Update Aug. 10: Brownie Newman, a sitting Buncombe County commissioner, has announced that he’s running for chairman of the county board. Here’s his announcement via Facebook:
Two weeks ago our County Commission Chairman David Gantt announced he would not seek re-election next year. David is serving his 5th term on the Commission and has done a great job. I want to let my friends and community know that I plan to run for County Commission Chair in 2016.
I truly enjoy serving on the Commission and have found it to be a place where we can make a difference. During the time I have served, we have made major new investments to rebuild our public schools. We are creating a Family Justice Center to confront domestic violence.
We have committed to reduce the County’s carbon footprint and are taking immediate steps to move down that path. We re-wrote our personnel policies to assure all our public employees are treated equally, regardless of who they love. Our land conservation initiative has permanently protected thousands of acres of family farmland and natural areas.
I want to build on these successful initiatives and take on the big challenges facing our community. Are people who work full-time (along with senior citizens and people with disabilities) going to be able to afford to live here? Are we going to protect the natural beauty and ecological integrity of our mountains even as the community grows? These are the questions that motivate me.
As a person who grew up on a farm here in the Blue Ridge Mountains, I am excited about the opportunity to represent all of Buncombe County.
I want to thank my friends and family for their encouragement and support. I am thankful for Ellen Frost, Holly Jones, Esther Elizabeth Manheimer and the other local elected officials who support my candidacy for Chair.
I also want to ask for your support. I need your help in both the campaign that is to come and in the doing of this work. The myriad issues that come before us every month is daunting and no one can be an expert on all of them. If you have ideas or concerns about Buncombe’s future, let’s talk. You can message me, email me or go to my website brownienewman.com. Or just give me a call.
Original post July 27: Buncombe County Commissioner Brownie Newman is gearing up to run for chairman of the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners in 2016. That’s the word on the street in the wake of last week’s announcement by sitting Chairman David Gantt, who announced last week that he would fill out his current term but not seek re-election next year. Gantt was elected to the county board in 1996, and to the chairman’s seat in 2008.
Newman attended Gantt’s goodbye, and after the ceremony I asked him if he was planning to run for the chairman’s seat. He declined to answer, saying that the day was for the spotlight to be centered on Gantt. Newman said he’d be happy to talk to me in coming weeks about his plans. (Both are Democrats on a seven-member board with a Democratic majority.)
A couple of weeks ago, Newman was spotted in West Asheville having lunch with Randy Flack, the former field representative for U.S. Rep. Heath Shuler. Flack ran for Buncombe County commissioner, District 3, in 2012 and didn’t make it out of the primary. (Commissioner Republican Joe Belcher holds that seat now and will likely face a vigorous challenge if he decides to run again.) That 2012 election was also Newman’s first run for the county board, and he won a spot to represent District 1.
If Newman wins, it’s my understanding that there would be a special election of Democratic Party officials and precinct chairs to pick a successor. Again, the scenario I’ve heard is that current Asheville City Councilman Gordon Smith would be considered a prime candidate for that District 1 county commissioner seat.
Before being elected a county commissioner, Newman won a seat on Asheville City Council in 2003 and again in 2007. (Council picked him to serve as vice mayor in 2009.)
Newman is an environmentalist by vocation. He’s a former executive director of the Western North Carolina Alliance environmental nonprofit, now known as MountainTrue. In 2008, he helped establish FLS Energy, a local solar energy company.
Got an early line for who else is preparing a run for commissioner? Let me know!