Buncombe County (District 3) – North Buncombe resident Don Yelton, a Republican, is running for the Buncombe County Commissioner District 3 seat, currently held by Democrat Amanda Edwards. “I love Buncombe County. I love the United States. I love freedom. And we’re losing all three.,” he says. Yelton is no stranger to politics or the Buncombe County government as he has been involved in both, one way or another, for years.
Yelton lives on Jupiter Road in Northern Buncombe County on half the farm where he was raised. “I committed to staying here.” He worked his way through college, attending UNC-Asheville, where he got his degrees in biology and psychology. For his master’s thesis, he discovered an ecological variety of a plant on top of Roan Mountain. “I had a feeling it was a separate species, so my research for my Master’s thesis was proving that it was a separate species.” It was published in a scientific journal.
After teaching at Brevard College, he went to Clemson University, earning an Environmental Systems Engineering degree. “Basically, it’s the theory behind water treatment, solid waste, that type of thing,” explained Yelton. He worked for Land Of Sky as a water quality specialist before joining the Buncombe County government’s solid waste department. He has also operated and designed wastewater treatment plants.
What he said he learned from his four years in government is, “If you know what you’re doing and you’re working for the government, you will get into trouble because they don’t want you doing a good job.”
Asked why he was running for office, Yelton said, “I’m running for office because I’ve seen a lot. I’ve observed the county commissioners for 38 years. I know what they’re [commissioners] going to do before they do it, and I do have a very, very diversified background and can talk intelligently about anything… I want people to know what’s going on and I will tell them.”
Asked what makes him the better candidate for the seat, Yelton replied, “I was born and raised in Buncombe County. I’ve seen Buncombe County at its worst and at its best, and now I see it going back to its worst.” He added that he solved the sanitary problem and implemented recycling for the county. “I do have a scientific approach. Most of those people do not understand what science is. Science does not give you the answer. It’s a process because the answer is always changing.”
Asked what the district’s biggest issue was, he responded, “District 3 has always been the redheaded stepchild. They didn’t have the population, they didn’t have the local voice, and now it is growing tremendously… Right across from me is a whole bunch of houses where it used to be a green field. And there is a limit on how many houses you can put in a certain area. Nobody is talking about that. They are all talking about global warming causing flooding, but guess what causes flooding? Asphalt, rooftops, those types of things.”
Yelton points out that the taxes people have to pay on large tracts of undeveloped land is forcing these owners to sell the land to developers. He suggests reducing taxes on the properties to keep these tracts producing oxygen and having growth that keeps rain from running off and doesn’t have pavement and kids to send to school. “That’s using the scientific method.”
Unlike his opponent, Yelton doesn’t believe that the district’s biggest issue is the county’s. “The biggest issue facing the country is that we’ve got to know where our money comes from and where it’s going. And that’s not some little flowery report given to commissioners.” He specifically singled out non-profits, saying, “We need to know what we got for our money.”
He furthermore mentioned another one of his pet peeves which is the commissioners handle public comment. “You’ve got three minutes to speak to them. You can’t call anybody out by name. You can ask any questions because they won’t answer them. It’s a dog and pony show. We need some knockdown, drag-out discussions.”
Asked about the biggest misstep by the county, Yelton said, “Brownie Newman [chairman of the county commissioners] because when Brownie started out, he was doing the same thing Tom Sobol [former chairman of the county commissioners]…If you remember, Tom Sobol would let anybody speak before they’d take a vote on anything. Brownie started out doing that, but then he stopped. Now you got to speak your three minutes before they even talk about what their going to talk about. So how can you talk about something that hasn’t been presented or discussed?”
He went on to add, “That shows you what our problem is. This is a government run by committees, behind closed doors, and then they come out to the county commissioners’ meeting and act like they’ve done everything they’re supposed to do.”
Asked what the county commissioners had done right, Yelton said, “Finally listening to me about Wanda Greene [former county manager who was convicted of embezzling county funds].
Asked what he wanted voters to know before going to vote. “I will never tell them a lie. I will always be upfront and I will ask a lot of questions in commissioners’ meetings. Which is why they hate me and they’re going to fight like the devil to keep me from getting there.”