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Hendersonville City Council race will have primary

The race for two open Hendersonville City Council seats now includes five candidates, assuring a primary will be held.

“It will be narrowed to four,” said Karen Hebb, Henderson County’s Director of Elections. “There can only be two candidates per seat.”
The primary held on Oct. 5 will determine the four candidates who will compete in the general election on November 2.
Incumbent Councilman Jerry Smith Jr. filed to run for a fourth term on the council last week along with first-time council candidate Raphael Morales and Hendersonville native Debbie Roundtree. Innkeeper Mike Baer filed to run for city council on Tuesday and retired Hendersonville Police Officer Mike Vesely joined the race on Wednesday.

Incumbent councilman Jeff Miller announced recently that he will not seek a third term in office.
Hendersonville Mayor Barbara Volk also recently filed to run for her fourth term as mayor.

Debbie Roundtree

Roundtree, 51, ran for city council in 2017 and 2019 and for the Henderson County Board of Commissioners in 2020. She describes herself as an advocate and an activist.
“I have a passion to help people. I’m the real deal,” she said.
Roundtree, who graduated from Hendersonville High School in 1988 and later earned a junior college degree, is a frontline worker in local nursing homes. She also holds down a housekeeping job in the area. Roundtree is also a single mother of three girls ages 18, 29 and 16.
Roundtree said she is opposed to a city administration proposal to increase taxes by 7 cents over the next three years. The plan calls for a three cent increase this year, three cents next year and one cent in 2023.
Increasing taxes on city residents would put too much of a burden on working people who have not seen their wages increase enough to keep pace with higher taxes, she said.
“I don’t think increasing taxes is going to make it better. It’s a struggle for me,” she said. “If you’re going to raise taxes, working people don’t make enough to pay the taxes.”
A tax increase would also make it more difficult for people to find affordable housing, she said.
Roundtree works with the Housing Assistance Corporation as an advocate. She said she thinks the city needs to find more affordable housing and keep taxes low to help working people afford housing in the city.
“We’ve got to find more affordable housing. Raising taxes is not going to help.”
Roundtree said she supports the city’s annexation requirement for commercial and residential development that requires sewer and the city’s plan to expand its Fire Station 1 on North Main Street, which will require moving the Laura E. Corn putt-putt course to Edwards Park.
She said she does not completely support the city’s plans to place parking meters downtown but acknowledges that meters are probably inevitable given the city’s needs.

Raphael Morales

Morales, 31, is single and works at a Frito Lay distribution center in Arden but said he plans to seek employment in downtown Hendersonville’s food service industry.
He said he decided his first run for office would be Hendersonville’s City Council because he wanted to speak up for people who are usually not heard.
“I felt there was a lot of toxic division and a lot of people who felt no one was listening to them,” he said.
Morales said he wants everyone to vote in the city election even if they do not vote for him.
He called the city administration’s tax plans modest when compared to other cities of similar size and praised the city manager and staff for their work on the plan but stopped short of supporting it.
Morales said he wanted to know more about how the money would be spent. He said he also wanted to see more citizens informed and involved in the budget process.
“I think we have to continue to have conversations with citizens,” he said.
While he said he thinks the city is limited on what it can do to create more affordable housing, Morales said he would like for the council to look more intentionally at housing proposals and how many affordable units are in those proposals.
Morales noted that he was homeless at one point and said that government needs to meet working class people where they are.
“Right now, they don’t feel they are part of the conversation,” he said.
Morales said he needs more time to consider Hendersonville’s annexation requirements.
He said he would also like to talk with members of the fire department about the plans for Fire Station 1 and the putt-putt course. The council should balance the needs of firefighters and first responders with the concerns people have about the putt-putt course, he said.
Morales said he thinks the city should make decisions that focus on equity and sustainability.
“That focus would create a sustainable approach to the city growing healthily,” he said.
Morales said he supports some new parking meters but not for all of downtown. He said he also wants the council to consider how parking meters will impact people who work in downtown businesses.
He described his platform as accessibility, equity and sustainability.
If elected, Morales said he plans to make sure people most impacted by decisions are a focus of the council. As part of that commitment, he said he would like to reach more people by having the city’s website and minutes translated to Spanish. More attention also should be paid to the service and hospitality workers who support the city’s tourism industry, he said.

Jerry Smith

Smith, 52, said he like another term as councilman because cares about Hendersonville.
“I’ve enjoyed the last 12 years on the council and am excited about the opportunities for Hendersonville to continue being a great hometown,” he said.
Smith teaches a variety of classes at Hendersonville High School and is married to Anne Smith. They have three children ages 20, 17 and 14.
He said he supports the first proposed 3-cent tax increase for 2021-2022 for three reasons. The money would go toward paying for a company of firefighters on the city’s payroll who are not funded by federal grant and would fund an increase in benefits for city employees’ health insurance and family leave.
Worker pay is the third reason for the tax increase, he said.
“We have had to increase city worker pay to compete with neighboring counties and municipalities,” he said.
Smith said he thinks it is too early to know if other future tax increases will be needed.
He pointed to the council’s support during his tenure of policies that encourage affordable housing in the city.
The city has supported developments by installing water and sewer lines and passed a resolution in support of developers receiving tax credits to build affordable housing, Smith said. A number of developments were also approved to provide housing at various price points, he said.
Smith also mentioned the development of the former Grey Hosiery Mill property that created new and affordable housing in Hendersonville. Developers were required by the city to provide seven units, or 20 percent of the 35-unit project, for affordable housing for 15 years.
He said he supports requiring annexation for developments to receive sewer service from the city and said he sees it as a benefit of living in the city.
“Running a sewer system is more complicated than a water system,” Smith said. “That is a larger financial investment by the city, maintaining that system.”
Smith said he supports the plan to rebuild Fire Station 1 at its current location and relocating the putt-putt course.
Other options to relocate the fire station proved impossible after Henderson County decided to purchase a nearby VFW building, he said.
“As a result, we have to expand 1 where it is now and that would require taking the tennis courts and mini-golf,” Smith said.
Ideas now include moving the putt-putt course to Edwards Park or possibly making the Dogwood Parking lot a park and putting the course there.
“I understand the sentimental and cultural value of mini-golf and am open to other potential designs. But right now, this is the best option we can come up with and we have discussed many,” Smith said.
Smith also supports parking meters downtown to help pay for a new parking deck.
“I don’t think parking rates will be onerous. We believe the parking deck will be a tremendous asset for the growth of Hendersonville,” he said.
If reelected, Smith said he looks forward to meeting all the current and future challenges Hendersonville will face as it continues to grow.
“The City of Hendersonville has become an attractive location for families of all ages to live,” he said. “It is also becoming an attractive location for people who are able to work remotely. As a result, it is a very exciting time in the growth of Hendersonville.”

Barbara Volk

Volk, 75, works parttime as professional parliamentarian. She  has two grown children who live in Charlotte and grandchildren. Her husband, Dr. James Volk, passed away in 2018.
She said she is seeking a fourth term as mayor because she wants to see the completion of city projects including the construction of a new police department and the Fire Station 1 plan.
She said she wants to balance the city’s growth with its small-town charm.
“It’s all a big balancing act,” she said.
Volk said she thinks the city is doing a good job in trying to provide affordable housing. The city should continue to make property available to development for affordable housing and offer tax credits for affordable housing, she said.
Property that receives sewer service from the city should also be annexed into the city, she said.
“Cities provide services for urban residents,” she said.
Volk said the tax increase plan depends on budgets and how much revenue the city receives over the years.
“We will look at it as it comes,” she said. If it is necessary to provide services, I would support it. It will depend on each year’s budget.”
Volk also said she supports expanding Fire Station 1 at its current location and moving the putt-putt course to Edwards Park because moving the station is not an option.
If the putt-putt course is moved, it should remain as it is now with only improvements to make it more handicapped accessible.
“Part of the charm of it is being homemade and that is what I want to see continue,” she said. “Some people are very sentimental. I love going. Where else can you take a family of four for $10.”
Volk also supports installing parking meters on Main Street.
The city currently is doing the opposite of what it should by making parking on Main Street free and charging for parking blocks away from Main, she said.
“It’s time. There is so much demand for parking on Main. It’s time to start charging for what is one of our big assets downtown.”
She said she also wants to consider increasing the number of handicapped spaces on Main Street.
Volk said she gives much of the credit of the city’s success to the people who work for the city.
“The city is very well run,” she said. “We have a fantastic staff. I look forward to continuing to work with them.”

Mike Vesely

Vesely, 52, recently retired from the Hendersonville Police Department after serving as an officer for 26 years. He also served in law enforcement in Florida for six years before moving to Hendersonville. He is married and has two adult children and one grandchild.
Vesely said he is running for city council because he wants to continue serving his community.
“I want to still serve the city and I thought this would be a great opportunity to serve,” he said.
He said he supports plans to increase city taxes.
“I’m for it. It’ll support the police department, help the Seventh Avenue District and help retain great employees,” Vesely said.
He said he has been concerned over the years to see employees hired and trained by the city only to leave after they receive training and experience because other places pay more.
“We have to be competitive,” he said. “Let’s keep that all here.”
Vesely said he feels the city’s need for more affordable housing at a personal level.
“My family is directly involved in that,” he said. “My son can’t find a house here. He can’t even find an apartment here.”
He said he would like for the city to find opportunities to build not just apartments but more affordable, family homes.
He said he supported annexation for developments that require sewer service.
“If they want our services, they need to be annexed or don’t receive our services,” Vesely said.
He also supports the Fire Station 1 and putt-putt relocation plans. The current fire station is not meeting the needs of the department and causes delays in response times. A lack of parking is also a problem for the current location of the putt-putt course, he said.
Vesely said putting parking meters downtown is also a good idea.
He said he would also like to see the city focus on infrastructure including working with AT&T to provide better internet service. An upgrade is needed because more people these days work from home.