Preston Blakely won a resounding victory in his race for Fletcher Town Council on Nov. 5, taking 72% of the vote in his contest against incumbent Hugh Clark.
While turnout in a small township is also small—the final vote count was 274 to 106—the nearly three-to-one margin of victory reflected both enthusiasm for a new, young candidate and Blakely’s unflagging campaign outreach.
Blakely is a 25-year-old graduate of UNC-Greensboro and earned his Master’s in Public Affairs from Western Carolina University. Both in the primary and the general election, he had squadrons of supporters who knocked on doors and walked the streets of his hometown to generate enthusiasm among voters. Clearly the effort worked.
Asked about the success of his first attempt at public office, Blakely told The Urban News, “It was a grass-roots campaign. Going door to door paid off in the long run. I’m grateful to my family and everybody who supported me in the campaign, who came out and helped in any way.”
Blakely learned about activism—and the support of family—early in life. He is the grandson of WNC’s legendary civil rights icon Oralene Graves Simmons, who integrated Mars Hill College (now University) in 1961 and later founded the Martin Luther King, Jr. Association of Asheville and Buncombe County. His parents are Jonathan and Namurah Blakely, owners of Quality Janitorial Service in Asheville, who have lived in Fletcher for 20 years.
And now, he says, “I’m excited to get started.”
His plans and goals are both general and specific. Blakely wants to “get the community engaged in our decision-making process. It’s important for us to be proactive with our growth,” he said, so that residents will have a clear voice and the community as a whole can articulate and implement a clear vision for the town.
“I’m also going to continue to advocate for a new Henderson County Library branch in Fletcher. It’s the second-most used branch in the county, so it’s really strained for resources.”