The town of Fletcher will see fresh leadership in its newly elected mayor, and other key figures in local government say they are ready to work together and move forward.

Rod A. Whiteside defeated longtime mayor Bill Moore in Tuesday’s municipal elections. Moore held the post for 18 years. The mayor-elect, town manager, and council members have all commended the work Moore has done in his nearly two decades in the role.

Whiteside plans to seek the input of veteran town leaders as he assumes his new position, and they seem ready to help.

New mayor outlines objectives, plans for town

Whiteside says he is excited to work with the Town Council and learn from their experience.

All four council members have served more than one term. Whiteside says he plans to use their knowledge to benefit his new role and the town.

"I appreciate their cooperation and look forward to working with them," he said.

One of the main topics he wants to address is a student recognition program. The goal is to show residents the town government is concerned and cares about what is going on in their lives, he said. Nominations would come from the schools.

He also believes it will get more residents to attend council meetings. When a child receives recognition, he explained, their families will attend the meeting and be able to see the issues before the council.

Whiteside also said he plans to be active and visible in his role as mayor. He did a great deal of listening during his campaign, and has made a promise that it won’t stop now that he has been elected.

The mayor-elect says he fully supports the Heart of Fletcher town center project and a new library. For the town center project specifically, Whiteside thinks the first step is reaching out to developers and establishing corporate connections.

Another thing high on Whiteside’s priority list is improving connections with residents. While campaigning and being out in the community, he said he came across individuals who didn’t seem to know who their elected officials were.

"I believe it is our responsibility to make that happen, not the residents," he said.

Whiteside also acknowledges the issue of affordable living. Most people have different answers for what that means. 

"For me it means your average, hardworking individual, the ones who are the backbone of this community, need a place to live without the cost taking up their entire paycheck," he said.

The mayor of Fletcher has several duties, including presiding over council meetings and serving as the spokesperson for the community, according to the town’s website. The mayor also serves as a key representative in intergovernmental relations, and only casts a vote in tie-breaking situations.

Town manager looks back on growth, toward future

While the leadership has been mostly the same during Mark Biberdorf’s tenure as town manager, he has seen a lot of change in the more than a decade he’s held the post, particularly in terms of growth.

New governance can offer a chance to look at the issues, he said.

"Change is always an interesting time, and it all depends on how you receive it," he said "You can adapt to different ideas and there’s an opportunity to re-examine things. People deal with that in all different sorts of ways. This is a good opportunity for Whiteside to step in here and provide his leadership and own style for the community." 

While Fletcher has seen rapid growth, particularly in the early 2000s with housing developments, the town has remained stable in terms of industry and manufacturing, Biberdorf said.

"Even in the recession we did fairly well," he recalled. "When we came out, you started to see the residential growth come back."

Biberdorf believes affordable housing and access to affordable, high-speed internet are high priorities for the residents of Fletcher. Tax rates and property values are also high on the list.

He said he isn’t aware of any controversial issues or public outcries that led to Tuesday’s election results, and can’t say exactly what was on voters’ minds.

The town manager’s job is heavily tied to the council, which the mayor presides over. The manager prepares a budget for the council’s consideration, recruits, hires and supervises government staff, carries out and oversees policies, and serves as the council’s chief adviser. 

Biberdorf and Whiteside will meet Monday to discuss issues. Both men have expressed a willingness and openness to working together.

Council member details hope for town, new leadership

Longtime council member Bob Davy of District 3 says Whiteside’s leadership should bring a new outlook, and he hopes Whiteside does as well as the previous mayor.

"We all want him to succeed," Davy said of Whiteside. "That is what is unique about this council. We all get along and want what’s best for Fletcher. We disagree sometimes, but we all move forward. We do it because we want what’s best for the town."

Davy also mentioned tax rates as being a concern of voters. He also believes parks and greenways are high priorities. 

As for growth, Davy agrees with Biberdorf that it has slowed down compared to what it was in the early 2000s. He knows affordable living is key. 

"That is a really hard nut to crack," he said. "The value of land anywhere here in the mountains makes affordable living really tough. Everywhere in the mountains is struggling with that issue."

As for how Whiteside will handle his new role, Davy said he hopes he will take the time to listen to all opinions.

The first council meeting with Whiteside as mayor will be held at 7 p.m. Dec. 11 at Fletcher Town Hall, 300 Old Cane Creek Road.

Reach Rebecca Walter at rebecca.walter@blueridgenow.com