Beech Mountain, Seven Devils: Candidates on the issues
by Kellen Short
In Beech Mountain, five candidates are running for three seats on the Town Council. The field includes incumbents Cindy Keller, Rick Miller and Paul Piquet, as well as challengers Eddie Plante and Barry Schorr.
The top two successful finishers will receive four-year terms, while the third successful candidate will receive a two-year term.
A mayor and vice mayor will be selected from within the council after the election.
In Seven Devils, three incumbents are seeking three seats, so residents expect few surprises.
Candidates are instead running to determine term lengths, with the top two candidates earning four-year terms and the third candidate earning a two-year term.
The mayor and mayor pro tem will be selected from within the council after the election.
The Watauga Democrat asked candidates to provide a brief personal introduction and respond to three questions. Responses have been edited for punctuation, spelling and grammar.
Visit WataugaDemocrat.com for additional coverage leading to Election Day and to read previously published responses from candidates in Boone and Blowing Rock.
1) What do you consider the most pressing issues for the Beech Mountain Town Council to address?
2) What steps would you support for the Town of Beech Mountain to work with Beech Mountain Resort, the Beech Mountain Club and local businesses to reach mutual objectives?
3) What ideas would you support to further enhance tourism in Beech Mountain?
Cindy Keller is a broker with Emerald Realty and Rentals. Keller did not respond to questions by presstime.
My wife and I have had the pleasure of residing on Beech Mountain for the last 31 years. My occupation is that of general contractor. I've served on many various committees during the last three decades such as: fire department, planning board, board of adjustment, economic development commission, tourism development authority, council of governments and in 1986 was appointed to the town council, becoming mayor from 1987-1993.
For the last four years, I have been a member of the town council. I've also volunteered for numerous other events during my many years on this mountain.
1) The most pressing issue is the upgrading of our town's water and sewer system, which is over 40 years old. We are now beginning the process of building a new water treatment plant, which will be done within the next two years. We plan to complete this process without raising our taxes or water rates.
2) The town has a great relationship with the Beech Mountain Club and the resort and has worked closely with both.
3) The tourism development authority, chamber of commerce and recreation department all work jointly to promote our beautiful area and resources.
After visiting Beech Mountain for many years, Barbara and I moved here full-time 20 years ago. Although I have done many things in life, I have primarily been an investor (stocks and real estate) for the past 40 years. Since 1993, I have dedicated myself to making Beech Mountain a better place through service to my community. In addition to extensive volunteering, I have served four years on the board of the chamber of commerce, seven years on the ad-hoc long range planning committee, nine years on the board of adjustment and have been privileged to serve two, four-year terms on the town council. If the voters renew their covenant of trust in me, I believe I can continue to make a positive contribution as we move forward.
1) It is no secret that the town has an extensive water and sewer infrastructure, parts of which are in need of replacement or repair. The good news is that we have been addressing those needs for many years, through careful planning and prioritizing projects in a fiscally responsible manner, without raising taxes or diminishing other services. Beech Mountain is financially sound with healthy reserves, allowing us to complete projects using cash reserves and manageable debt.
2) Council is always receptive to working with these entities to benefit our community. Cooperation between the town and Beech Mountain Club has never been better.
3) The Tourism Development Authority, BMCC and our Recreation Department promote Beech Mountain and plan events. Our job as council is to provide the services and infrastructure that make visitors want to stay, return and invest in our community.
Eddie Plante is the owner and operator of Famous Fast Eddie's restaurant. Plante did not respond to questions by presstime.
My wife and I retired to Beech Mountain in 2000. Prior to that, I was a supervisory computer programmer and senior level systems/program analyst for our federal government, working on systems that were national in scope.
I spent two years in the Naval Reserve as a medical corpsman in Vietnam. I hold a bachelor's degree from Hunter College. I was the executive director of the Beech Mountain Chamber of Commerce for three years. Hobbies include playing guitar and banjo, traveling and scuba diving.
1) Job 1: To find a fiscally responsible way to pay for our deteriorating infrastructure, specifically, our water and sewer system. Our current town council has developed a documented vision for addressing the problem! However, we need a strategic plan which includes: action items, cost/benefit analyses, benchmarks, schedules, priorities, etc. In other words: a systematic approach is needed, and I have the skills required to develop such a strategy. Secondly: Enhance communications and transparency. The fiduciary responsibility of the town is to the taxpayers, be they year-round residents or seasonal residents. We all share in the cost of maintaining and running the community. And we all have a right to have our concerns addressed. I would favor a nonvoting member chosen by seasonal residents to sit on our council to provide ideas, feedback and act as a conduit of information back to those members. I would also favor using Skype to allow that person, who may not be present, to still be part of the process. Thirdly: Enhance our workforce through training. We should implement Quality Circles and concepts promulgated by doctors Deming, Juran, and Maslow to empower our staff and enhance the quality of our work planning. Lastly, we should leverage technology, where appropriate, to reduce reliance on manual procedures.
2 and 3) The success of our businesses directly affects Beech Mountain's ability to attract tourists and residents. I favor a pro-growth model. The more people, the better it is for our businesses. Increased tourism and residents add to our homes' values.
The club and ski resort provide great benefit to the town. They contribute to our quality of life and affect the values of our homes. They indirectly provide businesses with customers. Beech needs to support all our businesses. The government can only do so much, but they can set the proper milieu through its responsible taxing, ordinances and TDA support. I would add a nonvoting place at the table for a Chamber of Commerce director to provide a business perspective.
I would seek legal advice to see if any portion of occupancy tax could be used as a rebate to rental businesses that make quality improvement investments.
1) What do you consider the most pressing issues for the Seven Devils Town Council to address during your next term?
2) What budget priorities would you like to see made a focus during your next term?
3) What ideas would you support to further enhance the quality of life for Seven Devils residents, both year-round and seasonal?
Kay Ehlinger did not respond to questions via email but offered this statement by phone: "It's a privilege that I've been able to serve for 10 years and appreciate the opportunity. I think we are doing as much as we can with the revenue we have."
Ehlinger said she thought the current council has worked well together for the last two years, listening to one another's ideas and opinions.
David Ehmig served in the U.S. Army from 1966 to 1970 and has 38 years of banking experience, from 1970 to 2008. He has served five-plus years on the Town Council, has served on the Planning Board and Board of Adjustment, and served two years on the Watauga Transportation Planning Committee. He purchased property in Seven Devils in 1994 and moved his permanent residence there in 1999.
1) Infrastructure, mostly road repair and paving and water projects. Additionally, equipment, vehicles and training for fire department, police department, and public works department.
2) Budget priorities reflect on the above areas primarily. This is due to a very limited budget in part caused by slow growth relating to the economic downturn that has lasted for five-plus years.
3) Future needs appear to be the same thing already mentioned. We have added defibrillators to all police cars and fire trucks over the past years in an effort to provide for our residents and our many visitors.
David Hooper responded by email with this statement: "Thank you for the opportunity. Currently I am rather busy and am not able to adequately respond to your questionnaire."