Ralph Watson: Relief during a time of emergency

By Julie Fann
star staff

Ralph Watson has served on the Carter County commission for 12 years. Because he lost his own home during the flood of 1998, Watson feels he is able to identify with the people of the Roan Mountain community and offer them a great deal of compassion.
   "I have tried to help the people of my district by working hard for them after the flood. I helped purchase the ground to build the new Cloudland Elementary School. Right now, I'm working with the county planning commission to put floodland to better use," Watson said.
   Watson said he would like to see a baseball field or a walking trail built on the land the county purchased with an emergency management grant it received through the state. He is also putting forth an effort to have a helicopter pad available for Wings Air Rescue to use.
   Watson worked for the Department of Transportation for 36 years and said he has been involved in politics practically all his life. He is a native of Avery County, N.C., and served in the U.S. Navy for four years during the Korean conflict.
   Watson said he wants to work harder to get school funding for Carter County, as well as money for the highway department. "It will be a tight year for the highway department. We've gotten roads in good shape, but we need to focus more on them," he said.
   Watson promised to vote against a countywide zoning plan because the people in his district don't want it. "I think the people need an explanation of what a countywide zoning plan would look like, some kind of literature to send out or publish in the paper that is simple and understandable," Watson said.
   Deciding to hire a financial director would be a wise move, according to Watson, because it would take pressure off of the county executive and save revenue. "It's a position that will be funded through various sources, so the county isn't going to lose any money from it," he said. Watson said the financial director won't have discretionary power over spending but would act only as an accountant for three departments.
   Recruiting jobs will involve bringing in companies that hire 300 to 400 people, rather than trying to bring in larger industries, Watson said. "The economy isn't good right now, and that makes things difficult," he said.