Meet the candidates: Polk County commissioner, sheriff

Published 8:00 am Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Next month, Polk County voters will decide their next set of local leaders and their new top law enforcement officer.

In addition to national and state level races on the ballot, county voters will be asked to select three people to sit on the Polk County Board of Commissioners, as well as who will serve as the new Polk County sheriff during next month’s midterm election, which will take place Tuesday, Nov. 6.

To help familiarize readers with those appearing on the ballot for these two races, we have sent questions to the five candidates running for commissioner and the two candidates running for sheriff. We will run their answers throughout this week.

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Also running for commissioner is Republican Mari Cartwright, and running for sheriff is John D. Metcalf. Both are running as write-in candidates.

Early voting for the election begins on Wednesday, Oct. 17, and ends Saturday, Nov. 3. Early voting will only be done at the Polk County Board of Elections this year, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on weekdays and 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturdays.

For information on local voting rules and regulations, residents may visit

Carolyn Ashburn

Name: Carolyn Ashburn

Age: 70

Community: Saluda

Position sought: Polk County commissioner

Party affiliation: Democrat

Educational background

• BA in psychology

• MA in speech pathology

Professional background

• Speech therapist in North Carolina Public Schools

Current occupation

• Retired

Previous political experience

• Saluda City commissioner, 2013-2017

• Saluda Planning Board, 2011-2013

Community involvement

• Polk County Appearance Commission (current board secretary)

• Saluda Community Land Trust (currently board chair)

• Saluda Historic Depot (current board member)

• St. Matthew’s Church (current board member)

• Polk County Adopt-a-Highway (current Saluda chair)

• Saluda Downtown Foundation

• Saluda Business Association

• Saluda Garden Club

• Polk County Big Brothers, Big Sisters

• Polk County Guardian Ad Litem

What will be your top priority if elected?

My major priority is to have transparency and accountability as absolute goals for our county government, whether it’s paid employees or elected officials.

I want to see the officials of our towns and townships work together with the county commissioners to solve the common problems that we all have. We would surely benefit by sharing knowledge and resources.

We need planned growth that preserves of our rural way of life including our natural resources. We welcome extra tax dollars that growth brings, but we need to make sure that the county uses those dollars wisely especially in the underserved areas of the county.

Paul “Little” Beiler

Name: Paul “Little” Beiler

Age: 41

Community: Green Creek

Position sought: Polk County commissioner

Party affiliation: Republican

Educational background

• High school

Professional background

• Realtor

Current occupation(s)

• Owner of Beiler Construction

• Pastor

Previous political experience

• None

Community involvement

• Former president of Polk County Youth Football

• Current board member of PCYF

What will be your top priority if elected?

To make decisions that are based on sound judgement and in the best interests of the majority of residents. We’re fast becoming a destination for retirees who look at Polk County as a beautiful and affordable place to live. We must keep taxes low and affordable. In particular, we must place a premium on our longtime residents, whose families who have shaped Polk County for generations. And essential to this is the need for affordable housing, so we don’t disadvantage anyone wanting to make a home here.

Chrelle Booker

Name: Chrelle Booker

Community: Tryon (native)

Position sought: Polk County commissioner

Party affiliation: Democrat

Educational background

• Associate of Applied Science in television/radio broadcasting

• North Carolina Real Estate License

Professional background

• Television broadcasting, producer and director

Current occupation(s)

• Human resources manager, Dove Broadcasting

• Federal communications commission public files administrator, Dove Broadcasting

• Realtor, Cielo Real Estate

Previous political experience

• Town of Tryon councilwoman, present

Community involvement:

• Board of The Tryon Historical Museum, three-year term

• Tryon Town Council representative on the Eastside Citizens Advisory Committee

• Volunteer at the Tryon Fine Arts Center

• Creative director for a two-year community film project

• Donor to the American Red Cross

• Active member of St. Luke CME Church, Tryon

What will be your top priority if elected?

To actively listen to the citizens of Polk County. Your voices are important and valuable, as well as all material facts and any supporting materials in order to make sound decisions for preservation and growth in Polk County. I know about the hard work that went into making our schools number one in the state, because of faculty, students, parents and concerned citizens. I want to make sure the progress made isn’t hampered. Senior citizens, I hear you when you say you’re not tech savvy and need another solution to stay informed. I’d like to have a program where a senior citizen can be paired with a tech savvy student to work on a project that he/she is given school credit for, and the senior citizen learns how to blog, produce a YouTube video, text and other uses for smartphones. It’s whatever the individual senior citizen needs. In short, this is a service position, and I believe the residents of Polk County deserves five-star service. I want to serve you well.

Ray Gasperson

Name: Ray Gasperson

Age: 67

Community: Green Creek Township

Position sought: Polk County commissioner

Party affiliation: Democrat

Educational background

• Public Schools of Buncombe County, North Carolina

• University of North Carolina Asheville, political science major

• Graduate Realtor Institute

• Extensive continuing education courses

Professional background

• Small business entrepreneur for more than 40 years

• Licensed North Carolina Realtor

• Licensed North Carolina General Contractor

Current occupation(s)

• Real estate broker

• Operating family farm

Previous political experience

• Three consecutive terms on Polk County Board of Commissioners

Community involvement

• Polk BOC

• Numerous boards and committees connected to Polk County, including Isothermal Community College Board of Trustees and Rutherford-Polk-McDowell Health Board

• Member of Green Creek Ruritan and CETA Board of Directors

What will be your top priority if elected?

My top priority will be continuing to work at making certain that Polk County Government is being governed efficiently and effectively, while maintaining transparency on fiscal and policy matters. Making the highest and best use of taxpayer money and the time and talents of county employees and volunteers is also of paramount importance to me.

Tommy W. Melton

Name: Tommy W. Melton

Age: 74

Community: Columbus

Position sought: Polk County commissioner

Party affiliation: Republican

Educational background

• Tryon High School

• North Greenville College

• Pat Ryan School of Finance

Professional background

• Banking

• Finance

• Commercial lending

• Automobile industry

Current occupation(s)

• Retired

Previous political experience

• Columbus Town Council (2003-2006)

• Polk County Commissioner (2006-2010, 2016 to present)

Community involvement

• St. Luke’s Hospital Board of Trustees (11 years)

• Consolidated Human Services Agency

• Isothermal Planning and Development Commission

• Polk/Rutherford/McDowell Health Department Board

• Polk County Recreation Board

• Western Recovery Task Force

• Public Works Advisory Council

• I have been a Big Brother, an avid supporter of Lenny Rizzo and his furry friends, and supporter of Polk County Humane Society

• I am a past trustee of Columbus Baptist Church

What will be your top priority if elected?

My top priority will be to maintain that delicate balance of growth and development versus retention of the small-town atmosphere and rural beauty we are so blessed to have in Polk County. As we are all aware, this is a huge challenge in light of recent developments. Polk County’s School system is rated number one in North Carolina, and we need to maintain the level of excellence in our educational system, and bring job opportunities to our graduates as we support clean industry.

BJ Bayne

Name: BJ Bayne

Position sought: Polk County sheriff

Party affiliation: Democrat

I have been in law enforcement for 15 years, while serving 10 years with the Polk County Sheriff’s Office. I have served in various capacities while at the sheriff’s office, including a deputy on patrol, a school resource officer at Polk County High School, and an investigator, and I am currently the captain of the investigation division. I also oversee and maintain the county’s Sex Offender Registry, and supervise investigations as well as school resource officers.

My other five years of law enforcement consisted of working at the University of North Carolina-Asheville Police Department. I was responsible for the investigation, training and patrol division before being promoted to assistant police chief. My duties evolved more into an administrative role, where I became responsible for creating and implementing safety plans and maintaining the vision of the police department.

Prior to beginning a career in law enforcement, I was a city mail carrier for over 10 years with the United States Postal Service.

Besides from my daily work and duties at the sheriff’s office, I currently serve in various capacities in the community. I serve as the chair for the Polk County Child Fatality and Prevention Team, vice-chair on the Green Creek Fire and Rescue Board, Green Creek Community Center Board, as well as on the Mental Health Task Force and the Substance Abuse Coalition.

I reside in the Green Creek Community, where I am married to Eric, who is the owner of Complete Tree Service. I have three children; Heather, Shelby and Zack, and I am a member of Pea Ridge Baptist Church.

What would be your top priority, if elected?

When I am elected sheriff, my top priority will be protecting and serving the citizens of Polk County. By ensuring a smooth transition for employees as to not interrupt services for our citizens and not put an extra burden on our budget halfway through the fiscal year. I will work with our county leaders to meet the growing need for more patrol coverage throughout the communities. Over the years, the demands for the sheriff’s office has increased without an increase within our patrol division. I have formulated a plan with the current number of staffing to redesignate existing positions. This reassignment of current job responsibilities within the sheriff’s office will immediately increase the number of patrol officers per shift. I realize that every position within the sheriff’s office is essential to providing safety; I also know that the officers on patrol are our first line defense or contact.

Tim Wright

Name: Tim Wright

Age: 47

Community: Columbus

Position sought: Polk County sheriff

Party affiliation: Republican

Educational background

• Tryon High School, 1989

• Basic law enforcement training, Isothermal Community College, 1994

• A.A.S. in criminal justice from Isothermal Community College, 2006

• B.S. in human services from Garner Webb University, 2009

• M.S. in criminal justice administration from Methodist University, 2017

• Advanced law enforcement certification, North Carolina Criminal Justice Standards, 2004

• Distinguished Law Enforcement Executive Program, North Carolina State University, 2014-2105 Session

• West Point Leadership Program, 2016

• Criminal Investigator Certification Program, North Carolina Justice Academy, 2002

• Law enforcement general instructor, North Carolina Criminal Justice Standards, 2000

• Law enforcement specialized firearms instructor, North Carolina Criminal Justice Standards, 2002

• Active shooter/rapid deployment specialized instructor, North Carolina Criminal Justice Standards, 2003

• Clandestine laboratory investigator, 2013

• Criminal interdiction, 2007

• Basic arson investigation, 2007

Professional background

• United States Navy, 1990-1994

• Tryon Police Department, 1994-present

• Adjunct professor, Isothermal Community College Criminal Justice Program, 2010-present

Current occupation(s)

• Captain, Tryon Police Department

• Professor, Isothermal Community College Criminal Justice Program, Polk County High School

Previous political experience

• None

Community involvement

• Twenty-four years in law enforcement working with various community organizations

• Teaching and mentoring criminal justice students

What will be your top priority if elected?

My top priority for the Polk County Sheriff’s Office will be implementing accountability and professional standards for all deputies and divisions, and improving relationships with local, regional, state and federal law enforcement agencies. The citizens of Polk County deserve the best possible law enforcement services and protections as well as deputies who are vested in the communities they serve. Ensuring that all employees are held to the highest professional standards consistently will ensure that the citizens of Polk County have deputies they can count on, get to know individually and be proud of. Implementing professional standards and accountability will also help to improve the Polk County Sheriff’s Office’s relationships with surrounding law enforcement and community partners, so that we can work toward long-term, measurable solutions to drug and property crimes, and a comprehensive reduction in all crimes affecting Polk County.