn’t swim. The Watauga High School didn’t have a place to swim that’s a 25-meter pool in Boone. It’s a problem. It’s especially a problem because people who are affiliated with ASU have a great facility there, but that’s not available to everybody – only people who are ASU. Whether it’s a public private venture with the Y or a rec center when the public will is there, I believe this is something there that as apart of the infrastructure that will compliment our county in the long term. We just need to make sure that it’s open to everybody – than anything the county puts money into is available for all, not just available to those who can afford it. So that’s what I am kind of about. I want to make sure I am representing everybody and looking out for every citizen in this county, rather than just a few.

Vince Gable

Gable: We have finite resources in our budget and we have to stay within the constraints of those budgets. I am all for a rec center. Our pool is in atrocious shape right now. WE are trying to do everything we can to keep it afloat, so to speak. Because of the problems we have, it is a money pit. But we can’t afford to build a new one right now. There are priorities and we have to stick to them. We have to take care of education and public safety first. A rec center is one of the niceties that we would like to have, but in these economic times we have to look at our needs, and our safety and public heath and education first.

Meyer: You represent not only folks in town but you represent the entire county. This question comes from somebody in the county suggesting that in Watauga County, many within the rural regions feel their tax money has been used against their best interest. What can the board do to address these grievances?

Perry Yates

Yates: I think transparency is always important when you are sitting on a commission that handles public funds. If elected, I’ll make myself available through phone calls through my business, through my home. You wan to stop and talk to me about it, we’ll go from there. The thing I’ll want to say about the money: It’s the county’s money; it’s the town’s people’s money; it’s the rural people’s money. The thing I would like to pledge is, like is said a few minutes ago, I think I‘m the only one mentioning the debt we have on us in Watauga County, I want to pledge as a commissioner, if I am elected, that I will never ever spend and borrow enormous amounts of money without having a public referendum and giving the people of Watauga County a chance to say yes or no first because in the ultimate end of it, it’s the people – you and me, it’s us – that pay this debt off. And I think you should have a say in every penny we spend.

Virginia Roseman

Roseman: I’d like to agree with Mr. Yates on that one about the people having a voice and should be part of any decisions made with large amounts of spending because it is your money. You are seeing us as the stewards and how to use it. And we need to make sure we are answering to you. You are the people. We work for you. You are our bosses and therefore making sure that we have open forums where you can come and talk with us is essential and you should always be made aware of what projects are ahead of us and given ample amount of time to come in and speak and have your voices heard. Your voice is the voice that we want to hear. Your voice is the one that matters. We want you to be apart of the process. In the commissioners meeting there are time for public comment and speaking and there are ways to make sure that you can be put on to the agenda on that day, so we can make sure that we can speak to you and address your concerns.

Tommy Adams

Adams: You all hire us for a governing political philosophy of how we’ll approach the decisions in front of us. I am a personal property rights advocate. I believe in keeping taxes as low as possible and I’ am advocating for economic development in the county. I am not exactly sure in what instance this person was talking about, but you need to come to the county commissioner meetings. My contact information is online and will continue to be online. If you feel like local government, county government is not representing you or even worse is negatively impacting you, I will be an advocate and my ear will be open and that’s certainly not the role of local government to negatively impact one part of the community in favor of another.

Billy Kennedy

Kennedy: I’ve been a farmer and living out in the county for 32 years. I understand the rural and the city and the town mix. It’s important that all tax money, that we take care of it well and we look at who benefits, who loses, who pays and who doesn’t. I am worried sometimes about big money and more people have more influence than others and I want to make sure that every citizen in this county has an equal opportunity to get their voice and their concerns to the county commissions. And then it’s our role as elected officials who represent you to put those policies that those of you of the majority want into practice and keep making this county better than it is. We have a great county. We have a great future and we can make it better. So I would like to be apart of that and I find that people out in the county want that to. They want to see this county go forward not backwards. 

Vince Gable

Gable: I’ve been trying, as I heard other speakers, what monies we’ve have diverted from the rural to the other interests, but I just can’t think of any and I would be glad to speak to that writer of that question and answer any questions. I do know this. When we took office two years ago, we made several promises. And one of those was about the budget and about our debt. We had a $78,900,000 debt. When you add interest to that it is north of $107 million. Today as we speak, we have that debt down to $65 million. That’s in two years. We have made provisions for the next three years to pay down the next two big notes that are taken care by setting money aside to take care of those, so it doesn’t impact on our tax base with whatever happens with revaluation. We are on line to reduce our debt payments from 20 percent – from $8.2 million down to little less than $6 million a year on our debt service. We are going to have more monies to spend as the debt goes down in the next couple years go down. This has been done with stewardship. 

John Welch

Welch: Well, I can’t really disagree with anybody up here with what they are saying. I think a very important factor is being transparent and open in everything that we do. We do work for you. We work for everybody in this county. Sure anybody can come to the county commissioners meeting and I want to take it a step further and take it to you guys. When I was running for school board, I said we need to institute town halls where we go out into the county, so folks that can’t make it to our meetings for whatever reason, can have a voice in our government. We have done that, and we’ve seen an incredible response. We were at Bethel a couple weeks ago and the cafeteria was full of people. It’s not just us sitting right across from us [now] in the building next to us. It’s us coming to anybody in this county whether it’s east, west, or in the town, we have to find out what is going on in this county, what’s your concerns, and I’ll pledge to be out and about in the community and to start town halls just like we did on the board of education. 

Meyer: Question from audience. You’ve been talking about economic development and bringing businesses to town. One of the things that attract businesses to come and bring their jobs is related to quality of life issues in the community. Would you share your views on supporting some of those local nonprofit organizations who are vital to what is perceived to be our quality of life? 

Virginia Roseman

Roseman: I am a big advocate for nonprofits. One of those which a community always stands on is your local library. That’s a central essence of a community to be able to have knowledge at the fingertips of every person in the community. So I think we do need to look at these institutions that allow our families to be ale to take care of themselves. That is important. So we can look at the library, look at the health department. We need to look at ways to take care of those in needs.  A community that takes care of itself is a community that people want to come to. I believe that nonprofits also deserve the community to serve to it and support it. And it’s an extension of us. It’s how we prove to our community that we believe in you. So I implore each person to find a nonprofit that is perfect for them to be apart of, but that is essential to be able to take care of people basic necessities.

Tommy Adams

Adams: Well I agree with Mrs. Roseman’s last statement that you need to find a nonprofit and get involved with that nonprofit, a nonprofit that you are passionate about and that you can support. I don’t know a nonprofit that doesn’t do fantastic work for a fantastic cause that meets the needs of this community. The problem for the county commissioners, whoever you choose to elect, is how do we fund one nonprofit and say yes to you and say no to another nonprofit. There are great nonprofits in this county, but we as county commissioners can’t pick winners and losers, if you will, of nonprofits. I encourage everyone in this community to find a nonprofit that you can support and volunteer. There are people that need your help. But that is not the role of the county commission to decide which ones we are going to support and which ones we are not

Billy Kennedy

Kennedy: My family and I have been big believers in service all of our lives. We try to help people where ever we can. My wife’s been involved in lots of things. I have been helping in lots of organizations too. The key to me, here is how do you leverage money to bring more money into the county, so we don’t have to pay such high taxes? The way you do that lots of times is supporting nonprofits, who will take there seed money and grow it into a lot more by applying for grants and getting money from other places. Also, a lot of these organizations like Hospitality House saves and actually takes away some of the cost the county would bear taking care of people hen they can’t help themselves. I am a big believer of getting people back on their feet so they can be productive citizens. Because of course with a job and supporting yourself is the best thing for your self esteem. But I really look at it as how can we get more money into this county without having to come just from the taxpayers here in the county. I think we do that by leveraging and supporting these organizations.

Vince Gable

Gable: There are 30 nonprofits that approach the county at budget time and ask for monies. Nonprofits every single one of them is a worth while cause and I’ve listened to there problems and their needs and my heart goes out to all of them, but we just can’t do everything. The county responsibilities as far as my opinion is that if it is a worthwhile program then help them get started and give them a leg up and support them for a couple years, help them with their grant process, matching funds and get on their own two feet. If it is a worth while nonprofit, then it should be able to stand itself up through private donations, faith-based support and things of that nature. It shouldn’t become a quasi-county agency to be on the county dole all of the time. Or like some of them do, say we want to give our people raises, you give the county people raises, why not give us raises. That not our job.

John Welch

Welch: I agree that we have to go through the list of 30 or so nonprofits and try to figure out what the return of the investment is on each of these nonprofits. You look at the rate at which our county residents are living at or below poverty line and you will see that we need to invest in some of these nonprofits. To a certain extent, as county commissioners, you are picking winners and losers in everything that we do during budget. You are trying to figure out which money goes well and who gets less and who gets more. The nonprofits serve a roll in this county. They help our folks get out o issues out of problems that may have found themselves in for a number of reasons. I just find it interesting that our current board of commissioners when they are zeroing out nonprofits.

Perry Yates

Yates: Nonprofits are good and they are needed in certain circumstances. I think that, I am going to go back to my root of being from Watauga County, and something that my father taught me years ago. Not only should you run it through nonprofits, but you also should be a good neighbor and you should help your neighbor and see that your neighbors’ needs are taking care of as long as they are willing to put forth an effort to work and try for themselves. I know my dad made a statement one time if they churches and the Christina communities would do what they ought to there would be no need or welfare. He is exactly right. We have to love one another and support one another and pick each other up. Not that these nonprofits have come about because we have let down on our convictions, morally and financial. You have to look at that. You are going to have to pick and choose. But there also needs to be some accountability on every nonprofit organization where every dime is spent. And if it is a worthwhile cause they will get out here and raise there money and they will ask for donations because and they will work hard because it is should be something you believe in if you are apart of the nonprofit. Please remember lets help our neighbor and do what we need to do.

Meyer: You might want to address a question that has come up, in your closing statement. Here, I’m asking you another question, but just share how are you willing to put your hand across the aisle and keep from becoming so partisan and work together because that’s where are country is right now. That’s why little is getting accomplished. You might want to address a little bit about that. But please tell us in essence why we should vote for you?

Adams: I’ll address that question real quickly. At the local level, I don’t find as much importance applied to an R or a D besides some ones names. It’s neighbor. It’s a fellow resident of Watauga County. These are issues that face all of us – the questions that were raised and that will continue to face the county. I think that working with the fellow commissioners on economic development, personal property rights or keeping taxes low in this county is the job of a good steward of the public trust and the job of the county commissioners. That is reaching across the aisle in terms of the county commissioners. [inaudible …]My name is Tommy Adams. I am a Watauga native. Many of you probably know my grandparents Alfred and Daisy Adams or my parents Tom and Mary Adams. Watauga County has been my home. I went to Watauga High School in 2003 and graduated from Appalachian State University and continue to call Watagua County home and will raise a family here. I am running on a platform of personal property rights, economic development and making sure that taxes are as low as possible in Watauga County. We need to fund needs not wants. That’s being good stewards for public trust. If my candidacy, if that is something you think you can get behind, I have a Facebook fan page that I would love for you to like. I also have a Twitter account, but I don’t know if a lot of folks Twitter out there in this audience. But I have a Twitter account. Those are the best ways for me to stay in contact with you – upcoming events, issues that I am dealing with as a county commissioner candidate or if you do have a question that’s the best way to submit it to me directly. I have Tommy Adams bumper stickers. Everybody has Mitt Romney or Barack Obama bumper sticker, but very few people have a Tommy Adams for County Commissioner bumper sticker. You can get those from me on my way out. I would love to meet each and everyone of you personally and answer any questions that you may have and thank you for being here and your time. 

Kennedy: Well, I thank you for coming out tonight and thank you Dan for having this event and giving the public a chance to hear a civil debate where actually people debate the questions and come up with and work toward solutions because we all want to spend the rest of our lives here and we want to leave it better for our kids than when we found it. My father was a minister and all three of my sisters are public schools teachers. I’ve lived up here and worked in this county for 32 years. I think we got a great county and we got a good future, but we need to find a balance between serving everybody’s interest rather than let a few small large players dominate the debate. I do believe we can find that and the civil discourse, I agree what you say Dan about – when you get issues that become so partisan you can’t even debate it any more then you fail. When you get to where you are fighting, the dialogue has failed. As commissioners we have a role to make sure that dialogue takes place in the county, gives everybody a voice and gives them time to think things through and we get the information out there. But that’s something that I think we can do. I think that county commission is really not such a partisan issue and I worry about that. But people need to look at what is the best for everybody in this county and when you start doing that you let that partisan stuff go behind and anybody I talk to, I can always find some common ground with them. Talking to the farmers out in Bethel, I can find what concerns them. Education is going to be key. There is not much of a chance to make a full living as a farmer in this county anymore. I’ve lived up here. I like the farming values that put in peoples lives and hard work will pay off and I believe that if you keep the system fair, hard work will really pay off. I am worried about when the system gets skewed one way or another, that people, no matter how hard they work, don’t have a chance to get ahead. I am worried about those people. I am worried about the people who are doing well. What do they need for their kids? What do they need for their futures? Sorry didn’t see the time. I am Billy Kennedy. I am running for county commission, and I would love to have your vote, too.

Gable: Thank you Dan. Thank you chamber and thank you for coming out and letting us have a chance to address you all. I am the only one up here sitting before you that is running on my record. Two years ago, I came before you made promises asked for your vote. You were gracious enough to give me your vote, those of who voted for me and put me in this seat. I have kept everyone of my promises. We have a good handle on the debt. We still have a significant debt to address, but we have a good handle on it and we’ve made provisions to set aside funds that will carry us through the next couple years in these rough economic times where the debt will not hurt us. And we won’t raise taxes. I gave you my pledge last time and I will give you my pledge again. I will do nothing to increase the debt or raise taxes. We have been able to help our county employees. We did give them a five percent raise – three percent the first year, two percent this year. When you have a police officer that is married with a family of two and qualifies for food stamps, something is wrong. Education is important, but without safety nothing is important. As far as education goes, we have funded education over a million dollars over their request last year and this year we‘ve given them every single cent. No teacher in this county or teacher assistant has lost there jobs due to county commission not supporting education. What the board of education does with the monies they request form us is not for us to look at and try to micromanage. It is up to them. We have kept every single promise. I also take issue with the fact that I voted myself a raise. I have a county card that I’ve been given and I’ve never used it. We have voted ourselves a raise. Thank you.

Welch: Well, first I would like to thank the chamber of commerce for holding this event tonight and I really like to publicly commend the folks up here who are willing to put themselves out in front of the firing squad tonight. To answer your question about reaching across the aisle, I think if you come to a family cookout, you will see that I have to work with a bunch of Republicans in my daily life. There are not a lot of Democrats out at are functions. I also went to Wingate University is the school that Jesse Helms went to school with. I’ve learned how to reach across the aisle. Two years ago, I sat in this courtroom right where Virginia is at as a candidate for the board of education. I promised two main things: I would improve communication of the board and I would serve as hard as I campaigned. And I kept both of those promises. I will continue to keep these promises as a member of the board of commissioners and work to give everyone in this county a voice. Work for open government, and increase the communication from the board. I will come into the communities in this county. I think as a county we are at a crossroads where we really need to come together – the Town of Boone, Blowing Rock and county residents – and figure out what the priorities of this county are. My priority, personally, being the only one here with small children, very young children, education, public safety, economic development, recreation and providing everybody in Watagua County a voice and a place at the table. I think that is paramount as to what we need to do and is our duty to do it. But I would say you go back and take a look at – I am also running on a record. Mr. Gable is not the only one with a record. Take a look at my record. Again my name is John Welch. I am running for the board of commissioners. You can reach me 828-262-3768. That is my home number and I would love to talk to everybody. Thank you.

Yates: Thank you for having us tonight Dan. Thank the chamber of commerce. Thanks for coming out. As I look across the crowd, I see a lot faces and I’ve been in small business in Boone for 26 years and I see each one of you that have came to my store. Bankers, car dealers, developers, farmers, cattleman and I look at this and never one time, you are talking about reaching across the aisle, have I ever asked you if you have an R or D in front of your name. And I’ve worked hard for you, I have dug for you diligently, and I will do the same as your county commissioner. As when you look at these things, there’s four things that we need to bring together today, four big people in Watauga County. You’ve got the Watauga County, the municipalities, you have Appalachian State University and you have Appalachian Regional Healthcare. These people have to start coming and sitting down at the table and being proactive and planning for our future. That’s what we need to do at the board of commissioners. We need to push to have a future plan by these people. We need to set goals and see where we are going to be. By doing that we have a requirement to protect what we have for our children, our grandchildren, neighbors and the future citizens of Watauga County. People want to move here because this is the most beautiful place in the world and by working together Democrats and Republicans, a like, find the common goals and needs of this county, we can make this the best place to live and work in North Carolina. I am Perry Yates and I appreciate your vote on November 6.

Roseman: I’d like to agree with Perry on the fact that I moved to Watauga County because it is beautiful. It holds every treasure that I wanted my children to have. And it has a great education system, a great community base system. It has a community that tends to one another. It has natural beauty. We are very, very fortunate to be here, and I am very thankful that I’ve been giving this opportunity to run for county commissioners because I want to make sure we are preserving this for the future. Part of Watauga County and its strength is the people. I don’t’ think there really is an R or a D. I think for people all wan the same goals. We all want long term plans. We all want to see how are we going to get there together. It doesn’t matter where you are from or how you got here. You are here today. Let’s figure out how we are going to get to the future together tomorrow. This is important that there is no difference between a Republican or a Democrat. What the issues are is that we want a better future together. As you can tell, I’m the only female up here. There are two gentlemen that will remain on the board. You will decide between the six of us which three will join them. I would like to be able to bring a woman’s voice to that board – a woman, a mother, a sister, a daughter. I want to be able to represent the women and be able to make sure that we have a voice at that table. So thank you. I am Virginia Roseman. I would really appreciate your vote. 

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