Voters bring in new Montreat council
(Check this space throughout the date for updates as they come in.)
Tuesday’s municipal elections yielded no changes for the Black Mountain board of aldermen, but brought about a new mayor and two new town council members in Montreat.
The poll results indicate distinctively different scenarios between the two towns, with voters strongly supporting the status quo in Black Mountain but demonstrating anything but in Montreat.
Black Mountain’s incumbent candidates Don Collins, Maggie Tuttle and Larry Harris all spent the day camped in front of local polling places, greeting voters as they turned out to cast their ballots.
The Black Mountain election, which attracted 2,713 voters, served as a referendum on the work of the current board and indicated the community’s support to the board’s move to reduce debt and spend responsibly, according to Harris, who received 741 votes.
“I think what it means to me is that the voters have been pleased with the sound financial management that I think has been the earmark of this board,” he said. “I think that voters are also pleased with the fact that we have not just cut debt, but have demonstrated prudent spending.”
Collins, who currently serves as vice mayor, received the most votes with 858. Tuttle tallied 821 votes.
Challenger Rachel Allen spent election day driving to each polling location and introducing herself to voters, thanking them for showing up. The opportunity to meet other Black Mountain residents was one of the things she enjoyed the most about her campaign, she said.
“It was a great opportunity to get out and connect and re-connect with people in Black Mountain,” she said. “It was a very wonderful experience.”
Allen, who received 271 votes in her first try for an alderman seat, said she may seek a seat in the future.
“I have a vested interest in Black Mountain, and I would certainly run again,” Allen said.
Black Mountain resident Laura Brown was one of the 538 voters to cast a ballot at Lake Tomahawk. She said that she values candidates who care about the town; she has been satisfied with local government in recent years.
“But I’m always open to new ideas,” she added.
The Montreat election follows a year and a half of discord that began with the town council’s decision to build a town hall on Florida Terrace. The selection of the site led to public outcry and a lawsuit before ultimately spilling over to the board of elections last week in the form of a hearing about voter registration.
Martha Campbell was the sole incumbent on the ballot (former council member Jack McCallum chose to not seek re-election). Campbell was opposed by Bill Gilliland and Kitty Fouche, who ran together and campaigned around finding a better location for the town hall.
Gilliland and Fouche each received 250 votes, more than double the ballots cast for Campbell.
“Many taxpayers and residents felt that the town council was unresponsive to their constituents. After a year of frustration, they re-channeled their energy into this election,” Fouche said via email following the the election. “Many of the elections in Montreat are uncontested, so there hasn’t been much motivation to register or vote during the past few years.
“The issues that have caused so much discord brought new and long-time residents to the polls,” she said. “It was a peaceful way for everyone to express their disappointment with the current situation and their hopes for the future.”
Fouche believes that the election indicates support for exploring other options for the embattled project.
Montreat will also have a new mayor, as sitting council member Tim Helms ran unopposed, ending Letta Jean Taylor’s term in office.