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Ron Stephens files for mayor

Saying Hendersonville is on the verge of "a new Golden Age" that needs a strong city partnership, City Council member Ron Stephens has filed to run for mayor.

"With the positive economic forces that have been gathering, there is a new optimism about our future," Stephens said. "We have the incredible good fortune of having a beautiful Historic Downtown, a Wingate University presence here in the city, and Sierra Nevada and other new industries are moving into our county. People are attracted to our area, and growth is inevitable."

A former developer and currently a real estate agent, Stephens is known as perhaps the strongest pro-business vote on the City Council. His entry into the race comes after Jeff Miller, the downtown business owner and the Republican nominee for Congress in 2010, filed for the City Council. Both Stephens and Miller vow to focus on issues of concern to businesses but also say they favor fair policies for all.

"I think we're running on a lot of the same principles but we're not a team," said Stephens, who lost in his previous run for mayor, in 2005, to political newcomer Greg Newman. "He's running for the council and I'm running for mayor. We are on a lot of the same points for sure. I want to do good things not only for business but for the citizens. It's got to be good for the citizens."

When it comes to parking, Stephens said he sees a role for the city to take part in some solutions immediately, such as better signage and possibly looking for land the city could use for parking.

"We're doing some study of it now but I would speed that up as well and look at several things," he said. Downtown business have "got to face the problem of employee parking. I had three calls when they bagged the meters in the (Azalea) parking lot where Rhythm & Brews is now from people that told me that parking lot was full before 9 o'clock. Now those weren't shoppers. Those were employees. That's the first step."

Converting meters so they will accept credit cards and debit cards is another idea Stephens said the city could act on quickly.

"I do think it's an issue and we should make every effort to do the best we can to solve it and I don't think we have been," he said.

Stephens also said he plans to vote against the proposed $6 million bond issue the council has taken steps to put on the Nov. 5 ballot.

"I'm going to make sure people understand that this is a tax increase," he said. "We're probably going to have to do another tax increase because we used fund balance this year."

During the crafting of the budget this year, interim city manager Lee Galloway recommended a 3-cent tax increase to cover debt service. Council instead voted to take money from its reserves to cover the debt in 2013-14. The debt on the bond would require anotehr 3-cent tax increase, the city finance director told the council.

Stephens indicated that the key role of city government in this environment is to ensure that growth is managed so that it benefits both businesses and residents.
"We have an opportunity to create the jobs that will allow our young people to remain here instead of having to go away in order to provide for their families," he said in a news release. "We can establish a tax base that will provide not only for basic services and facilities, but also for maintaining and enhancing recreational and cultural amenities.

"To do this, we need to ensure that government spending is under control, that the cost of doing business here is reasonable, and that any restrictions that are imposed are well thought out and necessary for the public good."
Stephens said that he is seeking the office of mayor because he believes he has the combination of qualities necessary to be successful in the current economic climate. He has both business experience and hands-on knowledge of how the City works through his six years of service on City Council.
Stephens has more than 30 years experience in business — as the owner of an Ethan Allen Furniture Gallery and in the real estate development industry. Having held senior management positions with three prestigious master-planned communities, he has an extensive background in administration; budgeting; national and on-site sales and marketing; product, amenity and infrastructure development; club operations; as well as government and community relations.
A native of Georgia, Stephens earned a bachelor of business administration degree from the University of Georgia in Athens and a master of business administration degree from Emory University in Atlanta.

He came to Hendersonville as president/project director of Champion Hills in 1996. When the project was successfully completed, he and his wife Mary (born Mary Culclasure, of Greenville, S.C.) chose to remain in Hendersonville because of the unique and special attributes of this community. Retired from the firm that developed Champion Hills, Stephens is now a broker with Beverly-Hanks and Associates.
During his tenure in Hendersonville, Stephens has been an active and enthusiastic participant in government, civic, and charitable organizations. In addition to his current service as councilman, he has served as Mayor Pro Tem, as chairman of the Hendersonville Planning Board, as a member of the Hendersonville Comprehensive Plan Committee, as chairman of the Hendersonville Land Plan Revision Committee, chairman of the Mud Creek Sewer District Advisory Council, member of the Boys & Girls Club of Hendersonville Board, campaign chair of the United Way of Henderson County, chairman of the Pardee Hospital Board, member of the Four Seasons Hospice Board, member of the Rotary Club of Hendersonville Board, chair of Environmental Committee and board member of the Greater Henderson County Chamber of Commerce, and as president of the Hendersonville Board of Realtors.
Mary and Ron Stephens have two married daughters and five grandchildren and are members of Saint John in the Wilderness Episcopal Church.