Waynesville election won’t be dull this year
The dust has settled following a last-minute scramble of candidates signing up to run for the Waynesville town board last week, and voters now have their work cut out.
There are 10 candidates running for five seats: three candidates for mayor and seven for the four town board seats. Only one of the sitting board members decided not to run for re-election. Of the six challengers to throw their hat in the ring, at least one is guaranteed a win.
Here’s a whirlwind tour of who’s running and why:
• Gavin Brown, attorney, mayor for 8 years, alderman for 8 years, school board for 4 years.
“As mayor I have tried to keep us on the right track and I believe the results speak for themselves. This ship is headed in the right direction,” Brown said.
Brown said Waynesville has prospered and is a model town that people and businesses want to be part of.
“We don’t have people leaving here saying ‘I hate Waynesville,’” Brown said.
Brown wants the town to continue to “grow in a responsible manner,” and believes town government has a role to play in supporting business development.
“I believe government works with entrepreneurs to create jobs,” Brown said, citing that as one of many differences between him and challenger Jonnie Cure.
Brown invited voters to judge him by his record, something his opponents don’t have.
“My record is out there for people to look at,” Brown said of his past 16 years on the board.
• Jonnie Cure, owner of Cross-Country School of Real Estate and former owner of now-closed Southern Exposure Realty.
Cure said Waynesville needs “new leadership” and a “breath of fresh air.”
Cure believes government needs to “step aside” and cut out “senseless regulations” so business can prosper.
“Government does not create jobs. Entrepreneurs create jobs,” Cure said in a press release.
She has been an outspoken conservative activist in the county for years, advocating for lower taxes, limited government and less regulation. She believes elected officials should be held accountable.
Cure said she would encourage more public participation.
“I will welcome questions, debate, discussions, opinions and ideas from the voters and taxpayers who foot the bills and accept the burden of government spending,” she said.
Cure referred to a written press release for why she is running.
• Lynn Bradley, owner of C.M.T. Metal Finishes in Hazelwood, formerly Carolina Mountain Tactical gun store and before that, Cline-Bradley Ace Hardware. Bradley did not respond to multiple messages seeking comment.
• Julia Freeman, current alderman and executive director of REACH domestic violence nonprofit.
“I definitely think we are on the right track. I want to continue moving the town forward in a positive way,” Freeman said.
Freeman said the current board has a symbiotic working relationship, where compromise is valued over divisiveness, and the town has been able to grow.
“We have been a very cohesive board. Even though we share different viewpoints we respect one another, and I think we have made sound decisions in the best interest of the town,” Freeman said.
• Gary Caldwell, town board member for 20 years and printing industry rep, former production manager of Cornerstone Printing.
“I love working with the citizens and being a spokesperson for citizens and employees,” Caldwell said, saying he has a reputation for helping residents with town-related issues and questions.
Caldwell said the town board now is known for making decisions with the greater good in mind.
“What’s more important to the majority of citizens and employees to the town? You have to think about as a whole, how it affects everybody,” Caldwell said.
• Leroy Roberson, town board member for more than 12 years and retired optometrist.
“I want to make sure the town stays on the progressive path, and that the town is supporting small businesses and local businesses instead of concentrating on trying to bring in chain stores,” Roberson said.
Roberson, who kept an office on Main Street for more than three decades, said locally owned business add more value to a community. He also wants to focus on the revitalization of vacant commercial properties and redevelopment of commercial districts that have declined, while protecting residential neighborhoods.
• John Feichter, owner of New Meridian Technologies
“I would like to have a larger impact in our community. Public service has been part and parcel of our family,” said Feichter, whose mother Libba was on the town board for many years. Feichter has served on the town planning board and Downtown Waynesville Association, and he hopes to bring the perspective of a small business owner to the table. He wants to involve the public in community planning issues and shaping a vision for how the town grows.
Feichter said he has some questions about the town’s direction, including town spending, how contracts are awarded and the loss of some longtime town employees.
• Phillip Gibbs, retired from the Canton paper mill.
“I think the town of Waynesville needs to be more business-friendly,” said Gibbs.
Gibbs wonders why Waynesville doesn’t have chain restaurants like Applebee’s and Cracker Barrel, blaming the town development standards for imposing too many criteria.
“I am hoping to start asking these kinds of questions,” said Gibbs, who was recently appointed to the town planning board. “I feel like they want to make this a tourist attraction, but what about when the tourists are gone the rest of the year?”
Gibbs is also a member of the Civilian Police Academy and wants to be an advocate for the police department and voice for the people.
• Kenny Mull, owner of Bob’s Sports Store, a long-time independent sporting gear shop on South Main Street.
Mull has served on the town’s recreation advisory committee for years and is widely known for his support and advocacy of youth sports. Mull was out of town and could not be reached for comment by press time.
• Anthony Sutton, accounting and systems manager at Biltmore Farms, a commercial, office, residential and community development firm.
“I want to utilize my experience, talents and resources in strategic planning, budgeting, economic development and most importantly community development to make Waynesville the best place to live, work and play,” he said.