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Politics

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VOTERS OUST MILLS RIVER, FLETCHER MAYORS

Brian Caskey defeated Mills River Mayor Larry Freeman and Rod Whiteside edged Fletcher Mayor Bill Moore in Tuesday's election. Brian Caskey defeated Mills River Mayor Larry Freeman and Rod Whiteside edged Fletcher Mayor Bill Moore in Tuesday's election.

Voters ousted the mayors of Mills River and Fletcher on Tuesday night, installing younger challengers in place of long-serving incumbents.

In Mills River, challenger Brian Caskey defeated Mayor Larry Freeman, who had been elected to the top job by the council under the town's charter.

"It looks like it was a night for the newcomers and some of us incumbents pretty much lost all the way around," Freeman said. "It looks like the people are just in the mood for a change. Those of us who have been around for a while ran on our record and challengers ran new promising change. And we’ll see how it works out."

Caskey successfully used a controversy over a new plant across from Mills River Elementary School as a campaign issue in a way that Freeman called distorted. Caskey used "a total distortion and misinformation to frighten the parents at Mills River Elementary School," Freeman said. "I tried to answer in every way I could. We did our due diligence, the county did, the state did. That's something he used to win the election and we both know that's the way it is in politics sometimes."

Freeman and Caskey also differed on a $775,000 contract with the sheriff's office for police coverage in Mills River.

"The contract for law enforcement services between Mills River and the Henderson County Sheriff’s Department was a bad one, and one that Mills River never should have signed," Caskey said in a Lightning Q&A. "It was handled badly on both sides, and the end result is that Mills River is being double-taxed for law enforcement services, since we also pay Henderson County taxes."

Billy Johnston, the other Mills River incumbent, was defeated in District 2, where Paul Richmond Meadows Jr. won by 19 votes. Chae Davis won in District 3, defeating Nathan Garnett and James Smith Humphrey III in the race for an open seat.

Rod Whiteside, who had made his youth an issue in the campaign, defeated Bill Moore, the 73-year-old incumbent who was seeking a fifth term. Whiteside defeated Moore with 54 percent of the vote, 255 to 212.

"If I go based on comments that voters shared with me today, specifically they were appreciative of the fact that I took the effort to reach out, walking their neighborhoods and knocking on their doors," said Whiteside, 44. "They were very interested that someone was actualy at their door. They indicated that had never had happened before."

Whiteside said his first inititiative as mayor will be to work with the council to set up a student recognition program in cooperation with Fletcher Elementary School. He also vows to continue to engage with the public openly.

"I have heard from residents that Fletcher government seems distant and non-responsive," he said during the campaign. "I would like to improve communications between the government and the residents. One way to do that is by being more accessible to the residents. As mayor, I would continue the meet-and-greet concept that is used during campaigns. Just because you get elected doesn’t mean you stop listening to the voters"

By recognizing elementary students at council meetings, "the parents would learn about the Town business and students would get some much deserved attention," he said.

In his campaign for re-election, Moore said he would "continue to work with local industry and small business people in Fletcher to insure good paying jobs for our citizens which is the back bone of our community" and "continue to provide quality education and training as well.."

In Hendersonville Jeff Miller and Jerry Smith cruised to re-election over challengers Debbie Roundtree and Diane Caldwell.