Free Daily Headlines


Set your text size: A A A

LIGHTNING EDITORIAL: Growth management is on the ballot (2)

Qualifying for the 2024 elections got off to a robust start on Monday as 20 candidates visited the Henderson County Board of Elections to sign up and pay their fees.

Already, it’s looking like voters will have a clear choice for two seats on the Board of Commissioners, which has not been known in recent years for competitive races.

There have been election seasons, though, when challengers have turned out incumbents: Chuck McGrady defeated then board Chair Grady Hawkins in 2004; Michael Edney upset three-term incumbent Bill Moyer in 2010; Hawkins came back to oust Bill O’Connor in 2014 and retired civil engineer Bill Lapsley defeated Larry Young in 2014. All four losses by incumbents came in Republican primaries.

In each of those races, similar patterns emerged. Both McGrady and Edney enjoyed widespread name recognition. McGrady had made a name himself as a Flat Rock Village Council member and the first executive director of ECO (the Environmental Conservation Organization) and as the Planning Board’s most articulate advocate for countywide zoning. Besides having a surname rooted in the region before the county was founded, Edney had already served three terms as a county commissioner when he narrowly defeated Moyer. And while he had not ever run for elective office, Lapsley was highly regarded in the business community as a catalyst for economic development efforts to recruit good-paying jobs to the county.

The matchups in next year’s Republican primary feature challengers who also have won elective office numerous times and have wide name recognition. Jay Egolf, the third generation car dealership owner and two-term School Board member, is challenging David Hill in District 5 while Sheila Franklin, who has been elected four times to the Fletcher Town Council, will face Daniel Andreotta (District 2) in the March 3 primary. Democrat Erik Weber of Fletcher also filed for the District 2 seat on Monday.

Incumbents and candidates are free to run on whatever issues they believe are most important to the common good, and we look forward to an issue-oriented campaign. We already know that long-range planning, land conservation and farmland preservation will be issues, much like disruptive land uses and countywide zoning were hot topics when McGrady ousted Hawkins.

Egolf and Franklin have already signaled that they would be more land-conservation friendly than Hill and Andreotta. The first-term incumbents have argued for deleting the stronger open-land conservation goals in the county’s pending 2045 comp plan and both voted to gut flood-prevention regulations, brushing aside the Planning Board’s recommendation.

On the back of his campaign palm card, Egolf declares that he would have opposed development in floodways and development requests for an asphalt plant in East Flat Rock, a shooting range in Saluda, storage units in Crab Creek and higher density zoning in Etowah. And he would oppose, for good measure, defunding the Flat Rock Playhouse — a shot at Andreotta’s unsuccessful effort, supported by Hill, to deny a county appropriation to the theater. Franklin, in her first campaign interview with the Lightning, volunteered that she, too, would have voted no on the zoning code amendment to allow construction next to creeks and rivers.

One other big issue on commissioners’ docket is the courthouse-jail project, which would cost $215 million if commissioners authorized what Andreotta called the “Cadillac” version. The  judicial center project, however, is unlikely to separate the candidates from one another on the campaign trail. All four are basically on the same page: $215 million is way too much, they say, and we’ve gotta find substantial trims.

Other issues could come up, too, and other candidates could well emerge. Aspirants for office still have seven more days to file. But if the past is prologue, we know that how elected leaders envision the county’s growth for the next 25 years is a topic that has traction.

* * * * *

An earlier version of this story incorrectly identified Chuck McGrady as the founder of ECO. The nonprofit was founded by Mary Jo Padgett and her husband, David Malpass.