Updated: Buncombe commissioner Gantt announces he won’t seek re-election next year


Update July 22: David Gantt, chairman of the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners announced Wednesday morning that he would serve out his term but would not seek re-election next year. In a room full of friends and fellow elected officials, as well as county staffers, an emotional Gantt said he wanted to spend more time with his wife and family.

Gantt was first elected to the board in 1996. He was elected chairman in 2008. He listed county government’s accomplishments during his tenure, which included investing millions of taxpayer dollars in everything from libraries and animal shelters to schools and protecting the environment. After his talk, Gantt invited Asheville Mayor Esther Manheimer, fellow Commissioner Ellen Frost and Buncombe County Sheriff Van Duncan to speak. The three lauded Gantt for his work ethic, his compassion and his fortitude in taking on tough issues such as approving countywide zoning measures.

Here’s the full press release:

Buncombe County Commission Chair David Gantt announced today that he would not seek re-election to office in 2016. Before a crowd of fellow officials, professional associates, family and friends, Gantt stated that after 20 years of service to Buncombe County, he would be stepping down to pursue professional and personal goals, and especially to spend more time with his family.

A Democrat, Gantt was first elected as a Buncombe County Commissioner in 1996. He was re-elected for two additional terms. In 2008, he was elected Chair of the Buncombe County Commission, where he has served faithfully for eight years and led the county in successful accomplishment of a myriad of significant goals aimed toward improving quality of life for the county and its citizens.

“I am very honored to have served the people of Buncombe County for nearly two decades,” Gantt said. “I’ve focused on keeping promises, meeting the expectations of our citizens, and accomplishing the goals that the county has set. I am leaving the county in a stronger and better condition financially, structurally and environmentally than when I first started as a commissioner 20 years ago.”

According to fellow Commissioner Ellen Frost, “David Gantt has never accepted ‘We can’t.’ He has spent all his waking hours saying ‘Why not?’ He has spent his time on the commission exhausting every possibility for preservation of our county land and the creation of jobs and affordable housing for our citizens for generations to come.”

In reviewing his 20 years of service, Gantt cited a list of “Top Ten Achievements” under his leadership and those of which he is particularly proud. They include:

Enactment of a model steep slope ordinance that protects the county’s mountaintops, including a zoning overlay to preserve the Blue Ridge Parkway, a Dark Skies lighting ordinance, cell tower ordinance, and measures to address water runoff and erosion control.

Construction of 11 new schools and dozens of major renovations of school facilities in Buncombe County, City of Asheville and AB Tech totaling over $250 million.

Partnership with other groups to preserve and permanently protect over 6,000 acres of Buncombe County farmland, ridge tops and special places.

Partnership with WNCCHS to provide expanded access for indigent care for county residents at no cost to them – BuncombeCare for over 20 years.

Creation of a landfill that may become the first perpetual facility in the U.S.

Construction of a new $25 million, LEED-certified County Courthouse after decades of need.

Accomplishment of a AAA bond rating for Buncombe County that allows efficient financing options to enable lower borrowing rates.

Creation of new businesses and over 6,000 new jobs through a strong economic incentive program. Today, Buncombe County has one of the lowest unemployment rates in NC.

Establishment of countywide zoning and planning ordinances that began and maintain the practice of sustainable growth.

Creation of greenways, pools, libraries and community centers in each part of the county. County investments in new construction, renovations and infrastructure additions total over $693 million.

Building and strengthening collaboration with the City of Asheville has been high on Gantt’s agenda. He pointed to the best city-county relations in decades.

“After all,” he said, “every resident of the city is also a citizen of the county. Together, we form one community that must work together to create the resources and services, the realization of opportunities, the respect for neighborhoods and their needs, whether urban or rural, necessary to ensure the highest and best quality of life for everyone.”

Esther Manheimer, Mayor of the City of Asheville added, “Chairman Gantt is a true statesman with an unwavering dedication for our community and the people of Buncombe County. To that end, he has worked tirelessly to ensure that the county and the cities of Buncombe County work together, toward a better future for all our citizens. His legacy of partnership, friendship and loyalty will bear fruit for years to come.”

According to County Manager Wanda Greene, who has served under Gantt for the whole twenty years, “David always challenged county staff and created an environment that supported the workforce being innovative and creative in a way that significantly moved the county forward and made Buncombe a national model for many programs. He always put staff first in every budget process.”

“Holding public office and serving as Chair of the Commission is hardly a solo activity,” Gantt said. “There is a special friendship and shared commitment with other elected officials regardless of differences. There are hundreds of outstanding staff members, whose wisdom, experience and compassion lie at the heart of so many successful efforts. The citizens of this community have reached out time and time again to share their views, shape my thinking and stand together, and we have embroidered so much positive change. I am honored to be a part of such an amazing community that constantly aspires to be the best it can be.”

An Asheville attorney and owner of a small business, David Gantt graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill with a B.A. in Economics and Campbell University Law School with a J.D. He was admitted to the North Carolina Bar in 1981 and has been affiliated with the 28th Judicial District and the President’s Club of the NC Advocates for Justice. He has served as Dean of the People’s Law School of the NC Academy of Trial Lawyers.

In addition to his seat on the Buncombe County Commission, Gantt has served as Chair of Land of Sky Regional Council and Chair of the Mountain Resources Commission. He has also served on the boards of the United Way, Eblen Charities Foundation, Asheville Airport Authority, MSD, NC Employment Security Commission and many more. He is a member of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Committee and life member of the NAACP.

Married for 36 years to Charise Gantt, David is the proud father of Brett Gantt, PhD in Research Triangle Park, NC, and Carrie Gantt, an attorney for New York City.

“My children were little when I first entered public life,” Gantt said. “Over the last 20 years, there have been times when I’ve felt like my children and the community were all in my living room. My family and the county have grown up together.”

“I am deeply grateful for my beautiful wife and children – for all their support and willingness – and I now look forward to having more time to celebrate their amazing accomplishments and a wonderful life together.”

Original post July 21: David Gantt, chairman of the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners, has announced that he’s holding a press conference at 11 a.m. Wednesday in downtown Asheville. There are no other details given regarding the nature of the press conference.

But word on the street for the past few months has been that Gantt was planning to step down from his post, or retiring. i.e. not running for re-election next year, when his term is up. Gantt was elected to the Board of Commissioners in 1996. I was working at the Asheville Citizen-Times at the time, and I was covering county government for the newspaper. He was a strong candidate who went on to be elected chairman in 2008.

The full conspiracy theory, as told to me this spring, was that local Democrats had a complete plan for what would happen next: namely, that Asheville City Councilman Gordon Smith would be appointed to fill Gantt’s unexpired term.

I called Gantt when I heard this talk. I left a message on his voicemail at work, and he didn’t return my call. I subsequently saw him at the groundbreaking for Wicked Weed’s new beer-manufacturing facility at Enka Business Park, and I off-handedly reminded him that I had called him to ask about the rumors of his stepping down. He brushed it off.

Rolling with this scenario, I wonder who might be appointed to fill Smith’s seat on City Council. With progressives in control, they might consider appointing someone such as Lindsey Simerly. She’s one of 16 candidates seeking three open seats on Asheville City Council this election year. It’s an unusually crowded field, and securing a progressive candidate might make room for more.

Guess we’ll just have to wait and see.


Nate July 22, 2015 - 2:02 pm

Maybe I’m nuts, but this news just does not seem worthy of a short-notice press conference a full 16 months before the election in question, and more than a year before any relevant primary. Is it to quash rumors of more drastic action like the ones you passed along in the initial version of this post, or is it possible he had a more dramatic announcement planned and was talked out of it at the last minute?

Tim Peck July 22, 2015 - 12:01 pm

Gantt announced that he is not running for re-election or election for any political office.

NFB July 22, 2015 - 11:16 am

I think there are any number of Democrats ahead in line of Gordon Smith for an appointment like this.

Former Reporter at WYPN July 22, 2015 - 12:37 am

Gordon Smith is so anti-business, I truly worry for the future of the county.

NFB July 22, 2015 - 1:02 pm

Anti-business? I’m thinking that New Belgium, Linamar, and other businesses for who Councilman Smith supported “incentives” for who beg to differ.

Former Reporter at WYPN July 22, 2015 - 5:51 pm

Golly, I didn’t realize he was so front and center in bringing those businesses to Asheville.

Rog July 21, 2015 - 9:08 pm

Hard to believe he would give up those free vacations to Hawaii, but if this means the end of those sappy-ass Christmas commercials he runs on channel 13, then I say the sooner he leaves the better.

Weaver July 22, 2015 - 12:40 pm

Those commercials are for his law firm, so I don’t see how this would end those. Perhaps you should invest in a DVR and then you can skip through the commercials that bother you so much.

Tim Peck July 21, 2015 - 9:02 pm

Gordon Smith couldn’t chair a meeting of the Lollipop Guild.

Broadway Barney July 22, 2015 - 10:34 am

As a “left leaning progressive”, you and I probably wouldn’t agree on much. HOWEVER, I had a discussion with Gordon Smith several years ago (shortly after being elected to his first term on City Council) regarding the state of Mental Health Reform in N.C. Mr. Smith left me with the clear impression that he was pompous, aloof, condescending and incredibly arrogant. I would never cast a vote for him under any circumstances.

Harry July 22, 2015 - 1:47 pm

Excellent assessment.

Henry July 22, 2015 - 2:27 pm

Totally concur.

Whenever I used to speak with Gordon he always provided short, pre-canned answers that came across as dodgy and cagey. It frustrated me to no end.

When I finally started speaking to others, such as Cecil, who can explain policy rather clearly, it became clear to me that Gordon just doesn’t understand what’s going on.

Just look at the recent debate on Facebook where Cecil coherently articulated the pro’s and con’s of Short Term Rentals. All Gordon could do was copy and post links to studies done on Asheville’s housing crisis and beg people to read it. He also compared Asheville to Marfa, a town of 2,000 people in rural TX, just because the article sided with him.

And he’s incredibly smug.

He wouldn’t make a good County Commissioner because he’ll never go to Woodfin or Weaverville since they aren’t on Haywood Rd.

Harry July 23, 2015 - 12:45 am

Woodfin and Weaverville too far for him to ride his little bicycle?

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