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Jennifer Willet offers added transparency, connection to residents for alderman seat

Ty Roush
Black Mountain News
Jennifer Willet was appointed in March to assume Carlos Showers' seat.

Black Mountain News will be doing profiles of all candidates for the three open Board of Aldermen seats.

BLACK MOUNTAIN - Jennifer Willet decided to run for one of three available Board of Aldermen seats last November. After being appointed to Carlos Showers' seat in March, she says she’s looking forward to spending more time on the board.

One of eight candidates for this November’s municipal election, Willet has spent most of her life in Black Mountain. A graduate of Owen High School, she then continued her education at Montreat College.

She’s now learning to govern in a pandemic.

“It has been a very interesting learning curve for me,” Willet said. While residents have been unable to attend board meetings in person since March 9, “the town, as a whole, has had to learn how to adapt very quickly to the new parameters which they can operate in.”

“It’s been sad to me that the meetings have to be conducted this way due to social distancing, that we can’t have that in-person interaction with our people,” she said.

Her decision to run came from her appreciation of the town.

“I have a lot of love for the community, and I wanted to do my part to help,” Willet said. 

Willet has worked full time at the local State Employees Credit Union for the last 20 years and is a co-owner of Bliss Beauty Bar. Her father is the former chief of police.

Her connection to the town has brought her closer to its residents, she says.

“I feel like everyone that has moved here has moved to this town because they love the town. ... There’s something about the town that they love,” Willet said.

Through six months on the board, Willet says transparency is a goal for its future. Her main focus “is to support the community and serve the citizens,” while changing “how the town charter is laid out so that transparency can be more attainable.”

“I feel like people need to be heard and I want them to know that they’re heard, and I want them to know that their issues are real to the board,” she said.

One of four board members appointed to their current position, Willet recognizes concerns over recent appointments of Archie Pertiller Jr. and Larry Harris to alderman and mayor, respectively. Transparency may not be visible with positions not elected by the public.

Changing language in the town's charter regarding the process of filling open positions could be done, she said, though it may not be feasible. 

"I would be open to changing that, but is it cost-effective for the town to hold an election every time there's a seat open?" Willet said.

Despite being unable to hold in-person meetings with residents, she says she continues to love her town.

And she hopes to continue building on its collective personality.

“What I love about our town is that we are friendly and we’re welcoming,” Willet said. “And that’s what I want to continue.”