Good job! The number of women in elected and appointed offices in Henderson County has been lower than it ought to be, given the talent pool. But that has changed for the better over the past year or so.
Rebecca McCall broke the gender barrier on the Board of Commissioners in 2018, becoming the first woman on that board for the first time since 2002. In December, newcomers Jennifer Hensley and Lyndsey Simpson joined the Hendersonville City Council, flipping the board to a female majority. And in the most high-profile (and contentious) political campaign of the 2019 municipal election season, Anne Coletta proved she had the skill, creativity and aggressiveness to lead a slate of anti-road widening/anti-greenway candidates to victory and a takeover of the Flat Rock Village Council. This week brought the news, too, that women have been ascending the judicial ranks in the Henderson County Courthouse. Beth Stang was sworn in Monday as the new chief public defender for Judicial District 29B. In 2018, Gov. Roy Cooper appointed Henderson County District Judge Athena Fox Brooks to a special Superior Court judgeship and last year appointed Clerk of Court Kim Gasperson Justice to the District Court bench. In December, the Mills River Town Council re-elected Chae Davis as mayor for two more years. The Flat Rock Village Council is made up of three men and three women, the Laurel Park and Fletcher town councils each have one woman. Saluda has some work to do. No women on board so far. Both major political parties are chaired by women. And kudos to Sheriff Lowell Griffin, who appointed Vanessa Gilbert chief deputy when he took office in December 2018. The Women have held important local government department head and nonprofit and college leadership roles for a while. Good to see them catching up on our elected bodies and political appointments.
Ne work … Our admiration for her tactical skills notwithstanding, Anne Coletta ought to try openness and transparency in her new leadership role on the Village Council. Three times since she and David Dethero and Tom Carpenter and new Mayor Nick Weedman were sworn in, Coletta has sprung surprise motions on the council, without offering the proposed actions in advance to all council members and the public. Without prior notice, Coletta offered a motion to ask the NCDOT to kill the Highland Lake Road improvement project, a resolution doing the same and a motion announcing that the village would oppose any willing sale of right of way for the project. Is this the sort of openness, transparency and public involvement Big Yellow Taxi slate ran on? It’s the reverse of the campaign platform we recall.
Good job! Yes, there’s a rocky road of public comment ahead — there’s that concept again! — but the Hendersonville City Council and its administrators deserve credit for the rollout of the proposed parking deck. It’s a bold idea that will take some getting used to. Many questions remain. To its credit, the council is devoting a whole evening to talk about big upcoming projects and take questions. Topics include the parking deck, police station, Fire Station 1, miniature golf, tennis courts and the Seventh Avenue streetscape. Questions? Show up next Thursday.