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Field set in Hendersonville, Laurel Park races

The close of filing at noon Friday, July 16, left the city of Hendersonville with a diverse ballot that could signal a robust campaign this fall.

The field is set in Hendersonville and Laurel Park. Next up are Flat Rock, Fletcher and Mills River, where council members run from districts. Filing for office in those three towns opens at noon Monday and ends at noon Friday, Aug. 13.
In Laurel Park, barring the remote chance of a write-in campaign, Debra Hinson Bridges will join incumbents Kristin Dunn and Paul Hansen on the council. Bridges, Hansen and Dunn were the only candidates to file in the three open seats in the city.

Harrington challenges Volk

Hendersonville Mayor Barbara Volk, seeking a fourth term as mayor, will face a challenge from newcomer Daniel James “D.J.” Harrington.
“The biggest thing is I love the city,” Harrington said. “We raised a family here. I want my kids to want to stay in this area.”
Harrington, 48, moved to Hendersonville from Charlotte 20 years ago and is the owner of a granite countertop company in the area. He is married to his high school sweetheart and has four daughters, an 18-year-old, twin 14-year-olds and a 7-year-old.
Harrington said he understands why the city administration proposed raising taxes by seven cents over three years — three cents this year and next and one cent in 2023 — but added that he would like to consider other options first.
“We need to be careful of raising taxes more,” he said.
Harrington said he thinks Hendersonville needs more affordable housing but said city government plays a bigger part in providing services to residents than providing affordable housing.
“I’m a working man, that is the hard thing,” he said. “The secret is out. People want to move here. I would question how much role the mayor and city council really have” in promoting affordable housing.
Harrington supports the city’s policy of requiring annexation for developments outside city limits when those developments need sewer service.
He also supports plans for the new Fire Station 1 on North Main Street, which calls for removing the current station and moving the Laura E. Corn putt-putt course to Edwards Park or possibly closer to downtown.
“As we grow, the strain on our fire department is over the limit,” he said. “To move anywhere else would be costly and not provide the service that station provides.”
Harrington said he would like to see the putt-putt and tennis courts moved to another location in the area.
“My 7-year-old is always asking, ‘Can we play putt-putt?’” he said.
Harrington said he was unsure about whether parking meters are needed downtown to help fund a parking deck.
“We need to make sure people can get into businesses,” he said.
Harrington said he wants to consider both the long-term benefits and long-term costs to the city when he makes decisions.
“Some of these decisions have to be made not for today, but for tomorrow. Ten or 20 years from now, what will benefit the city,” he said.
Chelsea Rose Walsh, the chair of the Henderson County Republican Party, became the sixth candidate to file for the City Council just before noon Friday. In addition to Walsh, previously profiled candidates include:
• Mike Baer. Baer, 66, and his wife Cindy own and operate the Elizabeth Leigh Inn on Fifth Avenue West. Baer is retired from fulltime work in the staffing field but still consults in the industry. Baer said he is running for council because he loves Hendersonville and thinks it is a great place to live. He said he wants to keep it that way.
• Raphael Morales. Morales, 31, works at Arabella in downtown Hendersonville. 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.
• Debbie Roundtree. Roundtree, 51, ran for city council in 2017 and 2019 and Henderson County Board of Commissioners in 2020. She describes herself as an advocate and an activist. A frontline worker in local nursing homes, Roundtree also holds a housekeeping job.

Screenshot 20210726 094809 Chrome• Jerry Smith Jr. “I’ve enjoyed the last 12 years on the council and am excited about the opportunities for Hendersonville to continue being a great hometown,” said Smith, 52, a teacher at Hendersonville High School.
• 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. Vesely said he is running for city council because he wants to continue serving his community.

‘Why not me?’

“A candidate I thought was going to file sent a message around the first day of filing that she was not going to run,” Walsh said Monday. “It’s like a door just opened up. I was like, ‘Why not me?’”
Walsh, 33, is single, an insurance agent, a graduate of East Henderson High School and Appalachian State University and the proud mom of a golden doodle named Maggie. She decided to run, she said, because she wants to see her hometown grow in a transparent, structured way that is good for the community and families.
“I love this town. It’s where I grew up. It’s where I want to raise a family,” she said.
Walsh said she is not opposed to plans to raise taxes in the city seven cents over the next three years because the city has lost good employees in recent years to municipalities with better pay.
“The city council did the right thing by proposing this tax increase,” she said.
But Walsh said she also supports the council considering a hospitality tax that would pass some of the tax burden on to visitors who eat in Hendersonville restaurants and visit other businesses.
“I would be someone who would be paying that tax,” she said with a laugh. “I eat in downtown all the time.”
Walsh called the issue of affordable housing in the city a touchy subject because of different perceptions of what affordable housing means. In some people’s minds affordable housing means places that are poorly maintained and prone to crime. She thinks the city council should set guidelines for what exactly affordable housing means.
“The definition of affordable housing needs to be talked about,” she said.
Walsh said she thinks it’s important for the city to require that developments that need city sewer service be annexed into the city. Using city resources should require that those areas be part of the city, she said.
She also supports plans to replace the city’s Fire Station 1 on North Main Street and relocate the city’s putt-putt course.
She said she would rather see the putt-putt course moved to an area closer to Main Street than to Edwards Park. Creating a park at the Dogwood parking lot and moving putt-putt there would be a plan she could support. Other locations near Main Street would also be a good idea, she said.
Walsh said she would also likely support parking meters downtown, depending on how the money generated from those meters is spent. She said she would also like the council to consider putting limits on the hours people are required to pay for parking downtown. Possibly allowing for free parking later in the day might be a good option, she said.
“I’m not opposed to parking meters. I’d just like to see where the money is spent,” Walsh said.
Walsh emphasized that she considered her work obligations and her commitment to Henderson County’s Republican Party before she decided to run for city council. Walsh was elected chair of the Henderson County Republican Party in March. She said she determined she has enough time to juggle home, work, the city council and party politics.
“There won’t be any issues at all,” she said. “This isn’t going to be an issue.”

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City Council candidate Baer and Mayor Volk, Morales, Roundtree, Smith and Veseley were profiled in previous Lightning coverage.