Voting For a 300 % Pay Raise: Political Suicide or Strategy? - TribPapers

Voting For a 300 % Pay Raise: Political Suicide or Strategy?

Photo submitted.

Woodfin – At the prompting of Woodfin Vice Mayor Jim McAllister and Councilman Eric Edgerton, a discussion about increasing the pay for the mayor and the council members was placed on October’s council agenda.

Before the meeting concluded, the two, along with their female counterparts on the board, voted to give the mayor and council a 300 percent raise, but only after the 2023 election.

We’ve all heard appeals by politicians to increase spending here or there. “It’s for the children,” or “It’s for education,” or “It’s for the poor.” Whatever the case, there’s usually some other angle behind the vote.

So why the rush to raise the pay of the mayor and the council members by 300% in the face of a recession? Woodfin Mayor Jerry VeHaun said if he had a vote, he would be voting against the measure. He asked the two initiators of the agenda item that raised the board’s pay to allow another month for the discussion to continue.

Still, they were determined to have the vote, come hell or high water. They wanted it now without delay, even though they continued to point out it wasn’t for them. Only one council member voted against the motion, and that was Councilman Ronnie Lunsford, saying he was not in it for the money but to serve the people of the town.

Trying to justify the considerable increase was the youngest member of the board, Eric Edgerton, a lawyer. Edgerton said he’d like to attract a younger, non-retired group of council candidates in the next election.

Apparently, Edgerton doesn’t like the geriatric ward he’s found himself a member of. I’m guessing he’d like to find some younger playmates. However, seasoned citizens bring wisdom a college education, like a law degree, can’t offer.

This new council seems to be heading in the direction of the City of Asheville. I used to say people in Woodfin and Weaverville were happy not to be a part of Asheville, but now it appears the new council is determined to mold the small town in the image of its big liberal neighbor to the south. Much of the staff of Woodfin has been hired away from Asheville and is now, with every council meeting, making the town more and more like their former employer.

But, again, what is Edgerton and McAllister’s political stance? I mean, if the raises don’t take effect until the 2023 election, why not give the council another 30 days to gather more information and discuss it before enacting the increase? Unless…unless this is really all about the 2023 elections and they want to put as much time between this vote and that election as possible.

I want to make a prediction for the 2023 race. I think voters will see either Edgerton or McAllister run for mayor. Most likely McAllister, as he seems to be the more seasoned member of the two. It’s unknown if the current mayor, Jerry VeHaun, who’s been mayor for almost 20 years, will seek re-election. I also predict any current members up for election in 2023 who voted for the raise will seek re-election.

So, while Edgerton may be right that the raise does not benefit the current council to ensure that it really wasn’t for them, it might be nice if all the current members of the board who voted for the increase pledged not to run again, ensuring that the vote for a 300% raise was altruistic. Otherwise, I’d say it seems like it is raining on the backs of Woodfin residents, or maybe it’s not rain.