Reelected Montreat commissioners on their plans for the town

Karrigan Monk
Black Mountain News
Tom Widmer is one of three commissioners reelected in Montreat.

The three newly reelected Montreat commissioners have plans for the town.

Commissioners Tom Widmer and Mason Blake said they are both looking forward to seeing the new comprehensive plan. The plan should be adopted sometime in the first quarter of 2023, according to Widmer.

Blake said he is taking the “leave the woodpile higher” advice of his father when working with the town and the comprehensive plan.

“I’m looking forward to the comprehensive plan being finalized and taking that plan and putting together an action agenda for the commission to consider over the next few years of what we can do, if we have the resources to do it, if we should be doing it,” Blake said. “Hopefully we’ll find ways that we can make Montreat even better through the process.”

Mason Blake is one of three commissioners reelected in Montreat.

Blake said the comprehensive plan is a good way to see what the residents of the town are looking for as there was a portion of the comprehensive plan that allowed for public input.

Widmer said he is concerned about the revenue burden on the residents of Montreat and wants to find ways to resolve that burden.

“We want to make sure we can take some of that revenue burden off of the shoulders of the residents,” Widmer said. “They shoulder the entire burden here, so we need to have some revenue enhancement somehow to do some of the things that the residents want to do in the future.”  

Commissioner Kent Otto said the town does its best to not raise taxes, but that means the town then has limited resources because of its small size.

Blake said the town should be run like a business to make sure the town is using this revenue wisely, and he will continue to work on this with the board.

Widmer and Blake are also both concerned about the environment in Montreat.

For Widmer, this comes in the form of stormwater concerns.

“It just kind of gets worse, especially with some of the development that’s going on,” Widmer said. “It’s been an age-old issue, and it will continue to be an issue.”

Widmer said the Planning and Zoning Commission has stormwater on its agenda and will be taking a closer look at it in the future.

Blake said the town is rich in natural resources and he wants to take a look at how to preserve those.

“Montreat is a special place,” Blake said. “Everyone’s very blessed to live here. We have natural resources and beauty that are unique. I think one thing I’ll continue to work on is to preserve the uniqueness, to preserve the environment.”

Widmer said these are long-term issues that will take time to find solutions for, but in the short-term, the commissioners are looking to fill vacant roles within the town.

The town is looking to hire a town manager in the role that is currently being held in the interim by Ben Blackburn. Widmer said the town’s chief financial officer left in the fall, and the town is also looking to fill that position “very quickly.”

Kent Otto is one of three commissioners reelected in Montreat.

Otto said he is also looking forward to finding a town manager, and the the town will "continue to pound the pavement" during the first part of the year to find someone to fill the role.

Overall, Otto said he is looking forward to continuing his work with the people of Montreat.

"I always enjoy the community and the people," Otto said. "I enjoy the challenges that we have, but the people of Montreat make the challenges a little bit more pleasurable. I would say the people aspect, working with my neighbors to accomplish a common goal, that's what I enjoy the most."

Widmer said he is looking forward to continuing his work with the rest of the board.

“They’re such a great group of people,” Widmer said. “It’s a team that doesn’t always agree, but we shouldn’t always agree. We have respect for each other’s opinions, and as a result of that I think we’re a very effective group in getting things done and moving forward for the town.”