Mike Dasher was selected as chair of the Chatham County Board of Commissioners on Dec. 3, a little less than two years into his first term on the board. Just a few days into his new seat, he’s already picked out a priority.
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Mike Dasher was selected as chair of the Chatham County Board of Commissioners on Dec. 3, a little less than two years into his first term on the board.
Just a few days into his new seat, he’s already picked out a priority.
“As Chairman, I think my most important role is to facilitate good, robust conversation,” he said.
Dasher spoke with the News + Record about himself and his goals for the coming year.
Dasher grew up in northwest Ohio and lived there until his family moved to Greenville when he was a teenager. He said that he and his two brothers grew up with “lots of books and newspapers and lively discussions at the dinner table about history and politics, literature and music.”
But he admitted that he was “least academically-minded” of the family and dropping out of high school. He received a GED and went to Barton College in Wilson to study political science and economics.
After college, he took a year off to apply to law school. During that time, he performed service work with Habitat for Humanity through the AmeriCorps program.
“Twenty years later, I’m still building houses and never did make it to law school,” he said. “I have a small business, developing and building small projects in Pittsboro.”
Dasher met his wife, Selbe Bartlett, before college and the two have been together ever since. They have two children, a 14-year-old daughter and 10-year-old son.
“They keep me in check and remind me what’s important,” he said. “It sounds painfully corny, but, at the end of the day, if my kids think I’m a good dad, all the other stuff matters a lot less. So just hanging out with them is how I de-stress.”
Dasher says he likes Chatham County “because it’s such a fascinating microcosm of the country at large. All the big problems we face as a nation seem fixable here, which I suppose is why I enjoy being a county commissioner.”
Hiring a new county manager
Former Chatham County manager Renee Paschal retired from the position this year and the commissioners appointed Deputy Manager Dan LaMontagne to serve as interim. Dasher wants to move forward in selecting a permanent replacement for the position soon.
“They are going to need to have some of understanding of Chatham County and where we are in upcoming projects and growth balanced with the technical knowledge,” Dasher said. “The board’s job is to lay out the vision, but it takes the right people to make that vision a reality.”
The county will be moving forward in 2019 on creating a Unified Development Ordinance, the rules for what and how development happens in the county. Dasher said the UDO will help “put some teeth behind” the recent land use plan and he hopes it will allow for unity in the county’s various development guidelines.
“I think we’ve moved beyond the debates about whether we grow or whether we need to aggressively manage it,” he said. “Residents have made it clear over the last few election cycles — they want to see our towns be the engines of growth, and our county retain its rural character and agricultural heritage. Now we need to develop the ordinances and regulations to codify that.”
Master parks plan
The county has been working on a Parks and Recreation Master Plan that is nearing completion. A planned public meeting presentation at the Chatham County Agriculture and Conference Center was scheduled to take place Tuesday.
Dasher, noting the upcoming public input sessions, is hopeful the board can adopt a plan within the next year.
“I would like to move forward on some land conservancy ideas and see greenway connectivity,” Dasher said. “I want us to really come up with a good long-term plan to parks and public spaces.”
After an initial allocation to an affordable housing fund from the traditional budgeting process, Dasher said he’d like for the county to continue supporting the project fiscally.
“I think we can find a system to contribute to it whether from developers or from a portion of property taxes,” he said. “We need to come up with some mechanism to sustain so funds are available when opportunities for projects come up.”
The county has been working with consultants to develop plans for a new government complex in downtown Pittsboro to replace the old Ag Building and annex designed to handle growth in the county.
“What’s most important to me is that we end up with some kind of usable community space here in the heart of Chatham County, the county seat,” Dasher said.
“We need a good space for outdoor events.”
Dasher would like to see the process move toward the public input phase so the board can learn what Chatham residents want to see in the complex.
That’s not the only capital project the county’s undertaking in coming years, with a new Central Carolina Community College building, animal shelter, elementary school and high school also on the docket.
“We are making enormous investments in Chatham’s future but also trying to catch up to our present,” Dasher said.” It’s tough to do it all.”
Dasher said he has high hopes for the proposed Chatham Promise program — which would guarantee free tuition to CCCC for Chatham high school graduates who qualify.
Dasher is hoping the program will be on the agenda for the board’s Dec. 17 meeting.
“I’m a strong supporter of the concept,” he said. “I think it’s a project that we should roll out and see whose using it. We want to make sure it’s working for the folks who most need it and if not fix it.”