Compiled by Jesse Wood
Write-in Jenny Church for Mayor
Jenny Church is running for mayor. Below is a prepared candidate statement drafted when she filed her candidacy earlier this summer. Following the statement is Church’s responses to a variety of hot-topic questions at the Boone Area Chamber’s “Candidate Forum” held in early October.
John F. Kennedy once said, “Let us not seek the Republican answer or the Democratic answer, but the right answer. Let us not seek to fix the blame for the past. Let us accept our own responsibility for the future.” During my time as a Political Science major at Appalachian State University, these are words I have come to live by.
I was in a fifth grade classroom when Mrs. Wanda Henries taught me what the Civil War was. Most heard a “North” and “South” argument, but not me. I heard a sad tale about a time when our nation was torn apart. Luckily, the story had a happy ending and the nation was restored. However I have never forgotten those first lessons of community stability. America is a great nation of communities: states, counties, cities, towns, and neighborhoods. No community is more important than the other.
In my education thus far at Appalachian State University, I have learned that government does its best work at a local level. All Federal and State money, all programs—our counties and our towns implement it all. This is the level of government that is truly about YOUR town and where YOU live.
Over the past four years I have become increasingly more aware of what happens in local government, specifically in the Town of Boone. Frankly I am sad about what I read in the newspapers. I am disheartened that neighbors sling fighting words and messages of hate at one another on social media and newspaper commentary. Unfortunately, our parties have perpetuated that hatred to get votes. It has become increasingly more unpopular to compromise. Boone is a small town and I do not believe there is any room for that kind of politics here.
I went on my first date at Peppers. I’ve spent moments with God while running on the Greenway Trail. I had birthday parties under the shelter at the Tot Lot. Boone is where I live, and I want to reclaim the attention of those who feel there is no right choice in this election. Municipal elections are nonpartisan, because the parties are supposed to stay out of them. I am the only candidate running without a party ticket. I am the only candidate that is truly unaffiliated. I am the only candidate with no agenda other than to serve the citizens of Boone. I want Boone to prosper. I want students that fall in love with this place to be able to stay here after they graduate, because there are employment opportunities here. There are so few options for anyone to work in Boone. Currently the largest employers are the University, Watauga County Schools, Watauga Medical Center, and Wal-Mart. Surely, we can do more than this. I want to do better than this. I want real progress and real change. I want to do all of that while still maintaining a wonderfully tight-knit, small town community.
My name is Jenny Church and I want to be your Mayor. I will work for you. I will pray for you. I will fight for you. I do not care if you are a full-time resident or a student. I do not care if you are Democrat or Republican. You are my neighbors. We go to the same grocery stores, same restaurants, same clothing shops, we spend time at the same parks, and we drive on the same roads. I will not be on the ballot. I am a write-in candidate. I had no intention of running for office, but after everything that has happened lately and the current choice of candidates, I can tell the partisanship war is waging on. I am not doing this for political gain. I am doing this because I care about where we live. Starting immediately I will be diligently working for your vote. So please consider writing my name, Jenny Church, in on that ballot for Mayor this fall.
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?
Jenny Church: Obviously I don’t have a lot of business experience. I am 22, but I have worked at a lot of local business in Boone and I understand a lot of the problems they face and how their finances work and I’ve done a lot of ride-a-longs and visiting business owners in town and different departments that we fund. And I know some of their needs and some of the ways they want us to fund them. I am really good at asking questions and I know a lot about how to solve problems and where to get answers. So I think that I can give my problem solving experience a hand in the budget matters and how to allocate the funds property. Sometimes it’s not that there is not enough money there, it’s that they don’t spend it the right way.
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?
Jenny Church: I think it is important to understand that as much as we love Boone and are residents of Boone, everyone in this county uses it and uses its services and resources and pretty much everybody has a purpose for a trip to Boone at least once a week. The best way to repair the relationship between the county and town is that county residents need Boone to thrive just as much as the residents of Boone need it thrive. If we let the commissioners play a more important role and let their voices be heard, it will be better for the town. We won’t have conflicting policies. We wont’ knock heads as much. It will just be better if we can find ways to work together. The only way to do that is to sit down and have a conversation, and find our similarities rather than focus on our differences.
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?
Jenny Church: I don’t particularly support the intake project. It’s not that I don’t agree that Boone’s going to need to find new ways to allocate water resources, but the project has taken 10 years and nothing really has been done. The engineer study found 27 sites that we could draw raw water from. I think it would be better to explore one of the 26 other options since we are in the exploratory phase still because the residents of Brownwood don’t appreciate it, Ashe County doesn’t appreciate and, quite frankly, it’s going to cost more than $25 million at this point, and I am not ready to put that kind of burden on taxpayers when it’s a project that is widely opposed
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?
Jenny Church: The sales tax redistribution happened as a result of bad politics and bad policy. The Town of Boone has a personal vendetta, a very public personal vendetta against the person who made a bid to purchase the property from the county, and they zoned it accordingly to make it almost impossible to build anything affordable there, which is what they rezoned it for. As a result, they cancelled the bid and they didn’t get it. They didn’t sell it. The county was upset. So they did, and they punished the Town of Boone and found another way to get their revenue. Was that the right thing to do? No. But is that how politics work? Yes. The best thing that we can do is to repair the relationship with the county. If we can get them on board and make them feel like a contributing member of our area and treat them as equals. I mean we govern different bodies, but they are mutually exclusive [inaudible.] Really, the best thing we can do is get the county on board and get the sales tax back.
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?
Jenny Church: The UDO is a living document that we should update more frequently to meet the town’s needs and plan the future of Boone. Currently, it’s not easy to navigate and it’s not easy to cross-reference. It’s over 400 pages and there is a lot of junk in it. Stuff that you would never actually need to know and a lot of repetitive, just junk. The 2030 plan was contracted out to a non-local group that cost tons of taxpayer dollars. But they identified needs and wants of the citizens of Boone. People say they want Boone to stay a small town, but they also want it to grow. Currently, the UDO makes it very hard to build. The Waffle House that is going in is going to be known as the most expensive Waffle House in the country because it is so strict to build here. The ordinances here are ridiculous. If we want to grow, we are going to have to make it easier for people to startup.
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?
Jenny Church: I just like to say the time for public comment is every day. Any time you have an issue you should comment every day. Any time. The only way to get the businesses and those eyesores to become useful properties is to build in incentives or create incentives. If there is not an incentive, make an incentive. If someone doesn’t want to build it because it is too expensive or too hard find a way to help them, find a way to make it work. That is the only way that things get done is when all the streams come together and they work together. I want to see the library get developed just as much as everyone else. It looks bad. It’s been burned down, boarded up. It looks ridiculous. It’s empty, and it’s in the middle of town. We shouldn’t have places like that. That’s a great location, any business could thrive there but it is too expensive to do anything about it. It is too restrictive, they shouldn’t get fined $4,000 if they want to remove a tree. There are things to create incentives.
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?
Jenny Church: I think he said the answer to the question in the question. I think the best thing we can do is utilize the EDC more and take more direction from them and give them more leeway. We could seek more businesses out and seek more avenues to bring jobs here. We can ask businesses, ‘Hey, I got a great spot. I have a college here. I’ve got graduates. We can do this. Come here. This is why you should build in Boone. It really is as simple sometimes you can’t wait for people to come to you. You have to go find them. You have to seek answers to your problems. The only way that solutions will come is if we find them. They don’t always come find us.
Moderator: What are your views concerning the Daniel Boone Parkway to relieve traffic congestion in the Town of Boone?
Jenny Church: I don’t know that people wouldn’t still stop in Boone if you are going to a ballgame or going to a Mast Store, you are probably going to do those things because they are probably on your bucket list. But I don’t necessarily support that route or those access points because they are not near the center of town and they are not where we want you to spend your tax dollars. Not a whole lot on the 105 Bypass and not much by the Elk Motel other than Walgreens. Not sure that would be a good access point. I do know there are a lot of transportation experts in our community. We have a lot at ASU. They teach classes on it. There are business owners downtown. There is one that owns a local grocery store downtown. He has a PHD in transportation, and he talks to me about it to me every time I stop by his store. There are people we can ask and there are ways to find solutions to our traffic problems other than maybe alleviating some of our tax revenue.
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?
Jenny Church: We need better drainage systems. We need better communications between the agencies that deal with flooding and water and the town of Boone. The best thing that I know to do about it is to just find ways to innovate around it. Start a conversation now before it gets worse. We don’t want to keep putting Bandaids on gunshot wounds. We just need to things to get better. The only way for things to get better is if we deal with it now. We don’t need a project that is going to take 10 years, five years or seven years. We are going to need a project that we can settle on what we are going to do about it. This is how we are going to do it. These are the experts we are going to do. This is how much this is going to cost and we need to do it quickly because rain is going to keep falling, so we are going to have these problems forever until we deal with them.
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?
Jenny Church: I agree that there is a lot of activity so a lot of people notice that it is kind of rundown and we kind of feel it when you walk through it. It’s just a slummy area of downtown. It’s one of those problems where there isn’t an easy solution. There are a lot of problems like cost and the fact that it is busy and we are going to have to have trucks in and out of there. Do you make it walker friendly or do you make it vehicle friendly? Sometimes you can’t do both. That is something we are just going to have to explore more. If there isn’t funding, we will have to find funding. There are grants, there are incentives. We could sell bonds. We could do something that promotes ownership so that everybody would want to participate to help solve the problem.