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County Commission race left winners and losers

Michael Edney and Tim Griffin share a laugh during a Chamber of Commerce forum on April 23. Michael Edney and Tim Griffin share a laugh during a Chamber of Commerce forum on April 23.

Lapsley over Young
Lapsley had observed local politics for 40 years and had played on the sidelines for at least the past 15 years. His long years of service, it turned out, created the critical mass to vault him into office in his first campaign ever.
"From my point of view it was a combination of two things," Lapsley said of his 57-43 percent victory. "I think people were generally in the mood for a change. Larry served 12 years and that's fine. I said a number of times we should thank him for giving 12 years to Henderson County but I think in the end the voters felt like it was time for a change.
"And I think, too, when you compare resumes, Larry's position was that he's been on board for 12 years, but other than that he didn't have a whole lot on his resume in 26 years he'd been here. If you compare what I've been doing versus what he's been doing, I think there was a stark difference and I think the voters reacted to that."
Young lacked support from several camps —schools, Pardee, Flat Rock Playhouse, Ecusta Trail supporters. During the campaign, he claimed credit for saving the Playhouse in late 2012 when he had, in fact, voted twice to renege on the board's commitment to allocate $50,000 to the theater when it was teetering on the brink of collapse. Although his campaign highlighted the inconsistency, Lapsley did not view the Playhouse as a break-away issue.
"I didn't see it as a rejection of things Larry was doing, I really didn't see it that way," he said. "I think the voters looked to compare the two and said, 'Who do we want sitting at the table? Larry has 12 years on the board. Does that trump 40 years of Bill's involvement with all these other activities?'"
Lapsley has known Jeff Miller since before the Hendersonville drycleaner became nationally known as cofounder of the HonorAir program flying World War II veterans to Washington to see the National World War II Memorial. Twelve years ago, Miller and Lapsley supported a little-known former banker and bail bondsman named Tom Apodaca in an unlikely campaign for state Senate. Apodaca won. Lapsley said that campaign connected him to Richard Vinroot, the former Charlotte mayor who ran twice for governor. Last fall Miller encouraged Lapsley to run for the Board of Commissioners, and then signed on to help him.
"To me he had experience in running not only the congressional campaigns of a much larger audience but he had local experience too," Lapsley said. "When I would ask questions about how do I do this, how to approach this issue, he had the experience. He had dealt with similar things. So I relied on him to give me advice and counsel in how to do things. I asked for his help from the get-go and he said yes and never hesitated."

 

Miller knew it would be a mistake to assume that because a clique of insiders knew and liked Lapsley, the public knew him and his record.

 

“The biggest thing we had to do was (expand beyond) a very tight-knit group of people that really knew Bill Lapsley’s name,” he said. “We had to get his name and track record out to people so they could make a decision. There was a very limited number of people really knew who Bill Lapsley was. The business community, DSS, Pardee of course knew what he did and his ways but when you got past that people just had never heard of him, and that was our biggest challenge — educating people who Bill Lapsley was.”

The images in newspaper ads and oversized postcards mailed to voters showed Miller and Lapsley — both hands locked in a firm handshake. The message: the leading vote getter in the November City Council election would work hand-in-hand with a friend on the Board of Commissioners.

“I think one of the biggest thing that this county’s got to keep looking at is a good supply of great drinking water and the availability of sewer,” Miller said. “I think that’s critical to growth and sustaining what we’re used to here.”

Although the thawing of cool relations between the two boards predates the 2014 election, the primary outcome portends more cooperation.

“It’s obvious that there was a will there on both sides already, especially with the city and county managers,” Miller said. “And knowing Lapsley like I do, he’s motivated to see the city and county work together on a lot of things. That’s definitely a positive. I look forward to that. He’s very easy to talk to. He’ll see things that I’ll miss and vice versa. His board and our board — there’s a very good chemistry there right now.”