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Robert Pressley zooms to finish line of commissioner race


Robert Pressley has faced daring challenges, before this commissioner race. Here his Cartoon Network Chevy flips in the 1997 Daytona 500, with Shaggy looking as startled as ever.

By Pete Zamplas- Commissioner candidate Robert Pressley is a local sports celebrity as a longtime NASCAR driver, but citizens say they are more impressed by his populist common touch and eagerness to act on their concerns.

Pressley, 57, gained budgeting know-how in racing and now as a business entrepreneur. He owns Celebrity’s Hot Dogs, at 1409 Brevard Road (N.C. 191) for 12 years, in the Bent Creek community that is his lifelong home.

After retiring from Coca Cola in 1989, “I started my full-time race team from the ground up,” he told The Tribune. “There’s a lot of planning that goes into any business. “I went (racing) in circles, one day a week. On the other days, I worked on our budget and dealt with sponsors. Budgeting is part of what I bring to the county. We’ll carry that forward, for Buncombe County.”

He is running in one of two races in District 3 in western Buncombe County, which includes Enka and Leicester.

He faces Democrat David King. King was a commissioner in 2012-14. In ’14, Miranda DeBruhl beat King in the GOP primary then won the seat. King switched parties. He and Pressley vie for DeBruhl’s seat, after she vacated it to take on more out-of-state business duties limiting time to serve. The winner serves the remaining two years of the four-year term.

The Sierra Club endorses King, for environmentalism. As a commissioner, he often sided with Democrats such as for economic incentives and more eduction spending. He served on the Economic Development Coalition, and cites controlled growth and infrastructure as among issues. King worked for Borg Warner for 19 years, ran a realty firm for two years, and works on horse hooves as a farrier.

DeBruhl noted in May she was leaving the Commission. GOP precinct chairmen collectively picked former N.C. Rep. Tim Moffitt, to fill in until the election. By late July, they chose Pressley as their candidate while Democrats opted for King. In District 3’s other race, Vice-chairman Joe Belcherm a retired manufactured home exec, is challenged by Democrat Ed Hay. Bankruptcy attorney Hay was on Asheville City Council in 1995-2001. He aligned his campaign with King’s.

Pressley is greatly touted. “Robert is a longtime Buncombe County native and is a business owner,” long active in GOP politics and ready for a direct role, Buncombe GOP Chr. Nathan West stated. “He doesn’t want to do merely what’s right for one group. He wants to do what’s right for Buncombe County. That reflects his servant’s heart.”


Robert Pressley is running for commissioner.

Pressley said “we have to have a good group of commissioners to make good decisions for all three districts.” He can “bring to the table” a fresh perspective to “get everybody to look at an issue. You’re not going to make everyone happy. But we should make the right decision, overall for the county.”

Gentlemanly Pressley is enjoying his first political campaign. “I’m a people person. You get 200,000 people at a NASCAR race. You see 3,000 people that weekend. I’ve made myself accessible.” He does that, too, as a candidate. “I’m available, out in the forefront.”

Gaging public views and priorities is crucial, Pressley said. “The first thing as a commissioner is you gotta listen to the people,” he emphasized. “We’re hitting everywhere we can. I appreciate the support. Many families have known our family for the last 100 years. We’re not talking about racing. We’re talking about the issues.”

District 3 has “many elderly people,” he said. “The biggest thing I’m hearing is people are concerned about property taxes. They don’t want rate hikes” for more spending that Democrats favor. “We need to take care of senior citizens with family roots. Many are veterans, who have served our country. Their income is limited. They tell me how hard it is to live off of Social Security, and keep up their houses. Some have to make payments on their property taxes,” for values rising over generations. “We need to do much more for them.”

Regarding land-use regulations, he said “many normal voters don’t really know about land restrictions. I’d like to explain what’s going on.”

Pressley spoke out about education, to The Tribune. “Most important to me is schools. We need to keep great teachers here. We must make sure that they have great tools to work with.”

Issues split by party vote on the seven-member board include in April, when the Democrat majority removed the question of criminal history from applications for county jobs.

Pressley is the bridge of three generations of NASCAR-racing Pressleys. Robert and Gina’s son Coleman Pressley, 28, races. Robert’s late father Bobby Eugene Pressley (1932-2004) was a short-track standout in NASCAR in the Sixties and Seventies. He raced stock cars for 36 years, from 1962-98. Charley, Robert’s eldest brother, was Harry Gant’s Cup crew chief in ’94.

Robert was 25th best in Cup points for both the 2000 and 2001 seasons. He ran 205 Cup races in nine years, in 1994-2002. He finished in the top ten of 11 Cup races. He was rookie of the year runner-up (to Ricky Craven), in 1995.

Pressley did best in NASCAR’s second series, now Xfinity. He had 10 wins, six poles and 76 top tens in 244 races over 12 seasons starting in 1983. He won two truck races and had 27 top tens, in three seasons including with Bobby Hamilton Racing.

Pressley succeeded Gant, in the familiar 33 Skoal Bandit Chevrolet in Cup racing. Leo Jackson Motorsports soon sold it to crew chief Andy Petree of Flat Rock, now FOX NASCAR’s rules analyst.

Pressley’s next ride stood out. Gary Bechtel’s no. 29 Cartoon Network Chevrolet in 1996-97 was adorned with faces of Scooby Doo and Shaggy. He flipped that car in the Daytona 500, but was not seriously injured. In 1990, he tapped out Michael Waltrip on Bristol’s short track, into a fence where it disintegrated upon impact. Waltrip survived.

Pressley shifted racing roles in this decade. In 2014 he prepared late-model cars in Asheville for Hayden Woods for area tracks, mentored Woods, and overseeing his team. He discovered him in 2011, as promotor reviving weekly racing at Kingsport (Tenn.) Speedway in the All-American Series.

Above all recently, he helped launch his son’s career. Coleman Pressley was 2010 United Auto Racing Association UARA-STARS late-model series champ. He advanced to Xfinity in 2009, in Asheville native Brad Daughtery’s car then raced for Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s JR Motorsports. Coleman began racing at six, in karts. At 17 in ‘06, he was the youngest driver ever to win a late-model race in Hickory. By ’14 while raising his own family, he was racing in Pro Cup and late model on weekends off as a crew chief in K&N Pro Series East and spotter for Brad Keselowski’s truck team.

For more on Robert Pressley and his candidacy, check:

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