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⚡️ VOTER GUIDE: Board of Commissioners

For the first time in many several cycles, voters in Republican-dominant Henderson County will elect a county commissioner in the general election. Also on the ballot without opposition are Republicans William G. Lapsley, the incumbent, and Rebecca McCall, who won the Republican primary for the seat held by Commissioner Tommy Thompson, who is retiring.


Candidates for the District 1 seat are J. Michael Edney, 58, of Hendersonville (outside the city limits), a Republican who is seeking his fifth term; and Democrat Patricia “Pat” Sheley, 72, of Flat Rock, a psychiatric nurse and supervisor before retiring in 2007.
Here are the Lightning’s questions and candidates’ responses:


Why are you running for the Henderson County Board of Commissioners?

Edney: My family’s roots go back to the late 1700s in present day Henderson County. Our commitment to community involvement and service run equally deep. My 6th Great Grandfather, Asa Edney, was on the committee which helped establish the location of the County seat when Henderson County was created by the legislature in 1838. Henderson County is the absolute best place in the world to grow up, work and raise a family and retire. Our quality of life is beyond compare and my overriding goal is to do my part to see that we remain dedicated to our past while planning for and managing our future.

Sheley: The decisions made by the County Board of Commissioners have the biggest impact on the daily lives of Henderson County residents of any elected officials. I’ve watched closely for the past few years and I believe we can do better with a more transparent decision-making process and with extensive public input. We need a shared vision of what we want for our future and the future of our families. This shared vision should be in keeping with sensible planning for growth and economic development while maintaining the unique character of our area.


The future of Hendersonville High School has been debated for five years now. Do you think the School Board should have the authority to settle on the design and would you be vote to fund the design when it came to the Board of Commissioners?

Sheley: I attended the presentation by the selected architects to the Board of Education. They presented what I believe is a fine and creative plan that incorporates the Stillwell Building for school use and adds new state of the art facilities. I was particularly impressed that the project team includes a highly qualified, designated member to oversee budget compliance throughout the project. This should help eliminate unnecessary surprises. If the plan is realized as presented, is within budget and meets the needs for a safe campus as recommended by the Board of Education I would vote for its approval.

Edney: Of the six public high school units serving Henderson County students, Hendersonville has the oldest physical plant by decades over its nearest rival. That being said, there can be no question but that it is in the most dire need of repair and or replacement. There has never been a debate over the need, only the appropriate solution. It is the absolute province of the elected Board of Public Education to create and develop their vision for the education of our young people. Once they have shared that vision with professional architects and have developed a design which will allow them to accomplish that vision, the plan can then be presented to the community and Commissioners. The Commissioners act as the “check and balance” in our system, as guardians of the people’s money. We should give wide latitude to the wishes of School Board, but their design must be reasonable and realistic.

The Board of Commissioners plans a four-year capital improvement and county services plan when it gets revaluation numbers in January. What are your priorities for capital projects and county services?

Edney: When the Board meets in January to discuss our strategic plan for the next four years my approach will be to establish our priorities by first addressing our core function responsibilities — Health, Safety and Welfare. First responder, fire, EMS and law enforcement must have the tools, training and equipment they need to respond to any life-threatening crisis that occur. Our children must be provided with the best educational opportunities available, by our continued support of the School Board, teachers and staff. We cannot lose focus on attempts to attract quality employers to Henderson County to provide the best jobs possible for our citizens. Finally, we need to continue to focus on the intangible quality of life areas, such as managing growth, indoor and outdoor recreational opportunities, and enhanced healthcare.

Sheley: The capital improvement needs will be determined by reports and recommendations to be released in the new year. The school system is undergoing an evaluation of the conditions of all its facilities. The Substance Abuse Task Force will be presenting a report in February that might include a recommendation for the construction of a facility and expansion of services. The jail is in need of some upgrades and renovation and the new Sheriff may have additional input. With all these variables, it is unwise to make specific capital improvement and county service recommendations at this time.


What kind of programs and investment do you favor to combat the opioid addiction crisis in the county?

Sheley: As a former psychiatric nurse I look forward to the report and recommendations from the expert members of the Henderson County Substance Abuse Task Force. Clearly, there is an undeniable need for a dedicated Detox Facility in the County, as well as for Long-Term Rehabilitation Facilities in appropriate locations and in partnership with non-profit organizations committed to serving this need. The Task Force has been working in a spirit of partnership that must continue, so that together as a community we may begin to address this crisis that has brought destruction to so many lives.


Edney: We are too early in the process to commit to specific projects or programs to address our opioid addiction crisis. As the local taskforce continues to work, concepts and ideas will come forward which will be dependent on County funding to give them a chance to be successful. I am committed to working with the taskforce to bring Henderson County resources to the table to the fullest extent possible.

Are you in favor of a revenue neutral property tax rate when the revaluation takes effect on Jan. 1 or should the county collect a greater amount in order to fund capital needs and services?

Edney: A “revenue neutral” revaluation is my goal. However, ultimately, the tax rate will be set at the level required to provide the services our citizens deem necessary.

Sheley: Periodic reappraisals, in our case every four years, are intended to ensure that property owners pay only their fair share of services provided by local government. Consistent with my campaign pledge for greater transparency it would be inappropriate for me to comment further on this topic prior to the initial Public Hearing scheduled for Oct. 17. I look forward to attending this meeting to hear further input from the community. Other issues may arise that could affect the subsequent steps in the reappraisal process.


What other major priorities to have for Henderson County government?

Sheley: If elected, I will work to: 1. Guarantee safe and well-maintained schools throughout the county; 2. Support environmentally responsible infrastructure projects that respect citizen input and are mindful of costs; 3. Ensure smart growth that attracts sustainable businesses and creates jobs with living wages; 4. Address the county substance abuse crisis urgently, proactively, with compassion; 5. Preserve the unique natural character and beauty of Henderson County, its agricultural heritage, and our quality of life here in the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains.


Edney: As we endeavor to manage the inevitable growth Henderson County will see in the future, we must be better prepared to address infrastructure development and maintenance. We must be willing to invest in sanitary sewer development in all rural areas of the County. This will encourage affordable housing without overburdening roads or schools. Finally, I want to implement Small Area Transportation Plans similar to our current Small Area Zoning plans. This will allow for greater citizen participation and be a tremendous resource for the Transportation Advisory Committee.