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VOTER GUIDE: Fletcher Town Council

Fletcher has contested races for mayor and for two council seats and the town on the Buncombe border will have a new mayor and at least one new council member when the election is over.

Council member Preston Blakely and Phillip Luther are running for the mayor’s seat after Mayor Rod Whiteside declined to run for a second term. Running for the District 1 Town Council seat are incumbent Sheila Franklin and challenger John Brandon Olsen. Running for the District 4 seat are Trevor C. Lance and Erik Weber.

District 1

Sheila Franklin has been a teacher in Henderson County public schools for 18 years and a member of the Town Council for 12 years.

John “Brandon” Olsen, 38, is an origination manager.

District 4

Lance, 46, is fire chief of the Skyland Fire Department. “I thought I was the third generation of Lances to live in Fletcher but after further research I have discovered I am actually the fourth generation to call Fletcher home,” he said.

Erik Weber, 38, is an environmental health specialist with the Buncombe County Department of Health. He makes well inspections and septic evaluations, performs water testing and assists property owners with the permitting process.

Fletcher mayor

Preston Blakely, 27, works for his family business, Quality Janitorial Group.

Phillip Luther, 37, is pastor of Boiling Springs Baptist Church.


Why are you running for election as Fletcher mayor?

Blakely: I am running for mayor of Fletcher to continue to give back to the community that gave me so much. I have spent two years serving the Town as the District 2 Council member. I want to follow in the footsteps of the wonderful mayors we have had in the past. I believe my education (UNC-Greensboro, B.A., and WCU, M.P.A.) and experience put me on the correct path to best serve Fletcher residents. I am grateful to have been granted the trust of residents in 2019 and I will continue to work and serve to maintain and earn that support.

Luther: The Lord has allowed me to serve the people and community of Fletcher for over 11 years in the capacity of Youth Pastor and Pastor at Boiling Springs. If elected Mayor, it would be yet another avenue in which to serve this great community.

District 1

Why are you running for election for the Fletcher Town Council?

Franklin: I think it is important to be invested in some way to where you choose to live. My roots are here in the Hooper’s Creek community. Fletcher is a small town, steeped in history and strategically located. I love where we live and have a strong commitment to making a difference for the betterment of the area; whether it’s attracting new businesses or responsibly managing our resources, to ensure a good quality of life for those that make Fletcher their home as well.

Olsen: I am running for Fletcher Town Council because the most pressing issue our town is facing is the impending commercial development push coming southward from Asheville. We have all seen the rapid growth on Airport Road and we know that push is right at Fletcher’s doorstep. I have spent many years on a team responsible for preparing development proposals for town councils and planning boards across the country. I want to bring that experience to Town Hall to ensure Fletcher is not taken advantage of in the coming years.

District 4

Lance: I am running for the privilege of representing the citizens of Fletcher and to make sure their voices are heard. I feel very strongly that the tax-payers of Fletcher should have as much input as they can in making decisions regarding issues that directly affect them.

Weber: I have always felt a strong sense of community within Fletcher and hope to expand upon that if elected. Fletcher is a wonderful town and want to work to build more opportunities for my two young children. I feel this is a great opportunity for me to push for greater transparency in town government while also providing our residents with more opportunities to become engaged in town functions. Our park system is top notch and one of my major priorities will be to protect and expand our public green space.


The Fletcher Town Council continues to seek support from the Henderson County Board of Commissioners for a library at the City Hall property. Do you favor those efforts and what would you do to advance them?

Luther: With the possibility of a new library at the City Hall property, this could be a blessing for the Fletcher community. Yet the library wouldn’t be for Fletcher only, but for all of Henderson County. So, the burden of getting this accomplished shouldn’t just rest upon the shoulders of the taxpayers of Fletcher. There must be negotiations with the County to get this accomplished.

Blakely: I favor efforts to establish a new Henderson County Library in Fletcher. I believe the Town has offered valuable resources to try to work with the County to accomplish this important goal. Resources such as land on the north side of Town Hall. I would also be in favor of designating funds in fund balance if necessary, to push the project forward. I have been active with the New Fletcher Library Partners to work with the community stakeholders to push this project forward. I would like to continue to build relationships with County officials to accomplish this common goal.

District 1

Olsen: I am in favor of continuing to work with our Henderson County partners in finding a path forward and bringing a new library facility to Fletcher. I intend to bring a fresh perspective to the discussions and look forward to finding opportunities to overcome the roadblocks that have stymied this process so far. With our new county manager, the support of the Henderson County Library Board of Trustees, and a renewed energy from the Fletcher council I am confident we can find a way to get this project done.

Franklin: Absolutely. This year I had opportunities to have conversations with various members of the Board of Commissioners and we are currently looking at options on a joint effort to move forward. This has been on the back burner for quite a while, but we have a county with phenomenal leaders who are ready and willing to move forward at this time.

District 4

Weber: I believe the residents of Fletcher deserve a state-of-the-art library that will provide a community center for all Fletcher residents. We need educational space for our summer programs and internet hot spots for people who do not have access at home. However, because this will also be utilized by people living in northern Henderson county and southern Buncombe county. It is imperative that we build strong relationships with both public and private sector stake holders and work together to develop a plan that will not place any more burden on tax payers.

Lance: I want to hear what the citizens of Fletcher want. If they feel a new library is a priority, then we should have discussions with County Commissioners regarding how we can accomplish this. The biggest obstacle I see is finding avenues in which to fund this large project that do not burden the tax payers of Fletcher. I would hope that Fletcher Town Council and County Commissioners could come together to find a compromise that would benefit everyone.


Fletcher continues to see growth especially in large apartment complexes. What challenges do you see rising from the growth and how should the town respond?

Blakely: Growth is inevitable but it is of paramount importance to be proactive and smart. In 2020 we had a contentious rezoning request along Rutledge Road. The request asked for a rezoning from R-2 to R-3 to allow a 198-unit multifamily development. Town Council voted this down because this project would be burdensome to the area. This would have impacted traffic and the quality of life of residents in the vicinity. With the growth, we need ensure that we have proper infrastructure in place. Infrastructure such as roads, sidewalks, effective stormwater systems, etc. Additionally, we need continue to make common-sense decisions.

Luther: I realize that Fletcher is growing as people move to this community. And many of those move here for a “small town” feel. I am thankful for that growth. Looking at growth, we must consider subtle growth that benefits the residents. For if we grow too fast, we will outgrow our small town and lose that “small town” feel that people moved here for in the first place. So, when it comes to this growth, we must be wise in our decisions that best benefit the residents of Fletcher.

District 1

Franklin: So many areas continue to grow at a ridiculously fast pace. The issue has always been infrastructure. There is a limit to what your roads, schools and services can handle. Leaders have a responsibility to their communities first. A lot of thought and careful planning for balanced growth is paramount. DOT is years behind on their projects. New schools are expensive to build and even more so to operate. These are the challenges we face and why balanced growth is so important.

Olsen: The biggest challenges Fletcher is facing from high-density residential properties are increased traffic and stormwater mitigation. The traffic is challenging because Fletcher has limited influence on the process for improvements to state roads. Fletcher should explore options for increasing our influence. Fletcher needs a comprehensive stormwater plan developed and implemented immediately! Residents are watching land disappear each year due to erosion from stormwater due to rapid overdevelopment on Airport Road. Bill Moore Park floods repeatedly due to increased runoff from the Parkside community and Mainetti. Additional development is already planned which will worsen the issue until we have proper mitigation in place.

District 4

Lance: I believe in balanced growth, but this phrase seems to be a “buzz phrase” that means different things to different people. We need to make smart decisions now that we, as a town, can sustain into the future. I feel that too much growth too fast is dangerous and would put unnecessary burdens on our town. The current services that Fletcher provides to the citizens would suffer, and Fletcher’s infrastructure could not handle the sudden excessive growth. I am not opposed to growth but I think any growth should be a benefit to the citizens, not a burden.

Weber: Growth in our region is inevitable but we must work to manage it in a sustainable way. We have seen detrimental effects on storm water management, traffic, and education. This summer, we saw severe flooding within town limits and residents lost vehicles and had significant property damage. The trail system and baseball fields at Bill Moore Community Park have experienced costly damage over the past few years. Proper infrastructure improvements need to be made to protect our current residents before and further multifamily projects are approved. Traffic is congested and our schools cannot handle the current growth that we are experiencing.

What other priorities would you have for the town if you are elected?

Blakely: First and foremost, I want to serve the priorities of our residents very well. I understand those priorities well. Nevertheless, it is important that we prioritize the Heart of Fletcher, performance measures, and the library. The Heart of Fletcher will bring a mixed-use development, providing amenities to Fletcher residents and visitors that will support the town. Performance measures will be useful because they will provide data about services that can be used to better serve and report the community. In January 2020 it was stated that the library branch in Fletcher had nearly 80,000 visitors. Let’s get this done, together.

Luther: I want to keep a community first mindset as the main priority.

District 1

Olsen: I want to see Fletcher modernize the way our residents interact with town services. It is 2021 and there is no reason our town meetings cannot be livestreamed or recorded and posted online so residents can have access to what is going on beyond our monthly newsletter. It is difficult to attend meetings at 6 p.m. on a Monday with all the challenges of daily life. Public engagement requires effort and Fletcher should to reduce those burdens whenever possible.


Franklin: 1. Fiscal responsibility: Avoid tax rate increases but continue to provide town services while supporting our town’s departments. 2. Continue to work closely with town and county leaders on shared visions for our communities. It would be great if the Henderson County school system expanded in the north end of the county; such as neighborhood schools — a new concept for our area but would address the overcrowded roads and schools. Students could walk or bike to school located within their own neighborhood.

District 4

Weber: We must provide more opportunities for our residents to have their voices heard. If elected, I will represent our entire community. I will push to have council meetings livestreamed and recorded for people to truly understand the decisions being made. I support “connecting our community” by expanding our parks, greenways and sidewalks. The Heart of Fletcher project is also an integral piece to providing residents with more opportunities to shop, dine and engage in community events within town limits. It is imperative that we provide local and regional businesses opportunities to grow and succeed while preserving the quaint feel our town currently has.


Lance: If elected, I would like to try to set up better avenues of communication between council and the community. The taxpayers should have a say in how their town is run and their tax money is spent. If elected, I will strive to maintain our current small-town feel while looking ahead to anticipate any gentle growth that may be needed, for the benefit of the Fletcher citizens. I want to preserve Fletcher, and I do not support any growth by way of tax increases and eminent domain.