The Transylvania Times -

Mark Tooley Interview

 

Mark Tooley

Mark Tooley

Age: 58

Employment: Keir Manufacturing, facilities and warehouse manager; former co-owner of Mountain Place Builders

Education: Bachelor's degree in marine biology and computer science from UNC-Wilmington

Past elected offices or committees: Current vice chairman of county Planning Board; member of Natural Resource Council; member of French Broad River stewards; and six years on the Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy

Family: Wife, Ameran, and three daughters

Should you be elected, what would be your top three priorities as commissioner?

The first would be to create a blueprint for the county. Part of that blueprint would be creating a common vision for the county that is created with input from as many people as possible. After we create that vision, we would construct a strategic plan with goals and objectives for the future.

That's lacking now and very much needed to guide the future of Transylvania County and the decisions and investments that need to be made.

Another is to work more cooperatively with the City of Brevard and the town of Rosman on activities that are good for the whole county, to do things that would benefit the whole county. We need to break down some of those barriers and work together for the future of the county.

The third would be to make some strategic investments in infrastructure and human capital in the county, to create a more conducive environment for new business investment and the growth of existing businesses. There are some things that the county can do to help that.

What is your position on the proposed Ecusta Trail project? Do you support it? Why or why not?

The rail line is a huge strategic asset that the county should utilize. The railroad company has not indicated any willingness to abandon that line yet, but we need to have a discussion as a community about the best use of the line for economic development in the county. We need to be sensitive to the people that own or have right of ways through their property, and we also need to think about how it would fit into an economic plan of the county, and how that asset would fit.

What is your position on land-use planning? Are you in favor of it? Why or why not?

I am definitely in favor of land-use planning, but I don't equate land use planning with zoning. But we need a plan, and we haven't done that in the past.

We need to plan for the future, for growth, and what type of growth we want to go where in the county. That's critical when you talk about developing infrastructure for the county. For example, we need to have a very good idea of where you'll run water and sewer and what you want to be there in the future. You can't just run those lines haphazard.

The Transylvania County Independent Economic Development Task Force recently named, as part of their recommendations to commissioners, a list of targeted industries that include: small/medium manufacturing, destination health clubs/spas, camps, sports health and wellness, events/conferences, music recording industries and motion picture industries. Do you agree with this list of targeted industries? Are there other industries you feel the county should also be targeting? Specifically, what do you think are the best ways to bring those industries to the county?

Yeah, that's a great list. Under the small and medium-manufacturing bit, there are a variety of businesses that could fall under that category. For example, outdoor recreation manufacturing could fit into that category.

I think the tourism industry is missing from the list. We already have tourism, but we might want to do more to target it.

A very good start to bring those businesses in is to take the recommendations of the Economic Task Force and to implement them. I think getting a good solid economic development structure is much needed, and the investment that that plan calls for. It has all the components that we need - to take care of existing businesses and help them succeed and the components of marketing and sales to brand the county and sell it around the country, and then to bringing the other existing organizations together under a common umbrella.

The City of Brevard has various staff positions and resources that assist in managing and operating the city. Do you think the county should provide the Town of Rosman with additional staffing and or funding to help acquire grants, manage the town, etc.,?

Definitely, if that's what the town of Rosman would like the county to do, I think it's something that should be done. They currently don't have the staff to do what they need or want to accomplish, and I think it would be a good role for the county to play in helping them plan and utilize the assets they have.

They have the French Broad River running through town. What greater asset is there than that? Maybe there's a possibility of creating a position in the county government that would serve in that role.

In 2013, commissioners voted to enact a 12-month moratorium on the proposed biomass plant in Penrose and recently voted to enact a 90-moratorium on cell tower applications. When do you feel moratoriums are appropriate? When are they inappropriate? Do you feel moratoriums send a negative message to prospective investors or are a necessary tool of a commissioner's job, in certain circumstances, to protect the interests of the community?

I feel in both cases they were necessary. It's unfortunate that the county is really behind in their planning activities.

I've said it before in county Planning Board (of which Tooley is a member) meetings that if we had a current comprehensive plan to guide our decision making as far as deciding on the growth of the county which is more of less what a comprehensive plan does, it's a growth guidance document. If we had had that in place and looked at our existing ordinances, then we would have gotten in front of those two issues rather than just react to a situation. I think we need to be more proactive in our planning. I agree that they probably don't send a good message, but in those two cases not having a moratorium might have had a worse affect than the signal it might send.

In the past the county has had no long-term plans concerning water. In light of recent events (such as the state's attempt to take over Asheville's public water system) should the county become involved with Brevard and Rosman to devise a countywide water plan?

Definitely. For the benefit of everyone in the county, we should all work together on this. This is an infrastructure issue. It's not just drinking water...it's wastewater and it's storm water that all fall under that category. I think by addressing that issue as a countywide entity then we would have a stronger voice in any regional activity that may come about.

Do you think the county adequately funds Transylvania County Schools? Do you think Transylvania County Schools adequately informs commissioners as to how those county funds are spent?

I think the county does fund the schools adequately. I think we're the fifth highest per student capita in county spending of any school system in the state, so we do spend a lot compared to other systems. Part of that is a function of the size of the county and what we're trying to do with our schools.

That affects how much we spend.

I know there have been issues with communication between the school system, the school board and the county commissioners on financial reporting, and I hope that if I do get elected that a better relationship could be established.

We're all trying to do what's best for the students and do the best with what we have.

 
 

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