Weaverville – Weaverville Mayor Al Root chose not to run for office again after his involvement in town government, on and off, since 1997.
The Tribune sat down with Root to discuss why, his civic history, the future of the town and if he plans to stay in Weaverville.
Asked why he wasn’t running again, Root said his age and lack of spending every day in the downtown area, as he once had when he had his law practice on N. Main Street.
“The big thing for me, I’m just not involved at the level that I feel comfortable running for mayor again,” explained Root.
Since 1997, Root has been on the town council for three time periods.
The board first appointed him to fill the unexpired term of Billy Brown, who passed away in February of 1997; he served that position until 2007. Root took two years off and then was mayor from 2009 to 2013. His third time is his current one.
“There’s nobody [council members] except for Dottie [Sherrill] and me who was there in ‘97,” reflected Root.
When asked if there was a particular reason the council considered appointing him to the board, Root couldn’t say. “I had done some work for the town back when I was in Asheville. So a think it was a matter of, at that point, the council was all folks who were sixty-some and above and been around for a long time. So I think the idea was I had some idea of what I was doing and a younger generation…I’ve gone from being the young generation to the old guy on the council,” he said with a laugh.
Root and his wife, Louise, moved to Weaverville in 1991.
Asked what attracted them to Weaverville, Root said, “Small town, we both grew up in small towns.” Louise is from southeast North Carolina and Root is from Virginia. Both were hired out of law school by the Brooklin District Attorney’s Office, where they met. After having their fill of the Big Apple and desiring to move back to the South, they moved to Asheville.
Root recalled, “We were married in the fall of ‘83, and I remember telling her in the fall of ‘84, ‘I can’t imagine any single person who would want to live in Asheville, North Carolina. It was so dead. There was nothing here.” My how times have changed, but the northern part of the county has been the slowest part to develop.”
Root pointed out the main reason northern Buncombe County has not developed as fast as the south end.
“The MSD (Metropolitan Sewage District), the way they do things the sewers means you can’t develop up here as quickly as say south of Asheville, and that kind of does us some good. So I think we just have to be kind of careful about how we want to change that policy. It keeps development at a slower pace [and] gives us more time to think things through,” Root said.
Asked the biggest challenge for Weaverville in the future, Root said, “It’s no surprise, how do you deal with the push of population coming north from Asheville.”
Root said both Asheville and Buncombe County are looking for ways to push people out.
“They’ve just about pushed every single person in the south [of the county] they possibly can. Whenever Weaverville says, ‘we’re not sure we want to do something like that,’ we’re getting pressure from the city. And more and more now, I don’t see a lot of difference between the Buncombe County government and Asheville City government anymore.”
Root was asked what the most difficult issue was while he was on council. He said, hands down, dealing with the pandemic. The balancing act between too much—one phone message compared him to Joe Stalin.
“Certainly, as mayor of Weaverville, I never thought I’d get a Stalin comparison,” he joked. After that, Root said, “the tough stuff has always come back to growth.”
Asked what he’d miss most about not being on council, Root said, “Relationships, people…I’ll miss that a lot.” Adding, “I will not miss for a moment wrestling with issues. Someone else’s job, not mine.”
When asked what he was most proud of from being on council, he took a long pause before talking about the transition the council had gone through from an “old way of thinking” to a council that “…don’t fear growth, but understands the problems that come with it.”
He also thinks the town did a good job coming through COVID with old businesses coming back and new businesses “…hitting the ground running. We can be proud of that…and…we still have that small-town feel.”