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Voters 'sent a message' to 'out of touch' incumbents

Commissioners Daniel Andreotta and David Hill listen to colleages at a County Commission meeting on March 4.

Henderson County voters on Tuesday swept out two incumbent commissioners in favor of challengers who ran on a pledge to do a better job of managing the county’s burgeoning growth and protecting homeowners from disruptive land use.

“The county got sent a message and I am very grateful for the residents that came out and voted,” said Sheila Franklin, who vanquished Daniel Andreotta in the District 2 Republican primary with 64 percent of the vote. She faces Democrat Erik Weber in the Nov. 5 general election.

In the District 5 GOP primary, School Board Chair Jay Egolf defeated David Hill by winning 58 percent of the vote. Turnout countywide was 30.6 percent, down significantly from a 39 percent turnout in the March 2020 primary.

Both first-term commissioners, Andreotta and Hill looked to be vulnerable to a challenge because of their votes to ease restrictions on building in floodways, grant rezonings that many homeowners regarded as damaging to their quality of life and stack advisory boards with what critics called pro-development appointees.

Why, the Lightning asked Franklin, did voters fire two incumbents?

“That's an easy one,” she said. “I think it happened because people are paying attention to how they are voting, and they're upset with the way the zoning has been.

“I would say maybe they're out of touch with the communities that they're serving," she added. "They're not listening. I really think that it happened because people are upset with the growth and they're upset with the tax base and they just have questions as to why we're going in the direction we're going because in the next few years we will be in bad shape if we keep proceeding with lax land-use codes.”

The results reflected that anxiety. In Etowah Valley, where homeowners are fighting a large subdivision, voters chose Franklin 73-26 percent, 9 points higher than her countywide total.

Egolf said he agreed that their concerns over out-of-control growth motivated homeowners to turn out.
“Looking back on it, it seemed David and Daniel believed the same on growth — anything can go, anybody can do what they want on their own property,” he said.
Voters he encountered, he said, believed that approach was wrong for Henderson County going forward.
“They wanted to say, ‘Time-out. Wait a second,’” Egolf said. “David ran a good race and he’s a nice guy. But growth was on everyone’s mind.”
Egolf said he also felt that the two incumbents were out of touch with constituents.
“They just didn’t feel represented. They just weren’t there,” he said.
When he takes office in December, Egolf said he hoped to embark on a look at growth with the city of Hendersonville in the context of water and sewer issues.

'Independent turnout was huge'

Hill acknowledged that growth concerns propelled many homeowners to the polls.

“I think the independent turnout was huge and a lot of that was probably the folks that had issues with projects in their area,” he said.

Hill has never equivocated on his philosophy that less government is better and that zoning should be applied with a light hand that respects property rights.

“That’s one of my core values, not just here locally but at the state and federal level. We have to keep government at a minimum. I believe that’s one of the founding fathers’ core beliefs. It’s not a mistaken philosophy. The more government does, the more it costs.”

He said he prefers subdivision controls to broad rules countywide regulating land-use.

“If you want a great big say in how your neighbor lives and how their property looks, that's why we have subdivisions with restrictive covenants,” he said. “You can choose to live there. I choose not to live in a subdivision. I choose to live out in the county in the country.”

He doesn’t expect to change his mind as he serves the remainder of his term, which lasts until Dec. 2.

“I'm not ashamed of any vote I took on the board and I would still support the votes today that I've taken over the last three years or so,” he said. “That's who I am. I'm consistent. I'm not one that wavers back and forth.”

In a statement, Andreotta, too, said he did not regret his votes.

"Growth is not a new concern. Having lived here my whole life, I remember hearing conversations 40 years ago that sound just like the ones today. That tells me it is not an easy, or simple fix.
"I strongly encourage citizens to pay close attention to the details. Policy, budget (tax payer dollars), public safety, education, certainly growth, land use codes, etc. As a citizen (which I always was) I want the quality of life to continue.
"The citizens have cast their votes, and that should always be what matters most. I congratulate all winners in all races. It is an honor to serve where you live, and it is my honor to serve Henderson County.
"I can thankfully to the Lord say I do not regret a single vote I ever cast, or the reason for it. I especially do not regret the votes I never cast, since the topics never came before us, even though I was credited/blamed for those votes. The citizens hired me in 2020 for four full years of work and I will not quit on them early. I will serve as energetically for my last nine months in office as I ever have."

Growth and taxes

Franklin said on the campaign she heard consistently from homeowners upset with growth and also agrieved over their real property assessments after the countywide reappraisal in 2023.

“They're upset with the taxes going up so much and the fact that we have such an influx of people in the area,” she said. “What I'm hearing from people is that they feel like their properties weren't assessed correctly at all and their taxes went up.”

The election, Franklin said, showed that voters want commissioners to accommodate growth in a way that respects the views of the people already here.

“I just I just feel like they sent a message, and that message is, ‘Please take care of the ones that live and work here.’”