Preston Blakely was elected to the Fletcher Town Council in 2019 with over 70% of the vote in his first bid for public office.
Now he has announced his candidacy for the top municipal job being vacated by retiring Mayor Rod A. Whiteside.
An alumnus of Asheville High School and UNC-Greensboro, Blakely double-majored in Political Science and African American and African Diaspora Studies. He then earned a Master of Public Affairs degree from Western Carolina University, where he was also a graduate assistant in the Public Policy Institute (PPI). In that role, he created performance metrics for the City of Hendersonville’s Public Works Department and was named the Outstanding Public Affairs Student in Public Management.
Blakely works in his parents’ family-owned business, putting him squarely in a political tradition of ensuring that elected officials are regular working people who truly represent their constituents’ values, morals, and priorities. He also identifies with a pattern of competent leadership that has served Fletcher well. Predecessors have helped shape the town’s once-amorphous identity through the “Heart of Fletcher” project—also known as the “Town Center”—and Blakely wants to ensure that the community continues to be welcoming to others but still feels like home to residents.
He says, “I want to serve as a compassionate and community-oriented mayor. We need educated, diverse, and new voices in these important spaces.”
Equity, Compassion, Justice
Blakely’s core principles include “equity, compassion, and commitment,” as well as effective communication with the public. While offering a platform of specific goals he hopes to accomplish, all of them are underpinned by his dedication to fairness and equal justice. For example, he is determined to ensure that all services are provided—and policies are formed and implemented—in a “just, fair, and equitable” manner.
He writes, “We have a housing shortage in Western North Carolina. We all need to work towards meaningful solutions to gain more affordable housing in our community.” And that workforce housing will be aimed at “factory workers, teachers, police officers, amongst others.”
Blakeley also pledges to make government “as transparent as possible. Government is accountable to the residents it serves.” To that end, he aims to implement performance measures to record data that can be used to better serve and report back to the community.
Fletcher Branch Library
One issue that is prominent in his campaign is the creation of a new Henderson County Library in Fletcher. He notes that, in a report from January 2020, the Fletcher branch had nearly 80,000 visitors, 85,000 items circulated, and over 9,000 questions answered each year. Clearly, he says, “The branch no longer meets the needs of the public.” In his campaign statement, he writes:
“The Fletcher Town Council has put its best foot forward to try to get this done.… We have designated funds in the fund balance towards a new library. We have discussed offering land to build the library. The Library Board of Trustees acknowledges the need. Nevertheless, County Commissioners assert that the burden of building a new library will be solely on the Town of Fletcher. That is absurd. Libraries are a County function, and the Town has put forth a strong effort to get this done. Why should this burden be on the Town when Fletcher residents pay county taxes as well?
A Legacy of Service
Blakely was born in Asheville and grew up in Fletcher. His parents, Namurah and Jonathan Blakely, Sr. of Fletcher, own Quality Janitorial Service, and his brother Jonathan Blakely, Jr. and sister Mia Simpson own Potential Sports and Fitness [see business profile p. 3], both based in South Asheville.
His public service is no accident: one grandmother is Civil Rights icon and Mars Hill native Oralene Simmons, the first Black student at Mars Hill College who later founded the annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Prayer Breakfast in Asheville; the other was the late Patricia Blakely McCurry, one of the first black women to be a bus driver for the City of Asheville.
For more information about Preston Blakely and his campaign for mayor, please visit www.blakelyforfletcher.