Meet the 2008 county candidates

Published 12:17 pm Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Eight candidates are vying for three open Polk County Board of Commissioner seats with three incumbents being challenged by five candidates.

Five Republicans filed this year and will face off in a primary to select the top three to run against the three Democratic candidates.

For Republicans, incumbents Harry Denton, Ted Owens and Tom Pack will be challenged in the primary against&bsp;&bsp; JoAnn Miksa-Blackwell and David Moore. Following the primary, the top three will run against Democratics&bsp; Ray Gasperson, Renee McDermott and Cindy Walker.

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Polk County&squo;s primary will be held May 6 with the general election on Nov. 4.

The candidates have all been asked to submit biographies introducing themselves and explaining why they are running for county commissioner. The following is a brief introduction of all eight candidates:

JoAnn Miksa-Blackwell (R)

Miksa-Blackwell has lived in Polk County for 18 years and is married to Polk native Michael Blackwell. They operate Blackwell Electric.

Miksa-Blackwell received a bachelor&squo;s of science degree in Business from Western Carolina University and will complete the Masters of Entrepreneurship degree from Western Carolina University in May. She has served on the Economic Development Commission since 2002 and is currently chair of the Certified Entrepreneurial Community.

Miksa-Blackwell is employed by Mountain BizWorks as a business developer and works with local entrepreneurs to help start or expand businesses in Polk County. Prior to her Mountain BizWorks&squo; employment, she was the administrative director for the Pacolet Area Conservancy for five years.

Harry Denton (R)

Denton was first elected in&bsp; 2002 and served as chairman of the board for one year. Denton previously served on the Columbus Town Council for three years and served on the Polk County Planning Board for 10 years as well as the Polk recreation board for 8 years. He is currently on the board of social services and health department board. Denton is a veteran of the armed services having served during the Berlin Crisis and Cuban Crisis.

Denton is a Polk County native.

David Moore (R)

Moore, of the Coopers Gap Community, is a graduate of Polk Central High School.

He is currently employed with Mountain Professionals, Inc. as a DMV certified driving instructor for Rutherford and Polk Counties and was previously employed with the Sherwin Williams Paint Co. for 16 and 1/2 years.

He is married to the former Lorraine Bailey of Sunny View and has two children, Justin and Stacey. Moore is a a member of Pleasant Grove Baptist Church where he is the assistant music director and former youth Sunday School teacher. Moore has also served as PTSO President and leadership team member at Polk County High School. He currently serves on the board of directors for Polk Vocational Services.

Ted Owens (R)

Owens was first elected in 2004 and previously served on the board of commissioners for five years where he served as chairman. He served as Mayor of Columbus and was chairman of the Polk County Republican Party for six years previously. Owens retired as a Senior Territory Manager for the Mid-Eastern U.S.A. for Milliken & Co. after working there for about 49 years.

Owens, a Polk County native, is a Navy Veteran and served two tours of duty in the Persian Gulf. He is currently a deacon and Sunday School teacher at Coopers Gap Baptist Church. He is married to the former Elna Lynch, of Sunny View and has three children and six grandchildren.

Tom Pack (R)

Pack was first elected to the board of commissioners in 2004.

He served as chairman of&bsp;&bsp; the board of commissioners during his first term and has held the vice-chairman position as well.

Pack was born at St. Luke&squo;s Hospital in Tryon and graduated from Landrum High School. He has been in the carpet manufacturing industry for about 25 years. Pack has held such positions as plant manager for Spinning Wheel Rugs in Hendersonville, project manager and plant manager of&bsp; Mohawk Industries in Landrum and is currently vice-president of manufacturing at White Oak Carpets in Spindale.

Ray Gasperson (D)

Gasperson is a native of Buncombe County and moved to Polk County seven years ago.

Gasperson has been a small business owner for 31 years as&bsp; a general contractor and serves on the board of the Collinsville Equestrian Trail Association (CETA).

He graduated from the University of North Carolina-Asheville with a political science major. At UNC-Asheville, Gasperson was student body president in 1972-1973. He has served in leadership capacities for CETA and St. Mark&squo;s Lutheran Church Council in Asheville.

Renee McDermott (D)

McDermott is a&bsp; retired environmental attorney, former county attorney and mediator.

She holds a B.A. in English and journalism, a M.S. in mathematics and science education and a J.D. (law) degree.

McDermott lives in the Tryon Township and has been active in many governmental committees, including the Land Use Planning Committee, the Ground Water Sustainability Project and the Ridgetop and Mountainside Preservation Group.

McDermott has also long served on the board of the Pacolet Area Conservancy (PAC), where she prepares drafts of conservation agreements.

Cindy Walker (D)

Walker moved to Polk County from Raleigh four years ago to settle in her family home, the Cromer House in the Pacolet Valley with her children, Hannah and Dylan. She owns Stony Hill Fiber Arts, a knitting design company and teaches after school art enrichment through Builder&squo;s Club and Tryon Elementary School.

Walker is the chair of the Polk County Recycling Board and has been instrumental in establishing the Tryon Recycling Center and assisting Polk County in its efforts to increase recycling. She has served on the Big Brothers, Big Sister Advisory Council, South Eastern Animal Fiber Fair Board and is an active member of the Democratic Community Action League.