Montreat commissioners Widmer, Blake, Otto talk reelection as terms near expiration

Ezra Maille
Black Mountain News

It's election year in Montreat, and three town commissioners have expiring terms. All three plan to run for reelection.

Mayor Pro Tem Tom Widmer and commissioners Mason Blake and Kent Otto's terms will expire at the end of the year. Candidacy applications opened July 1.

Widmer plans to run again for commissioner. In December, once elections have been decided, he said the board will decide who will fill the role of mayor pro tem.

"I was elected to a four year term in 2017," Widmer said. "During that time frame, the state had asked us if we would switch to even year elections instead of odd year elections."

This led to Widmer, as well as other officials in surrounding municipalities, keeping his current appointment for an additional year. 

Mayor Pro Tem Tom Widmer said he intends to seek reelection to the Montreat Board of Commissioners. After elections, the board would decide on who will fulfill the role of mayor pro tem.

Widmer said he's enjoyed seeing the Town Hall project through to completion as well as fulfilling his role as commissioner of communication, keeping the board's transparency at a "good and respectable level."

"I've learned a lot," Widmer said. "It's certainly been a good experience for me, and I hope it has been for the voters and the residents. I think we've made some good positive additions in the past five years."

Looking ahead, Widmer said he hopes to address the town's financial issues. Due to challenges with audits, Widmer said now that the town seems to be on more secure footing, Montreat needs to ensure best practices continue.

Hiring a town manager remains another task Widmer hopes to help address. In light of a recent change in the governmental system, Montreat now seeks to hire a town manager rather than a town administrator. 

"Would love to see that Texas Road Bridge done, well certainly Phase 1, in the next six to 12 months," Widmer said. "Hopefully we can get some outside money to help us with that."

Widmer said Blake was helpful with the Texas Road Bridge project, serving as chair of the Bridge Aesthetics Committee a few years ago, prior to his appointment as a commissioner.

Montreat commissioner Mason Blake, the newest member of the board, plans to run for reelection after his appointment in December.

Blake, who was nominated and sworn in upon the retirement of former commissioner Alice Lentz in December, has decided to run for a full four-year term. He said he hopes to see projects such as the Texas Road Bridge through to completion. 

"I'm looking forward to running," Blake said. "It's been six months since I began serving as a town commissioner, and I believe I've contributed to the commission. We've got a great group of people."

More:Montreat Board of Commissioners elects new member to replace Lentz

Otto was first appointed to a two-year term and then ran again, serving an additional four years. Between year-round and summer Montreat residents, Otto said the town is a diverse and moving community.

"It's an honor to serve the town of Montreat," Otto said. "I'm sort of a believer that there should be term limits on everything, so I don't know that I'll make a career out of this yet."

However, Otto said there's still work to be done. He said projects such as updating the town comprehensive plan are topics he wants to continue to work on.

Kent Otto, who has served on the Montreat Board of Commissioners since his appointment in 2015, announced his intentions to run for reelection in November.

As a commissioner, Otto said he's enjoyed working with the MRA, Montreat College, residents and the town. He said he's seen improvement in communication between all involved parties during his time on the board. 

"Listening to the community yet having a little bit of a say what Montreat in the future looks like, that's pretty exciting," Otto said. "It's great working for community."

Ezra Maille covers the town of Black Mountain, Montreat and the Swannanoa Valley. Reach him at 828-230-3324 or emaille@blackmountainnews.com. Please support local journalism with access to more breaking news by subscribing.