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Faced with a 'wow' list of applicants, Laurel Park board fills vacancy

Kristin Dunn was appointed to the Laurel Park Town Board. Kristin Dunn was appointed to the Laurel Park Town Board.

Choosing from a "wow" list of six candidates who applied for a vacant seat, the Laurel Park Town Council chose a young mom and nonprofit leader who they said would give voice to young families.

After in-person half-hour interviews with six candidates, the council voted unanimously on Wednesday to appoint Kristin Dunn to the seat that became vacant when council member Bob Vickery and his wife moved out of state.

"I'm humbled and very surprised and very excited," Dunn said. "I've heard from a lot of folks that millennials are going to need representation soon in communities and I heard recently that a lot of young folks are not serivng right now. I hope we can be young folks and we can also serve."

Executive director of Camplify, Dunn, 29, is a member of the Hendersonville Rotary Club and a graduate of the Vision Henderson County class of 2016. Under Dunn's leadership, the agency formerly known as Henderson County Young Leaders has rebranded as Camplify and raised its profile, broadened its funding base and expanded camp scholarships from 19 awards in 2015 to 66 in 2020.

In her interview with council members Paul Hansen, Nancy McKinsey and George Banta and Mayor Carey O'Cain, Dunn said, "we were talking about making sure Laurel Park is a place that people want to live in today and a place that folks want to live in three years from today."

Asked her position on one of the town's hot-button issues — the proposed roundabouts and streetscape work on U.S. 64 — Dunn responded,  "I am not informed enough yet as a council member to make a decision but I hope we reach a conclusion for the benefit of everyone now and in the future."

Dunn would stand for election in 2021, the next town board election, when Hansen and McKinsey are also up for election.

Also applying for the job were Fred Huscher, Debra Bridges, Mark Morse, Frank Jurovich, Russ Leitner and Don McIntyre.

"Of the six people we spoke to today, Wow," Mayor Carey O'Cain said.

Council members agreed, saying they felt overwhelmed by the quality of the seven applicants. In the end, they all voted to add a young person could give the board important perspective.

"I would prefer the younger generation because that's where we need to go as a town," Hansen said.

"I think we have a very rare opportunity that does not present itself very often, to have someone of that caliber," O'Cain said.

Growing up with a father who worked for the State Department, Dunn graduated from high school at Frankfurt International School in Oberursel, Germany. She has degrees in English and Global Studies with a minor in German from Appalachian State University and has taken graduate course studies in conflict management and resolution at UNC Wilmington. Her parents have owned a home in Charlotte for most of her life, she said. Before she moved here in 2015 for the Camplify job, Dunn served as volunteer coordinator at a crisis services agency in Wilmington. She and her husband, Shane, and their daughter live on Arbutus Lane in Lower Laurel Park.