Name as it appears on the ballot: Mike Dasher
Campaign website: www.mikedasher.org
Years in Chatham: 12
What are the three most important issues facing Chatham County? If elected, what are your top three priorities in addressing those issues? Please be specific.
I believe the most important issues facing our County are managing our growth while protecting our environment and character, ensuring a high-quality education for our students, and investing in the infrastructure and assets that will make Chatham County a place people want to live and invest in. My top priority in addressing our growth will be implementing the Comprehensive Land Use Plan and zoning ordinances that reflect and protect Chatham’s unique character and natural assets. To address our education needs, I will work with the School Board to implement realistic school construction plans and increase funding for hiring and retaining high-quality teachers for schools throughout the County. Lastly, I will work with our towns and developers to ensure that as new residents and businesses locate here the added stresses and increased needs for infrastructure, staff, and facilities are accounted for and adequately funded.
What in your record as a public official or other experience demonstrates your ability to be effective on the Chatham County Board of Commissioners? (This might include career or community service; be specific about its relevance to this office.)
I served on the County’s Affordable Housing Advisory Board as well as the Green Building and Sustainable Energy Advisory Board. I was 3rd Vice Chair of the Chatham County Democratic Party and Chair of my local Precinct. I own and operate a small business in Chatham County. Prior to that, most of my professional career was in the non-profit sector, managing construction for affordable housing providers. My background shows both my commitment to improving communities and my day-to-day efforts to make those improvements. My long involvement in development and building is the kind of experience that can help the Board as it faces the tremendous challenges and changes that Chatham Park and other development will bring to our county. I have degrees in Political Science and Finance which provide a foundation for understanding the complexities of governing. Finally, as a small business owner, I have learned that the most important part of my job is listening to others. As a Commissioner, I will encourage a thoughtful, deliberative approach that involves our citizen advisory boards and provides avenues for public input and involvement at every opportunity.
How do you define yourself politically, and how does your political philosophy show itself in your past achievements and present campaign platform?
I define myself as a progressive Democrat. My guiding philosophy is that the public interest and private interests are sometimes misaligned; in those instances, the government exists to protect the public interest. My platform envisions a County that prioritizes our shared interest in order to protect what is here and to plan adequately for what is coming. My background and experience in affordable housing, sustainability, politics, and business shape my view of government as a means to achieving the common good.
Countywide zoning has been a contentious issue in Chatham County over the last year. Please articulate your position on this topic, and your thoughts on the commission’s decision in August to adopt R-! and R-5 zoning for previously unzoned parts of the county.
I was among the many residents who spoke in support of Countywide zoning prior to the Board’s initial vote on this issue in November, 2015. My position then and now is that zoning helps to provide an essential tool for managing the growth that is coming. It is important to note again that the approved plan grandfathers current businesses and protects agricultural enterprises. I firmly believe that zoning protects the property rights and property values even of those who aren’t in favor of the plan, and that time will confirm the positive nature and positive intent of the BOC’s decision to begin the county-wide zoning process. I consider this an interim plan, designed to provide a starting point, and as a Commissioner, I will continue to seek as much public input as possible to create a comprehensive land use plan incorporating input from our diverse communities, preserving our environment, maintaining our rural character, and ensuring the rights of all our citizens.
Chatham is one of the fastest growing counties in the state, with development pressure coming in from Durham, Orange, and Wake counties. What are some specific solutions you would offer as to how the county should manage this growth?
We need to acknowledge that the interests of developers and the interests of Chatham County will not always be in alignment. Acknowledging that needn’t make it an adversarial process – it simply recognizes that the County’s obligation includes the interests of those who are here now as well as our future residents. The increased demands on County services, infrastructure, schools, and facilities all require that County officials, staff, and citizens be actively involved in the planning and decision-making process. We must ensure that developers consider the history and culture of the county. It is vital, to this end, that developers and county officials work together to protect our environment, our water resources, and our rural character. Finally, the county must ensure that associated needs and costs are shouldered by the appropriate parties.
The Chatham Park development, expected to dramatically increase the population of Pittsboro and surrounding areas over the next decade, continues to be a source of excitement and tension for Chatham residents. How is this project coming along, in your view?
The first components of Chatham Park have begun. The medical offices on Suttle Drive extend specialty and general services to our residents, and the planned commercial center next door will soon be underway. The changes are already happening, and the County must be proactive in anticipating and managing the direction of change. Representatives of Chatham Park need to continue regular meetings with the Board of Education, the Town Commissioners, and the County Commissioners. Additional citizen advisory boards are being formed to provide comprehensive public input as well. Finally, Chatham Park needs to improve its efforts to provide regular updates of progress and plans, not only in local media but through public forums.
To ensure that this project benefits the citizens of the county, every phase needs to be a collaborative effort. As work on Chatham Park continues, it is vital that the county work with developers to plan for transportation needs. In addition, we need continued vigilance to protect our environment, to ensure that infrastructure costs are borne by developers, and to ensure that planned communities include greenways and other connectivity options to retail and commercial activities.
It’s been a year since Chatham commissioners issued a two-year halt on fracking in the county. Do you agree this was the correct decision, and what do you believe is the correct path to take moving forward into next year, when the ban will either be lifted or renewed?
I am opposed to fracking in Chatham County and certainly adequate evidence exists to oppose it anywhere. There is no doubt that fracking is bad for the environment but also that the inherent boom/bust economic cycles are devastating to local communities. I was pleased that the Board of Commissioners enacted a moratorium on fracking in Chatham County, and I am committed to extending this ban and to prevent fracking through any possible legal avenues.