What are the main accomplishments you hope to see out of the Henderson County Substance Abuse Task Force in terms of fighting the local opioid crisis?

With over 40 years' experience as a psychiatric nurse working in a variety of treatment settings, I am particularly passionate regarding this issue, as it affects county residents directly and indirectly on many levels.

I look forward to the report and recommendations from the expert members of the Henderson County Substance Abuse Task Force. Clearly, there is an undeniable need for a dedicated detox facility in the County, as well as for long-term rehabilitation facilities in appropriate locations and in partnership with non-profit organizations committed to serving this need.

The task force has been working in a spirit of partnership that must continue, so that together as a community we may begin to address this crisis that has brought destruction to so many lives.

How do you plan to work with the newly elected sheriff on the county’s needs?

I have had a continuing positive dialogue with Sheriff-elect Lowell Griffin during the campaign and I look forward to working with him to implement his initiatives. In his campaign, he has demonstrated a commitment to openness and dialogue that will be necessary to address the issues we face as a community. I would also welcome efforts to improve coordination, cooperation and partnership with the other law enforcement entities in the county.

Henderson County recently underwent a needs assessment of our county jail space and inmate population. Based on the results, there is now a need to reconfigure the elements of the existing facility, in order to comply with proposed N.C. Jail Standards that will go into effect in December. This should include attention to the behavioral health and substance abuse issues, as these populations tend to have a higher rate of recidivism. The county commissioners will need to work with the new sheriff to meet the future needs and management of this facility as well as pursue partnerships and alternatives to address the complex issues here.

If the Henderson County School Board comes back to the commissioners with a plan for Hendersonville High that is within budget and the original schedule, would you approve it? What are your main requirements and/or concerns for the project?

The Board of Education has chosen two architectural firms that have put forth a viable plan that will include the renovation and use of the Stillwell building as classrooms. They have been mindful of the desires of generations of Hendersonville High School alumni to continue to educate their children and grandchildren in their beloved school.

At the same time, renovation of the Stillwell building and retaining the current auditorium will save the county tax dollars. The chosen architect firms have addressed all the concerns put forth by the current commissioners. I am prepared to work with the Board of Education to move the Hendersonville High School project to completion.

How should a county commissioner balance the needs of a growing community when projects like road expansions and developments are met with public opposition?

It is time for a review of our existing Comprehensive Plan for the county. We need a shared vision of what we want for our future and the future of our families. This vision should be in keeping with sensible planning for growth and economic development while maintaining the traditional character of the area.

Transportation projects should be designed to serve the residents, businesses and visitors to our county. Proposed projects should be openly discussed, with public participation, before submission to the NCDOT planning process (to avoid situations like the Balfour Parkway).

We need to take a long-term approach to future zoning. Abrupt and arbitrary rezoning (such as the outdoor firing range on Macedonia Road) destabilizes a sense of community and disrupts individual and family lives.

Development must be responsible and sustainable in both density and location, recognizing that development generates major needs in infrastructure construction and maintenance with increased demands for services such as law enforcement, emergency services of fire and EMS, schools and roads. Commercial and industrial development should occur in appropriate corridors and locations instead of invasion/incursion into residential, agricultural or natural areas. The unique natural character of our area as well as our agriculture make up a significant part of our economy and should be protected to ensure continued economic success.

In addition, we need to be mindful of living in harmony with our natural resources. A review of current steep slope regulations should be undertaken to ensure the safety of residents and property. In addition, such projects as the Oklawaha Greenway and protection of existing watersheds should be encouraged. Maintaining high-quality water resources is essential to our economy and the health of our citizens.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

We learned from the HopeRx forum that the break down of “community” leads to issues like drug addiction. My dictionary defines community as “A group of people living in the same locality, under the same government.” The current board has failed the community in several areas. Some examples include:

Residents who use Jackson Park asked for upgrades such as more rest rooms with improved access, yet commissioners voted not to seek available state grant funding in the amount of $500,000.

The current Fletcher Library is small, has mold issues and inadequate parking. The town has a 5-acre tract on their town center campus and the major employers in that area of the county would support a new library with an auditorium. This is a perfect opportunity for town/industry/county to work together for a solution.

The Tuxedo community has been begging for a library for years to no avail.

These are just some of the projects I would support as a Henderson County commissioner. The current chairman, at a League of Women Voters candidate forum, remarked that “we always ask for public input." Mr. Chairman, if you do such a great job soliciting public input, then why do we get significant protests about things like the Balfour Parkway or proposed sheriff’s indoor shooting range on the Blue Ridge Community College campus?

It is time for true transparency in how the commission conducts business. My goals will be to listen, encourage greater public participation and bring greater transparency and accountability regarding the decision-making process. Vote Pat Sheley to be your voice on The Henderson County commission. SHE-LEY will speak for you!