Chuck Archerd is with his daughters. L-R are: Meredith Miller, Claire Ake, Chuck Archerd, Kelly Archerd, and Kathleen Archerd. Photo by Anne Archerd.
By Pete Zamplas- Chuck Archerd wants to lead the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners for what he says is more realistic and beneficiary guidance, such as to ease tax and regulatory burdens and unify support for an expanded I-26 to ease traffic congestion.
Republican businessman Archerd and Democrat Brownie Newman, a commissioner, are running against each other specifically to be the next chairman of commissioners. The winner Nov. 8 succeeds David Gantt, 60, a Democrat who is stepping down after lead the board for eight years. Early voting starts Thursday, Oct. 20.
Newman and Archerd are slated to speak in a lunch forum Wednesday, Oct. 26, in Leadership Asheville Forum’s Critical Issues series. The moderator is Western Carolina University Political Science Dept. Chr. and Prof. Chris Cooper.
The Buncombe GOP unanimously chose accountant and investor Archerd in August, over former Asheville councilman Dr. Carl Mumpower, to replace primary winner Miranda DeBruhl. DeBruhl had beaten Chad Nesbitt in the GOP primary. But she suddenly dropped out, stating she could no longer adequately serve due to new, extensive business travels out of state.
Archerd is touted by supporters for his budgeting expertise, fiscal restraint, financial prioritizing and level-headedness. “I’m a very reasonable, rational person” who takes only “calculated” risks, Archerd told The Tribune. “I can find common ground,” yet stick to most important principles. He wants to scale back county spending and debt, and prevent a “very liberal, left-wing majority on the (seven-seat) Commission.” Democrats have a 4-3 edge.
Newman was elected to Asheville City Council in 2003 and ’07, then to the county board in ’12 and ’14. He is in District 1, for Downtown Asheville. He is midway into his term. There are three districts. Only voters in a district elects its two commissioners, to four-year terms. The chairman is elected county-wide — as the most powerful official in Buncombe.
Newman started campaigning a year ahead of Archerd. But Archerd analyzed each precinct’s voting patterns, and sees his “clear path to victory” county-wide.
Archerd is displaying much commitment, energy and wry humor to his candidacy and the issues. “They say an extroverted CPA looks at the other person’s feet, too, instead of only their own.”
Several feet coalesced, as he and four others staged a hand-held version of the classic Burma-Shave roadside sign sequence. The shaving cream company posted ad slogans a few words at a glance.
Archerd’s recent phrase was “This Traffic … Brought to …You by … Brownie Newman.” It satirized Newman’s opposition to road expansions, including widening I-26 which can ease traffic on secondary roads. He said he might do it again a time or two, to to “highlight the issue” of traffic congestion and roadway needs.
Archerd held up one of his campaign signs, as the sign finale. His stunt was along Hendersonville Road/U.S. 25 South, south of entrance to Blue Ridge Parkway, Wednesday, Oct. 12. It lasted an hour — 5-6 p.m. As Archerd drove from his office just north of Rock Hill Road, at 4:45 p.m., “traffic was backed up three miles on Long Shoals Road. That’s typical.”
Satirizing his foe’s stances, Archerd asks “what’s worse for the environment than having (fuming) cars bumper-to-bumper? Too often they’re ‘parked’ on I-26, Hendersonville Road, Sweeten Creek, Smoky Park and New Leicester highways” even beyond rush hours.
Newman led WNC Alliance, in 1997-2003. Around the close of his reign, it was among environmental groups filing suit against the state to block plans to widen I-26 from Asheville toward U.S. 74, Archerd noted. “The project was fully funded, the contractor selected. It was ready to go. The lawsuit stopped it in its tracks. Once it was tied up in courts,” money went elsewhere.
Over a dozen years later, the local project’s cost has soared to an estimated $454.7 million. Funds for 2020-25 can cover the first of two phases but not yet both, according to DOT officials. The first is to widen I-26 from four lanes to eight, from I-240/I-40 to Fletcher. The second is to tentatively to go to six lanes, on to Flat Rock. DOT plans to finalize the number of lanes next spring and start work as early as 2020.
Newman “said he’s for quality of life,” Archerd said. “But that lawsuit made our quality of life significantly worse. We’re all suffering from such stupid decisions.”
He said he did not spot Newman at a state DOT public hearing Oct. 13 in Arden on state plans to widen I-26, among elected officials in a session with DOR nor among 150 in DOT’s public open house also that day. In these sessions, “many career DOT people, among others, pointed at my opponent” for nixing I-26 widening.
Most motorists driving by Archerd’s sign message honked or flashed a thumbs up, he said. He jested a detractor “utilized the middle digit of the hand, to ‘wave’ at us.”
Humor can “soften differences,” Archerd said. “If we all laugh, it makes it much more difficult to be angry. (U.S. Rep.) Mark Meadows is known as the nicest guy on Capitol Hill,” but strong in acting. “It’s very energizing to talk to the people — even very liberal progressives I totally disagree with. Everybody’s got a story, and more in common than we may realize.” Often goals are shared, but differences are over best policies to attain them.
Archerd said he pities bitter zealots “who don’t laugh, who seem angry at the core. I try to put a smile on their faces. Life is short. You can’t steal my joy. I can keep my cool, because I know who’s (God) in charge. I’m a man of strong faith. An outcome may not be the one I want. But it’s the one He’s allowing. And I can accept that.”
Archerd, 58, keeps fit. He hiked 320 miles over 30 days on the Appalachian Trail at age 51. He and wife Anne have four daughters ranging in age from 22 to 31; a grandson is three, another a toddler. They live in Biltmore Park, in District 3. He ran in the D3 GOP primary in ’12.
Beneath the wry humor, Archerd is serious about his mission. “I realize what we have at stake.” He quotes Edmund Burke: “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” He vowed to be a doer, as in his business.
He is principal owner of Archerd-Bell Investment Group, LLC for over a decade. He said Robert Bell Jr. and Robert Bell III together own the other half. Archerd also led IronStone Investments, LLC starting in 2001. He was managing partner of Archerd & Cuthbertson, PLLC, in 1997-2004.
Archerd-Bell manages 15 large commercial properties it bought in several states through 2008, until the Great Recession.
Archerd is registered agent for more than 30 active companies in this state alone. He also invests for families.
He organized investment groups to buy each property — with as many as 137 investors. “I’d take in investor money, to provide equity and at least 50 percent loan-to-value. That’s a fairly low risk.” For instance, he said, to buy Ridgefield Business Center over 15 years ago, he pooled $9 million from investors and borrowed that much more to buy it. Its three buildings total180,000 square feet. It is near Asheville Outlets.
The firm’s biggest project, in Nashville, Tenn., is a 140,000-square-foot office building kept full of renters. He said it “provides a great monthly cash flow, for our investors.”
The Omaha, Neb. native has worked in accounting starting in 1979, in Dallas. He then earned an MBA in management and finance from Southern Methodist in 1982, as the Mustangs’ “Pony Express” duo of Eric Dickerson and Craig James ran wild. Archerd’s accounting degree is from Florida, in ’79.
Newman helped start FLS (solar) Energy in ’08, then Headwaters Solar last year. He led Southern Appalachian Biodiversity Project in ‘93-97, then WNC Alliance. His B.A. in history and political science is from Warren Wilson College. The Pickens County, S.C. native has lived in Asheville since 1990, when in college. Brownie and Beth Newman live in Montford, with two daughters.
Archerd rips Newman for sounding overly picking in welcoming only “green” companies. “Holy mackerel. What are ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ companies?,” Archerd said. “I’m a big believer in personal freedom. The government’s role is to provide a framework, and let the free market forces drive the economy.” Don’t put up roadblocks. Don’t play favorites, and pick winners and losers. Let business people with the money at stake determine what will be best for them.”
He said “government needs to get out of the way” on land-use with its “myriad of regulations.” He wants more practicality, flexibility and room for exceptions from limits on (presumably very visible) structures on land above a certain height. “Instead of an arbitrary standard height, consider surrounding development and visibility.”
Archerd said “people are sick and tired of government telling them how to run their lives. Don’t tell them what they can’t do. Rather, say ‘here are ways you can do it.’ They should be helpful.”
He encountered costly red tape, when starting Regional Medical Park off Sweeten Creek Road. “We had a plan. They could say to fill in details, to comply with ordinances such as to set up erosion control. But we could not get a conceptual approval first. Instead, we had to invest over $100,000 to get the initial (more involved) approval. They make it very hard and expensive.” That scares many away from projects, or they pass on costs.
Property taxes especially sting owners of “land in the family for generations,” he said. “Taxes go up, but their income doesn’t.” His campaign hotline’s message ends with “If you vote for me, I’ll vote for you.”
The sole non-contested commissioner race is in District 1, where Democrat Jasmine Beach-Ferrara is unopposed. D2 incumbent Republican Mike Fryar faces Democrat Nancy Nehls Nelson.
District 3 in Western Buncombe has two contests. Incumbent Joe Belcher is challenged by Democrat Ed Hay. The other race is to fill the remaining two years of DeBruhl’s seat. The GOP chose former N.C. Rep. Tim Moffitt to fill in until then, and later picked former race car driver Robert Pressley as its candidate. He goes against Democrat David King.
Seats of Democrats Holly Jones in D1 and Ellen Frost in D2 are on the ballot in two years.
For more on Archerd’s stances, check chuckarcherd.com/issues/. For more on his foe, check brownienewman.com.
The Critical Issues Luncheon is Oct. 26 in the Country Club of Asheville at 11:45 a.m, for $25 ($20 if in LAF). Reservations are required by Friday; call Nancy Williams at 250-2353.