WEST JEFFERSON — During the 2019 municipal elections Tuesday, Nov. 5, the people of West Jefferson will vote for their next board of aldermen members and a mayor, choosing between six aldermen candidates and one mayoral candidate.
Tom Hartman is the only person to run for mayor. He is running unopposed for the seat left vacant by Dale Baldwin.
Running for alderman is Rusty Barr, Christopher Neaves, Crystal Miller, Laura McPherson, Jeffery Caudill and Grant Price. The six candidates are running for two seats, with Barr running as an incumbent and the other being vacated by Jerry C. McMillan. Barr was appointed to the board July 1, following the death of Brett Summey.
The Ashe Post & Times fielded nine identical questions to each of the candidates via email, with Miller, Price and Barr responding. Their responses are as follows:
Tell us about yourself.Barr: Hello, my name is Rusty Barr and I am hoping to represent you on the Board of Aldermen for the town of West Jefferson. I am, first and foremost, a proud lifelong resident of West Jefferson. I am 51 years old and married to Melissa Sheets Barr. We have one son, Avery, and one daughter, Olivia. I graduated from Lees-McRae College and Appalachian State University with a bachelor’s of science in Business Administration. After graduating, I began working on my family’s Christmas tree farm, Barr Evergreens, which I now own and operate. I am a member of Mount Jefferson Presbyterian Church, where I serve as an Elder. I have served at the county level on the Ashe County Planning Board and feel that my experience with county regulations will be beneficial when planning for the future of West Jefferson.
Miller: My name is Crystal Coldiron Miller and I am the daughter of Lottie Coldiron and the late Jerry Coldiron. I was born and raised in Ashe County and am a lifelong resident. My husband and I have two sons who are students at ACHS and ACMS. I am the manager at Bohemia in downtown West Jefferson. I also serve as the current president of the West Jefferson Business Association and am currently enrolled in the Leadership Ashe Program.
Price: I was raised in West Jefferson by my parents, Elmer and Hazel Price. I attended West Jefferson Elementary and graduated from Beaver Creek High School. I then went on to Wilkes Community College, where I studied Business Administration. I later served in the National Guard and during this time married Dayna Perry. We will soon celebrate 47 years together. We have a daughter, Amanda, who also graduated from Beaver Creek and now lives in Chesapeake, Va., with her husband, David Caldwell, and their daughter, Avery. I attend Smethport Baptist Church, where I serve as chairman of the Deacon Board. I served on the WJ Fire Department for 28 years, during which time I was Assistant Chief and later retired as Chief. I am a self-employed business owner here in West Jefferson.
Why did you decide to run?Barr: I am a lifelong resident of West Jefferson. Living only a few years outside the city limits. I feel the need to give back to the town and help it to continue to grow and prosper. I ran for the alderman seat in 2015 election and tied for the second seat and lost in a coin toss. I was appointed to fill the remaining term of the late Dr. Brett Summey in August of 2019 and would like to continue serving as your town alderman.
Miller: I am running because we live in an amazing community that has welcomed and inspires my family. I want to do my part to help keep West Jefferson’s charm. I am seeking a seat on the board of alderman because I want to help West Jefferson continue to thrive. I’ve seen how the town has grown and improved in recent years and I would like to continue to see growth and improvement. I would like to be a positive voice for and an influence on the community. Throughout the week I interact with residents and businesses in the community that voice their concerns. With a seat being open, this provided the opportunity to have that voice and provide that influence on the community while becoming the first female to serve as an Alderman in West Jefferson.
Price: Having been raised here, I love the town of West Jefferson and want to serve my neighbors and business owners.
Why do you think you’re the right choice for the position you’re running for?Barr: I served 10 years on the Ashe County planning board. I am familiar with the regulations that affect the Extra Territorial Jurisdiction of the town. This is important knowledge for an alderman. I am a member of the West Jefferson planning board at this time. I have many years of experience running a successful family business that includes managing employees, dealing with budgets and being able to make the hard decisions that need to be made occasionally to ensure the best interest of our citizens.
Miller: As a lifelong resident of West Jefferson and being involved in the West Jefferson Business Association for a few years, I feel that I am aware of the needs of both individual residents and businesses. I feel like I can provide a fair and unbiased representation that will benefit the community.
Price: I served as a West Jefferson Alderman in the past, and during that time was instrumental in the new building for the Maintenance Department. We also negotiated with Oldham Saw Blade Company, the Tigra Plant and Walmart, which led to each of these companies locating here, providing revenue and jobs for our town and county. I want to see the town continue to grow and prosper and having served in the past, would like to be a part of that growth and the future of our town.
What do you hope to achieve in this term?Barr: Continue the progress that has been made to date while protecting our beautiful small town at the same time. Also help to provide the merchants and property owners an opportunity to work and live in a low tax and high opportunity town. This will encourage investment and new opportunities so all can benefit.
Miller: I would like to explore new opportunities for the youth in our community such as outreach and involvement as well as more opportunities to help keep our younger generations here in West Jefferson. I would like to provide leadership for continued growth while maintaining a close-knit community and small hometown feel. I would like to be a part of the planning and preparation for the increase in visitors due to the expansion and completion of U.S. 221.
What are some ways you believe the Town of West Jefferson could be improved?Barr: I would love to see a few more restaurants open in downtown. Continue to encourage and support our police and fire departments as well as our exceptional town employees.
Miller: I think we need to listen and take into consideration the ideas and opinions of those that live and work in West Jefferson. We need to work together to encourage more involvement by the community and other organizations as well as provide more opportunities for the youth in our neighborhood to become involved.
Price: I would like to see more industry come in to West Jefferson. I would like for our water bills and property tax bills to remain where they are or even be lowered, if possible. I certainly would not want them to be raised.
As U.S. 221 continues to expand and near completion, what do you think the effects will be on the town?Barr: I expect more tourists and new residents to enter West Jefferson in the coming years. We have a great place to live, start a business and raise a family. We know more people will eventually come to call our town home. Our occupancy tax is also driving promotions for West Jefferson and the county. This tax will continue to grow with the additions of new (vacation rentals by owners) and other accommodations that are being added as we speak.
Miller: I think when U.S. 221 is completed, we will experience improved accessibility and growth potential to companies, businesses and manufacturers considering moving into West Jefferson. There will also be an increase in visitors to West Jefferson.
A complaint that has been raised by people who work and live in and around downtown West Jefferson is parking, what are your thoughts on the issue?Barr: Parking is an issue and will always be an issue for a growing town. With limited spaces and areas to park, merchants need to park in designated areas, leaving spots available for customers. I would also like to potentially add more parking spaces. A parking structure may one day be a consideration. I feel this is a good problem as a result of many who have helped the re-birth of the town over the years. It is an issue that needs to be addressed sooner rather than later. I remember 25 years ago our town was struggling to fill merchant spaces.
Miller: As a resident and business member, I am aware of the challenges regarding parking. I think a way to improve this would be more awareness made of the public parking areas in our town and to continue to encourage business owners and employees to utilize the public parking areas as well.
Price: I know parking is an issue now and with the expansion of U.S. 221, hopefully more businesses will locate here. With that, however, will come more traffic and an even greater need for more parking. Some possibilities might include a parking area outside of town with a shuttle service or even a parking deck in town, if land for that could be acquired. There may be other alternatives, but this is definitely a problem that needs to be addressed in the near future. We need to apply for additional grants, if any are available, to help with the continued revitalization and possible expansion of our town.
How can Ashe County or the state do more to help your town?
Barr: I would love to discuss with the county about the possibility of Ashe County Transportation Authority offering a shuttle or trolley service. This service would shuttle merchants, their employees and visitors from parking areas to drop off locations throughout town. Busy weekends & holidays would be a great opportunity to determine its feasibility. I am grateful and thankful to continue our relationship with our County Sheriff Department and the fine State Troopers that serve our area.
Miller: I think it is about working together to help each other. West Jefferson has a lot to offer. If we continue to work together to build economic growth and development, hopefully, we can look to the county or state to consider providing available funding for enhancements and improvements.
Is there anything else you would like to elaborate on?
Barr: I encourage you to vote and ask for your support on Nov. 5.
Miller: I would encourage all residents to exercise their right to vote on Nov. 5 so their voices are heard. I would humbly welcome the opportunity to serve as your Alderman and would strive to serve in a manner that would provide truthful, fair, and honest leadership. I am ready and willing, with your help to make West Jefferson an even better place to live, work and raise our families.
Price: Having grown up here, I love this town and I think it’s a wonderful place to live. I just want to make it the best for our residents and have always been supportive of keeping our water and tax bills stable or lower, and will continue to do so. I will support our merchants, our police and fire departments, the employees of our town, but most of all my neighbors and fellow citizens. I will make myself available to any of the residents or merchants to discuss issues or ideas concerning the town.