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Originally published: 2013-10-17 20:49:44
Last modified: 2013-10-17 21:35:15

Blowing Rock mayoral 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 mayoral candidate, as well as their responses to three questions.

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

QUESTIONS:

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?

FOR MAYOR

J.B. Lawrence

Occupation:
City President,
United Community Bank
Blowing Rock

Contact information: Office: (828) 295-5353, UCB: (828) 295-8072.

Bio: A native of Watauga County, married to the former Lynn Pitts, we have two sons and five grandchildren. I served eight years on the town council prior to becoming Mayor in 1997. I have been a banker in Blowing Rock and Boone for the past 27 years. Other past and present service to our community: High Country Council of Government 22 years; Blowing Rock Volunteer Fire Department 10-plus years; Blowing Rock Rescue Squad 20-plus years; Blowing Rock Hospital Board; Blowing Rock Chamber of Commerce Board; Blowing Rock Rotary Club; Blue Ridge Electric Board of Directors 11-plus years; BRAHM finance committee; Watauga County Board of Adjustments; member First Baptist Church of Blowing Rock.

1. It's imperative that Blowing Rock continue to have experienced leadership during this time, and I have more experience in town government than the council members combined. The town has had a change at the town manager position and while I feel we hired the very best applicant available, he has never served as a manager before and I want to be there to assist and direct as needed. It is the mayor's roll to conduct the town meetings in a fashion that is respectful of those who wish to speak regardless of the position they take on an issue.

I have always encouraged open discussion on all of the issues, even those that aren't a public hearing. It is the mayor's responsibility to facilitate discussion among the council members, not dominate it. Short-term rentals in our residential districts continues to come up for discussion. I firmly believe that our R-15, single-family zoning, should be off limits to anything shorter than the 28 days our current ordinance allows. Our year-round residents deserve this protection and everything we do doesn't have to be done to accommodate tourism.

2. Our top goal is to make sure the new medical facility is built as planned.  A community without a medical facility is a dying community. Future development there will bring more jobs and tax revenue to the town without having a negative effect on Blowing Rock's village character. Another concern is the quality of wireless service for our cell phones and other personal electronics. Today's visitors and residents want to have constant wireless access to the Internet and there are areas of our town that does not provide coverage. There is technology available that allows antennas and towers to be disguised in numerous ways that will not impact the visual character of the town.

3. The town has numerous infrastructure needs that are addressed through the plans in place. i.e. Capital Improvement Plan, road re-paving schedule, WWTP improvements. Storm water management, particularly after this summer, is always an area that needs attention. The American Legion building renovation is partially supported by a matching grant. What the council chooses to do beyond this amount has yet to be determined. New architectural drawings with various options are expected in the near future.

The widening of Highway 321 has created its own particular set of problems with re-routing traffic, storm run-off, and the negative impact on businesses along the route. However, the road will be completed and hopefully development will occur along Valley Boulevard. I am confident that our manager and planning staff will inform developers of the rigid requirements we have in place plus any additional requirements that can be placed on the developers by the Planning Board and through our Conditional Use Process and subsequent public hearing before the town council. 


Dan Phillips

Occupation: Entrepreneur/small business owner/author/inventor

Contact Information: (Phillips.dan22@gmail.com) , Phone (704) 564-1995.

Bio: Father of four, grandfather of two.

1. I am running for mayor to draw attention to the important issues facing the town: to protect our small businesses. Without our small businesses, the charm of the town is gone. Updating our antiquated infrastructure. Install high-speed wireless Internet and cell phone communications infrastructure for present and future business needs. Look for more public-private partnerships to generate more year round jobs to balance the economy and bring in younger people. Create term limits so to eliminate the important decisions based on perpetual reelections. My top goals would be to have the town council, the chamber, the TDA and the town citizens work in tandem through open and transparent communications to protect and maintain the historical character and charm of this village while protecting the small businesses and controlling growth.

2. The actions to spur economic growth would be to look beyond our city limits to solicit businesses to locate here that would compliment our town. Middle Fork Green way should be high on our list. An under-utilized asset is our horse show grounds. Working closely with the horse show board is a major asset to the community in that Blowing Rock should be promoted more as an equestrian community. I would also support working with our local universities and community colleges to seek opportunities for the graduating students to stay and work here. One of the major assets that is not being used to its fullest is our people. Our seasonal residents would truly like to be asked to help the town. I would support finding investors who would build homes, town homes or apartments that workers can afford. This is just a small list of fresh ideas.

3. The first Draft of Infrastructure Cost was over $40 million, which includes water, sewer, utilities and road maintenance. Infrastructure maintenance has been deferred for so long it is time to put things in order.

It only makes sense to not pave roads over the top of water and sewer lines that need to be updated. I may be alone, but does it make sense to spend money on buildings that can wait while the water and sewer lines continue to corrode and the bad water feeds into our homes?
Both the new hospital and old hospital properties are important. What impact? When? Who pays? Thank you for the opportunity to continue to be a servant leader to this wonderful town.

The candidates for town council will appear in the Sunday edition of the Watauga Democrat.