Who's on the ballot in Montreat? Meet the candidates
Montreat’s Board of Commissioners will have three seats open this coming November, and all three incumbents are running for reelection unopposed.
Tom Widmer brings five years of experience to the board. He said in his time on the board, he has helped increase communication and transparency by implementing a Montreat Minute newsletter, streaming meetings and sending out a mayor’s summary of the meeting the next day. In addition, the board lifted restrictions on public comment sessions.
Kent Otto has been on the board for six years.
“I feel like for the most part it’s been a good couple of boards I’ve been able to serve with,” Otto said. “I feel like we are just now starting to make some good traction on some things, so I thought I’d give it one more round and continue to move forward.”
Otto said he hopes to bring an open mind and attitude to the board.
Though Mason Blake was only appointed to the board in December, he said he thinks he has contributed to the town and wants to continue to take what he has learned and put it to use during a regular four-year term.
Both Widmer and Otto said one of the biggest issues facing Montreat is one of revenue for the town.
Otto said that because the town has such small tax base, the town needs to continue to have a “lean and sharp” budget. He said he wants to avoid overtaxing residents.
Widmer said because there is no revenue coming into the town from Montreat College and “very little” from the conference center, the problem of revenue falls onto residents.
“The entire burden falls on the shoulders of the property owners,” Widmer said. “If this town wants development, some level of development and services, then we need to figure out how to increase those revenues.”
Widmer said the town has looked at an occupancy tax, but it has its problems and needs to be looked at in closer detail.
For Blake, the biggest issues are those of land use and the environment.
Blake said the MRA lodge is the biggest issue the town is currently facing, but there is little the commissioners can do other than making sure the town is adequately represented.
He also said he is concerned about stormwater and the impact it has on the environment.
“Stormwater is a problem and will continue to be a problem because of global warming, whether you like it or not,” Blake said. “Regardless of what’s causing it, we’re getting larger storm events more frequently each year, which is taxing our system.”
Blake said the town is “fighting a losing battle,” but the board needs to continue protecting the town's infrastructure.
He said he is looking forward to working with Widmer and Otto for the next term.
“I can tell you that both of them do a wonderful job, have been very good commissioners and great to work with,” Blake said. “I’m looking forward to continue to work with them for the next four years. They’re terrific people and terrific councilpersons.”