Pair of incumbents not seeking re-elction

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The Buncombe County's municipal elections are months from being decided, but it is already certain that the Montreat Board of Commissioners will have a decidedly different look after Nov. 7.

Four candidates are seeking to fill three seats on the town council, while two incumbents will not seek additional terms.

Tom Widmer, Alice Boggs Lentz and Grace Nichols filed for candidacy prior to the July 21 filing deadline. Incumbent Kent Otto, who was appointed to fill the seat vacated by Montreat mayor Tim Helms in 2016, will seek another term, while his fellow board members Mary Standaert and Ann Vinson will not.

Otto, who has lived in Montreat for 10 years, is pleased with what the current board has accomplished since he began serving and would like to carry that momentum forward, he said.

"I'd really like to see things keep moving in a positive direction here in Montreat," Otto said.

Recent personnel changes in the town provide an opportunity to address the size of Montreat's government, he said.

"I think we have a good opportunity to see how we can best address the needs of our community," Otto added. "We also have a great opportunity to take a look at our town's procedures and review ordinances and regulations. In the nearly two years I've been on the board, that's one of the things I've heard most from the community."

Nichols has been a permanent resident of Montreat for 15 years. She's regularly attended town council meetings for the past three years, she said. She considered running for the past three to four months, she added.

"I really wish to be in service to all of Montreat," said the former Montreat Cottagers Association president. "I think I can bring the community together, and I want to be a creative force for positive change."

Nichols believes the top priority in Montreat should be moving forward with construction of a town hall.

"The town hall was a bone of contention in the election two years ago, but the decision has been made to move forward with it," Nichols said. "It's time to build. I'm primarily wanting to be involved in providing a functional building of adequate size for the administration and staff of Montreat."

Widmer has been visiting Montreat for nearly 30 years, he said, and moved to the town as a full-time resident in July 2016. He believes he can add a "fresh voice" to the town council.

"I would like to continue the positive changes that began in 2016," he said, "and help bring further reconciliation to the council, yet promote independent thinking."

Creating a sense of unity within the community is one of his top priorities as a candidate.

"Government needs to be supportive of the community and not restrictive," he said. "Open conversation, wise decision making, simple but effective government will help usher in unity."

Widmer, like Otto, would also like to "look closely" at regulations and ordinances in the town in an effort to "make Montreat a friendlier community to build and renovate."

Lentz has been living in Montreat full-time since 2015, but she has visited the town all of her life, she said. She is pleased with the decisions made by the board in recent years.

"I would like to contribute to the continued forward movement that the board of commissioners has demonstrated in its measured, moderate and methodical way of welcoming input from the community," Lentz said.

She believes that it's important for the board to continue to move in a similar direction.

Standaert, who has served on the board for eight years, said she decided over a year ago she would not seek another term. That decision has allowed her to speak "freely and frankly," she said. She believes that everyone should have the opportunity to serve as an elected official, but is herself ready to move on.

"I no longer wish to serve," Standaert said.

Vinson has served one term on the board, which she said she has enjoyed. She said she's happy to see that there are several people running.

"There's more interest in serving than in years past, which is a good thing," she said.

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