Fletcher Mayoral, Two Council Races Heat Up - TribPapers

Fletcher Mayoral, Two Council Races Heat Up

Council member Preston Blakely is running for mayor.

Henderson County – Three-person slates of conservatives and progressives battle in Fletcher to determine the next mayor and who serves in two Town Council positions.

Two of Fletcher’s four district-specific council seats are on the Nov. 2 ballot. All Town of Fletcher residents can vote for both district seats and  mayor. The three posts have four-year terms. Municipalities stagger their council elections — typically to have some of them up one year, then the other seats up two years later. Fletcher municipal races, like others within Henderson County, are non-partisan. Yet the two parties are unofficially clashing in the trenches in these hotly-contested races.

Fletcher Mayoral Hopefuls

Preston Blakely faces Phillip Luther to decide who succeeds retiring Fletcher Mayor Rod A. Whiteside as Fletcher mayor. Whiteside works in Ingles’ corporate office. The Brevard native served one term as mayor.

Blakely, 26, if elected would be the second consecutive African-American voted in as Fletcher mayor. 

Outgoing Mayor Whiteside, “opened the door for people to like me to represent not only in Fletcher, but in WNC entirely,” Blakely said after Whiteside formally endorsed him for mayor. “I hope you all can believe in me – as the mayor does.” 

Brickton community resident Blakely is a 2013 Asheville High grad. He won the Town Council’s District Two seat decisively two years ago — with 70 percent of the vote. That was his first run for public office.

Blakely is running on continuing what he describes as strong Fletcher policies. 

“I am excited about the potential that is ahead of us,” he says.

His degrees are in political science from UNC-Greensboro and a master’s in public affairs from WCU. He had several African-American studies classes.

The Henderson County Democratic Party has an online link for Blakely’s campaign. Blakely is running on a slate with council candidates Erik Weber and John Brandon Olsen.

The Henderson County Republican Party noted on Facebook that registered Republicans running in Fletcher are Luther for mayor, and three-term incumbent Sheila Franklin and Trevor C. Lance for the two council seats on the ballot. Those three are campaigning as a team.

Franklin touts values of “faith, family and community” in all three conservative candidates. They were at a free ice cream meet-the-candidates social Saturday in Bill Moore Community Park.

Luther, 37, is the pastor of Boiling Springs Baptist Church in Fletcher. The Boone native served the church since 2010, when he graduated from Ambassador Baptist College. He is an East Henderson High School alumnus. When a senior in 2001-02, he saw the “9/11” terrorist attack on a television his criminal justice teacher brought in. He recalled his class, “watched in real time, as the second plane hit the trade tower. I’ll never forget those who lost their lives in this cowardly terrorist attack.” Locally, he is very pro-law enforcement and emergency responders.

Henderson’s Successor

Longtime District Four Council member Eddie Henderson is stepping aside. He is Fletcher’s longest-serving Council member ever — throughout this millennium.

The two contesting to succeed him are Lance and Weber. Erik Weber founded Blue Ghost Brewing near the Buncombe County line. His family moved to Fletcher in 2009 from Erie, Pa. He works in water quality for Buncombe County Health and Human Services’ on-site wastewater and drinking water. He has a biology degree. He is board secretary for Fernleaf Community Charter School.

Erik Weber.

Weber lists as priorities advancing the U.S. 25 commercial corridor such as by seeking more restaurants, developing the Heart of Fletcher, enhancing parks, securing a new Fletcher library, the Cane Creek Greenway extension, attracting good-paying jobs, affordable housing and improving general “quality of life.”

Trevor Lance is the Skyland Fire Chief running a “multi-million dollar” enterprise. The Fletcher native has served that department for 26 years. He was the Edneyville Fire chief in 2006-09. He was WNC Association of Firefighters president in 2019, overseeing 33 WNC counties. Lance has a degree in fire science. “With nearly two decades of leadership experience,” he stated, “I know what it takes to navigate local government, find solutions that work, and get thing done.”

Lance strives for greater public outreach to get taxpayers’ input, such as on budgeting, and to “make sure their voices are heard.” He opposes “growth by way of tax increases and imminent domain. More revenue is not worth over-taxing the residents, and forcibly taking their property.”

Lance wants prudent growth guidelines “well planned” and “looking ahead to anticipate any gentle growth that may be needed – for the benefit of the Fletcher citizens.” He wants to preserve Fletcher as a “safe and secure area, with a small town, family-friendly atmosphere.” He said that is in jeopardy if “we try to ‘outgrow’ Fletcher…We have to weigh the benefit versus the risk of over-developing this town.”

John Brandon Olsen.

Franklin vs. Olsen

Incumbent Sheila Franklin faces John Brandon Olsen in District One. Franklin stated that in her 12 years on council she has advocated for “balanced growth,” “quality of life” and a “safe town” with adequate law enforcement funding.

Henderson County Sheriff Lowell Griffin endorsed her with this comment: “Sheila has always been a champion of law enforcement, and all first responders. She continues to work hand in hand with them” to boost “quality of life.”

She said she works “collaboratively” with county boards and regional agencies including two sewer boards and Henderson County Economic Development. She was a Fletcher founding contributor – on the Committee to Incorporate Fletcher. She served on the town’s planning and zoning boards.

The 38-year resident of Fletcher has 25 years as a science-technical teacher, and a business management degree from Mars Hill.

Olsen works in renewable solar energy. His degree is in economics from UNC-Asheville. He lives in Livingston Farms. He moved to Fletcher in 2005 from suburban Chicago.

His campaign slogan is “Moving Fletcher Forward!” Olsen calls for greater “connectivity and accessibility (to parks) for all of our great neighborhoods for improved walkability and biking access. Fletcher deserves the best municipal services…an updated library” and greater government “accountability.”

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