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Originally published: 2013-10-19 20:19:39
Last modified: 2013-10-21 11:10:23

BR council candidates address issues

by Jeff Eason

Election Day for the Blowing Rock mayor and three open seats on the town council takes place Tuesday, Nov. 5, and early voting began Oct. 17.

Each candidate was asked to provide responses to a series of questions for publication. Today's issue includes biographical information about each council candidate, as well as their responses to three questions.

Responses have been edited for punctuation, spelling and space requirements.


1) Why are you running for this office? You may also wish to briefly mention your top issues or goals if elected.

2) What actions would you support as a town leader to help spur local economic development, tourism and job growth?

3) What do you think Blowing Rock's infrastructure priorities are (for example, highway 321 widening, Blowing Rock Hospital, water and sewer, road maintenance, American Legion Hall renovation) and how should the town go forward with these projects?


David Barker

Occupation: Owner, Blowing Rock Market/Real Estate Broker with Mountain Sotheby's Real Estate.

Contact information: email: (

Bio: Married to Karen Barker. We have twins who are seniors at Watauga High School. Raised in Durham/Chapel Hill area, my family was originally from Ashe County. Graduated from ASU with BSBA. Worked in sales/marketing in the grocery industry for several years in Charlotte. Owned marketing company in NASCAR industry. Currently a real estate broker in Blowing Rock.

1. I am running because the next couple of years will be very important for the future of Blowing Rock. I think being a business owner in town gives me an understanding of the needs of the business community, and also having raised my family in town gives me an appreciation of what residents are looking for. Every day at my business I have the opportunity to listen to full time residents, seasonal residents, visitors and business owners, this provides me a good opportunity to see the town from many angles.

2.  I think the comprehensive plan being worked on now should be a good template for what the town should be doing for development and tourism. We should be planning for the future and developing opportunities in regard to public property. We should be working with the owners of buildings and land to make sure they can achieve their goals while saying true to what makes Blowing Rock special.

3. With the American Legion building and the old fire station being so close to each other I think we should examine the entire area and see how they might impact each other before we move forward. These are the types of buildings the town needs to preserve but we should have a thought out plan for them. The "new" 321 and the new hospital will create a large amount of commercial development in the next few years. The town will need to be pro-active in working with the current and future owners so that the area will be a positive for the residents of town. The new highway will be the "face" of the town and we only have one chance to get it right. 

Laurin Carter

Occupation: Owner of The Carter Land Company; a real estate holding and management company specializing in affordable multi-family rental housing and self-storage warehouse facilities.      
Contact information: Email at ( , Ph. (828) 295-7756.

Bio: Born in Hickory and reared in Taylorsville. Attended Converse College and The School of Richmond Ballet. I managed furniture stores and in 1990 opened my own outlets in Hickory, Asheville, Statesville and Charlotte. Developed a successful, wholesale and salvage business selling hotel/motel furniture. My purchase of four historic buildings in Statesville started a real estate career. Part- and full-time resident of Blowing Rock for almost 20 years. Married to Bill Carter, together we have three children. 

1. Blowing Rock is going to see more change in the next five year than in the last 25. I want to be a guardian for our citizens to help oversee and ensure that change complements and is integrated into the character and charm of the town we all call home. Our homes and businesses must have good safe water to drink and use and our "storm water" problems addressed and fixed for the long term. I am committed to seeing every tax dollar is spent prudently and with the very best value received. I will also make sure Blowing Rock receives its fair share of sales tax dollars. I believe in "transparency" in our town governance. That is a key to the citizens' trust in town council. I will absolutely make sure everyone in Blowing Rock is fully informed on "all" aspects of our town government: Both the good and not so good news. I want to be the voice of all the citizens of Blowing Rock. That is why I have two ears and one mouth. I will listen to the town's people way before I speak on an issue.

2. With economic development will come job growth. Chestnut Ridge, it is said by ARHS will eventually create 300 to 400 jobs. I will encourage this facility to be developed as well as when feasible, perhaps a retirement community. I would like to see a village of medical offices also to compliment this area west of town and for it to be a new economic engine for Blowing Rock. As a guardian of the village, I will insure that any expansion will strictly adhere to our appearance standards and we do not see any "steel and glass" structures covering every inch of a vacant lot. I, and others would like to see the three entrances into downtown Blowing Rock, off of Valley Blvd. embellished with stone walls and columns, heavy landscaping as well as signage to promote the downtown businesses. I am a businesswoman and a former long time retail store owner. I clearly understand the downtown businesses need to attract more foot traffic to their establishments. Our downtown looks like something Norman Rockwell would have painted. It is an economic engine and attraction for our village. We need to do all we can, to see that it has a stable base and prospers. Also to retain "the look" so many of us and other enjoy and admire.   

3. The 321 bypass widening needs to be completed and finished as agreed with NCDOT. I will follow this closely ensuring attractiveness and the storm water run off does not undermine our business properties along the route. Blowing Rock Hospital is near and dear to my heart. I have been on a number of committees during the last 10 years raising money for the hospital. We have all fought the battle, but the merger with Appalachian Healthcare will eventually see our Chestnut Drive facility closed. I am saddened by all of this, but we will have a state of the art hospital facility in Boone. There is so much rapid change in the healthcare field today, much of it driven by Washington and none of us can have any control over this. I want to see more immediate attention given to the town water lines. There is, I believe a five-year plan of improvement and replacement. I will see how we can speed up this work and find ways to procure money from Raleigh or Washington to help us with this pressing problem. We all have a right to good clean drinking water and I want to see to that end. I believe, as former Blowing Rock summer resident and homeowner, Gov. Cameron Morrison, "The Good Roads Governor," that good roads are important to the viability of our town. Our storm water drainage system is in need of attention. This is a high priority of mine and I will personally see to the implementation of plans to correct the storm water issues and do so at a cost to the town that will be the best and most efficient use of our tax dollars. I will see that our town roads, while suffering greatly from winter weather, are continually maintained to a high standard. The American Legion Hall is a Blowing Rock treasure that needs to be preserved. I would like to see a committee set up to study and report to the town as how best and when to renovate the structure. The American Legion Hall was built to honor the men from this area who fought to preserve the freedoms we enjoy today. We owe them so much and these former soldiers deserve our gratitude for the sacrifices they all made in our behalf.
Tommy Klutz

Occupation: Custom furniture builder; antique restoration.

Contact information: Business phone: (828) 295-3502. Cell phone (828) 773-7518.

Bio: My name is Tommy Klutz and I was born in Blowing Rock and have lived here my entire life. I literally "grew up" on Main Street, working at Sonny's Grill, with my father, Sonny Klutz.
I graduated from Watauga High School and a couple of years later I started my own woodworking and furniture business, "The Restoration House."
In 1972, I married Ruthelen Hartley Klutz, who was also born here and grew up here in Blowing Rock. We have two sons, who now work with us, so we are definitely a "family business," operating for 41 years, year-round, in our hometown of Blowing Rock.

1. I am running for re-election to the town council because I want to continue to be an integral part of the various projects and plans that were started eight years ago for Blowing Rock. For example, much needed renovations were done to our water and sewer plants, and more needs to be done in the near future. A top priority of mine is to continue the "long-range" plans that are already in place, to fix the storm water in our sewer lines in Blowing Rock. I want to continue on this path until the things you can't see are as nice as the things you do see.

2. What I would do as a town leader to spur economic growth is a balancing act with many variables. With no industry or factories, hard or soft, we rely on tourism. We don't need to re-invent what Blowing Rock was once great in. We must go forward into the future with our eyes open and encourage "needful" businesses to come here and extend our year-round connection, while enhancing our seasonal experience. I also think we should relax our codes to bring a balance back to Blowing Rock, so our economic development could spur on tourism and job growth.

3. In my first answer to question No. 1, I stated that I think the priorities for Blowing Rock are the water and sewer issues, which go right along with the paving of our town streets and roads. In our long-range plans for Blowing Rock, we replace old water and sewer lines when doing the paving. You can rest assured that past and present council members, town engineers, and the DOT have verse, line, and sung, done everything we can for the Highway 321 widening on Valley Boulevard, which should be called Valley Boulevard, and not the Highway 321 Bypass. The American Legion renovation has been decided. As for the new hospital, I think the town can help them by easing or enhancing our codes, but I am not for any kind of partnership between the town and the hospital and I am against giving them any more money. Yes, the hospital will help the town, needless to say, but it is not the town's job to ensure their success, however, I wish them the very best.

Doug Matheson

Occupation: Employer--Appalachian State University
Contact information:
Phone: (828) 295-3932
Email: (

Bio: I am 57 years old. My wife's name is Barbara and I have three step children and seven wonderful grandchildren. I attended Blowing Rock Elementary School and graduated from Watauga High in 1975. I am past president of the school PTO, past president of Blowing Rock Parks and Recreation and retired fire chief of the Blowing Rock Fire & Rescue. I sit on the executive board for Blowing Rock Fire and Rescue, the Blowing Rock Tourism Development Authority board, and the Central Government Committee for the North Carolina League of Municipalities. 

1. I am running for re-election because Blowing Rock has raised me to care about the future of our town and serving as a council person is one way of giving back. Also, there are things that were started that I would like to see through to completion such as the streetscape project, highway 321 improvements, and the new hospital and ambulance service.

2. Blowing Rock's beauty is one of our greatest assets and we would continue to make progress in those areas. As council person I think one of the best ways to spur economic development, tourism and job growth is by supporting our chamber of commerce and tourism development authority. By promoting our area and what we have here such as our attractions, outdoor activities and elementary school that continues to rank as a school of excellence every year will help to bring in tourists, businesses and people who want to live here. We need to get more median income housing so more people can afford to live and work here.

3. We should be aware of our basic needs that we don't always see.  Water and sewer system improvements, repairs and maintenance must continue to be a focal point for our town. With all the rain this summer, it has showed us where our storm water needs improving.  The town is working with the hospital to help get this project up and running. The town has listed the roads by priority that need paving and the side ditches that need work. The town has contributed over $100,000 into the betterments on the Highway 321 widening project to make sure that when it is completed it will be something we can all be proud of. I would love to see us try to preserve more of our old buildings such as the American Legion. These old buildings are part of our heritage. One way the town could go forward with these projects is to take the sales tax money and pay toward debt service thus freeing up more money in the long run to be put toward these projects.  Blowing Rock has a strong history of diverse people working together.  By continuing to listen to and represent all of the Blowing Rock stakeholders we can ensure a fine future for the Town of Blowing Rock together. 

Ray Pickett

Occupation: Self employed inn owner

Contact information:
Ray Pickett
P.O. Box 265
Blowing Rock, NC 28605
(828) 295-0648

Bio: I was born in Charlotte in 1968, then moved to Blowing Rock In 1985. I graduated from Watuaga High School in 1987, then attended CCC&TI from 1989 to 1991. Afterwards I moved to Raleigh in 1992 where I was in restaurant management until 2000. In 2000 I moved back to Blowing Rock to be a part of the family business at the Blowing Rock Inn. Since moving back I have been involved in a variety of aspects of the town for many years such as serving on town event committees, economic development committee, Blowing Rock Historical Society, Rotary of Blowing Rock and Blowing Rock Planning and Zoning Board.

1. I have been on Blowing Rock Planning and Zoning Board since 2010, and I want to serve Blowing Rock at the next level. Also, I believe I will bring new energy and plans for the future to the Blowing Rock Town Council. Some of my top issues are: to maintain the character and charm of the town with controlled growth, ensuring that DOT fulfills the promises that have been made for Highway 321 Bypass and improve and plan for extending infrastructure.

2. Actions I would support for local economic development would be supporting tourism. Tourism is the largest economic driver in Blowing Rock. Supporting more projects such as the Middle Fork Greenway that will bring a more diverse group of tourist to Blowing Rock, but would also benefit the residents. To help with job growth, I would work with the Blowing Rock Chamber of Commerce and Blowing Rock Tourism Development Authority to try to recruit small technology companies that would hire employees that would work and live in Blowing Rock.

3. Like in most towns, keeping infrastructure up is always a battle, and Blowing Rock is no different. As a town, we do need to upgrade some of our water and sewer, but we need an organized long-range plan to get this done. Another issue that needs a good plan is stormwater run-off and how to control it. One more area I believe needs attention is our sidewalks. Blowing Rock is a very walk-able town, and in order to stay this way we need maintained sidewalks. The sidewalks that have been done are great, but we need to expand to other areas of town. In my mind these items are a top priority to begin working on as soon as we can. With the widening of Highway 321 by-pass all the water and sewer pipes are not only being replaced, but are being upgraded. So what has to be done there is to ensure DOT fulfills the promises that have been made. When it comes to future development along 321 Bypass we can use the process that is in place with the planning board and town council to uphold our land use code to maintain the character and charm of the town. With Blowing Rock Hospital moving to a new location, we will have a new area of economic growth, with new jobs and possibly even more jobs in the future with a retirement village concept. You have heard many ideas on the American Legion Hall, but I believe the choice made by the town council is the way to proceed so the many different facets of people in Blowing Rock who use the building will all benefit.

Sue Sweeting

Occupation: Registered Nurse working as a nurse practitioner with Dr. Mark Murrey.

Contact information:
PO Box 2577
Blowing Rock, NC 28605
(828) 406-9376

Bio: Born in China Lake, Calif., to a naval officer and his wife in 1953.
Bachelor's degree in Nursing from the University of Virginia; master's degree in nursing from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; Blowing Rock Planning Board 2005-2011: vice chairwoman 2007-2009; chairwoman of Comprehensive Subcommittee; Watauga County Commissioner 1998-2002; coordinator for Appalachian Advanced Health Care Providers; N.C. Nurses Association regional liaison, 2008 to present;
Chairwoman of NCNA Council of Nurse Practitioners 1991-1995.

1. As a permanent resident of Blowing Rock for more than 30 years, I have come to love the beautiful mountain views, lush parks and seasonal weather. I enjoy the small, village character of Blowing Rock, with its history, visual and performing arts, and outdoor activities. Most important to me is the warm, loyal, caring and giving people who live here. The character of this town is as important to me now as it was when my girls were growing up and attending Blowing Rock School. If elected to the Blowing Rock Town Council, my goals include promoting unity and harmony on the board and being accountable to the citizens of Blowing Rock in all decisions. I will work to protect the small village character of the Town of Blowing Rock as we embark on the widening and completion of Highway 321 Bypass. I will listen, seek citizen input and make sound decisions.

2. I will support working with TDA and the Chamber to promote economic development, tourism and job growth. Our comprehensive plan recommends developing more middle-income housing. I believe this is vital to keep the employees who work in town, to live in town. Promoting the Greenway between Blowing Rock and Boone and improving a footpath from Main Street to Bass Lake, will improve eco-tourism. As a result of more tourists, the motels and restaurants will need more employees. The completion of Highway 321 Bypass will spur economic development on the Bypass and downtown. Streamlining the planning and inspection process and reduction of parking fees has hopefully helped spur economic development as well. 

3. The American Legion Hall is used by many residents in town and needs to renovated. At this time, there are weekly church services, boy scout troop meetings, family and social gatherings and community meetings that use the American Legion Hall. This building is an asset to all town residents. Our water quality is not the problem in town. It is the delivery system that is failing. Approximately 30 percent of the sewer and water lines need replacing. This project needs to be placed on a time line and completed as one of the most urgent needs.

According to several residents, there are several roads and ditches that need fixing. The walking trail that parallels Main Street needs a handrail on the steps leading to the street, for safety. I think addressing these issues of water, roads and ditches, first, will please many town residents. The hospital and Highway 321 Bypass issues are ongoing.

Visit to view responses from mayoral candidates.