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Fletcher gets new mayor and elects council members

Preston Blakely, elected mayor of Fletcher on Tuesday, talks to a voter at a candidate meet-and-greet on Oct. 9. Preston Blakely, elected mayor of Fletcher on Tuesday, talks to a voter at a candidate meet-and-greet on Oct. 9.

FLETCHER — Fletcher voters elected a new mayor and a new council member and handed Councilwoman Sheila Franklin a fourth term in unofficial returns on Tuesday.

Town council member Preston Blakely defeated local pastor Phillip Luther to win the mayoral race with 55 percent of the vote, according to unofficial election returns.
Blakely attributed the victory to a grassroots campaign of knocking on doors and talking to voters. He is concerned about growth in the community, he said, and wants to make sure it is handled well. He said he intends to serve all residents whether they voted for him or not.
“I look forward to doing that,” he said.
Blakely and Luther competed for the mayor’s seat after Mayor Rod Whiteside declined to run for a second term. Franklin and challenger John Brandon Olsen ran for the District 1 seat. Trevor C. Lance and Erik Weber faced off for the District 4 seat that had been held by Eddie Henderson. Franklin defeated Olsen for the District 1 seat while Lance defeated Weber in District 4.
Franklin won 52.96 percent of the vote, or 689 votes, to Olsen’s 46.96 percent, 611 votes.
Lance garnered 52.62 percent of the vote with 682 votes to Weber’s 47.30 percent, or 613 votes.
Attempts to reach Lance were unsuccessful Tuesday night.
Franklin, a teacher in Henderson County public schools for 18 years, has been a member of the Town Council for 12 years. She said most voters she met campaigning were concerned about growth in Fletcher, a town located between Hendersonville and Asheville.

"It's obvious more people are concerned about balancing growth in our area. That's what I think it boiled down to," she said. "We're on the north end of the county. That makes it difficult for us."

Franklin credited her win with voters trusting her experience. "I've done it for a while. I hope they think I've done a good job."

She said she is looking forward to continuing working with the town's staff and getting to work with the county on locating an EMS station in town.

Lance, 46, is fire chief of the Skyland Fire Department.
Blakely, 27, works for his family business, Quality Janitorial Group. He is serving on Fletcher’s Town Council as its District 2 councilman. The council will appoint someone to finish his term, which expires in 2023, he said.
A flier that injected race into the Fletcher mayor’s race circulated in the town recently and prompted Blakely to respond on social media. The flier, which Blakely posted on his Facebook page on Monday, called Blakely an Asheville Democrat and a liberal progressive.
“His priorities include the urbanization of Fletcher, low-income housing and a racially-based allocation of government resources,” the flier said, urging Fletcher residents to vote for Luther.
In a response to the flyer also posted on Facebook, Blakely, who is black, said he was stunned, hurt and heartbroken by the false statements.
“I do not think I have ever been so hurt in my life,” he said in the post. “I have lived in Fletcher for more than 20 years.”
Blakely also noted that he has served Fletcher since 2019.
“You all know me. I have talked to thousands of residents,” he said in the post.
Blakely said he also did not know what “racially-based allocation of government resources” means.
“This is not the 1960s,” he said.
In the Facebook post, Blakely said that Luther called him to say he had nothing to do with the flier.
Tuesday night, Blakely said he did not know what if any role the flier played in the outcome of the election.