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Title: Oral History Interview with Raymond Rapp, November 17, 2000. Interview K-0253. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007): Electronic Edition.
Author: Rapp, Raymond, interviewee
Interview conducted by Amberg, Rob
Funding from the Institute of Museum and Library Services supported the electronic publication of this interview.
Text encoded by Kristin Shaffer
Sound recordings digitized by Aaron Smithers Southern Folklife Collection
First edition, 2004
Size of electronic edition: 152 Kb
Publisher: The University Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Chapel Hill, North Carolina
2004.
© This work is the property of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. It may be used freely by individuals for research, teaching and personal use as long as this statement of availability is included in the text.
The electronic edition is a part of the UNC-Chapel Hill digital library, Documenting the American South.
Languages used in the text: English
Revision history:
2008-00-00, Wanda Gunther and Kristin Martin revised TEIHeader and created catalog record for the electronic edition.
2008-12-08, Kristin Shaffer finished TEI-conformant encoding and final proofing.
Source(s):
Title of recording: Oral History Interview with Raymond Rapp, November 17, 2000. Interview K-0253. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Title of series: Series K. Southern Communities. Southern Oral History Program Collection (K-0253)
Author: Rob Amberg
Title of transcript: Oral History Interview with Raymond Rapp, November 17, 2000. Interview K-0253. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Title of series: Series K. Southern Communities. Southern Oral History Program Collection (K-0253)
Author: Raymond Rapp
Description: 172 Mb
Description: 44 p.
Note: Interview conducted on November 17, 2000, by Rob Amberg; recorded in Mars Hill, North Carolina.
Note: Transcribed by L. Altizer.
Note: Forms part of: Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007): Series K. Southern Communities, Manuscripts Department, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Note: Original transcript on deposit at the Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
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Original grammar and spelling have been preserved.
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Interview with Raymond Rapp, November 17, 2000.
Interview K-0253. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Rapp, Raymond, interviewee


Interview Participants

    RAYMOND RAPP, interviewee
    ROB AMBERG, interviewer

[TAPE 1, SIDE A]


Page 1
[START OF TAPE 1, SIDE A]
ROB AMBERG:
I am in the Mars Hill town hall with Ray Rapp, who is an administrator at Mars Hill College and the mayor of the town of Mars Hill. Ray, could you just introduce yourself and let me see if we're picking all of this up?
RAYMOND RAPP:
Sure, be glad to. I am the Dean for the Adult Access Program at Mars Hill and have been at Mars Hill College for twenty-three years, and have been mayor, this is my third year as mayor in my second term. Before that I had two terms, two two-year terms on the Board of Alderman here in Mars Hill.
ROB AMBERG:
I wanted to just add that it is three fifteen right now in the afternoon, and Ray, you mentioned that you had been at Mars Hill twenty-three years. Where is your home place?
RAYMOND RAPP:
Originally I was born in Connecticut. I lived there the first twenty-one years of my life. I was in Manatee County, Florida for two years at the University of South Florida, five years at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and came to Mars Hill in the fall of 1977.
ROB AMBERG:
What are your degrees in?
RAYMOND RAPP:
I have a Bachelors Degree in History and English from Western Connecticut State University, a Master's from the University of South Florida in US History, and I'm ABD [all but dissertation] in US History from UNC Chapel Hill.
ROB AMBERG:
So how did you end up in this place?
RAYMOND RAPP:
Well, a friend of mine, Ron Eller, had come over here to—in fact, Ron is the godfather to my daughter Jennifer. He had invited us over for a weekend. We had come over here just to tour the campus and visit Ron in his new place of residence. We ran into

Page 2
some folks on campus who had asked if I had written any grants before, and I had. They asked me if I would be interested in writing a Title I grant, which I did. I thought I'd come over here for two years and manage that grant and then go back to finish my dissertation. It's twenty-three years later. We're still here and very much in love with the community and very much a part of the community, and have raised one daughter who has just graduated in May from Wake Forest University and is married to an attorney now down in Hendersonville. I've got a nine-year-old who we're trying, in the process of raising in this community. We've fallen in love with it.
ROB AMBERG:
That's great. How did you, when you first got here what was your response? Did you have a sense of what your immediate response was to this place?
RAYMOND RAPP:
I did. I did. I can remember the first day, the first minute I set foot in Mars Hill because we had come here, come over for the weekend to visit Ron Eller. I stepped out of the car in front of the theatre, Owen Theatre. I stood on the sidewalk and I obviously was a stranger on the campus and in the community, and this very nice young woman came up and said, ‘May I help you?’ I was just kind of blown a way. It was just, she saw I was a little bit confused and was disoriented and wasn't sure. I told her that I wanted to find Dr. Eller's office and [asked] if she knew him. She did, and she escorted me to the office. I thought, My goodness, you stop on sidewalks in Chapel Hill and sometimes you get bowled over by the crowds. So I remember vividly that, and just absolutely being charmed and the strong sense of personalism that's a part of this community, which from that day one is what we've experienced.
ROB AMBERG:
When you say, when you use the word community are you thinking of the college community or the larger community?

Page 3
RAYMOND RAPP:
Well, it's both. Clearly the first contact was with the college community, but the ethos of the campus of Mars Hill really picks up on the rural ethos of the town of Mars Hill and Madison County itself. There's, there are many of the values, the small town values that are very much a part of the campus and the community, and they blend well together. They have the normal tensions that you have between town and gowns everywhere, but the basic ethos, the strong sense of personalism, a much stronger sense of community than I had experienced in some of the larger communities that I had—
ROB AMBERG:
How does that get played out? Can you give me some real specific examples of community?
RAYMOND RAPP:
To me it's the good news and bad news that was driven home by my daughter when she was ready to leave this community when she was eighteen years old. She'd done well in school and everything, but there were always five hundred sets of eyes on her. From a parental standpoint it was wonderful, the wonderful assurance of knowing that your children are safe, that there are people around to look out for one another in that very special way. When you're an adolescent, of course, there's a rebelliousness that goes with that, and when she got her first car our talk was just, Remember that you can't go flying around this town without somebody calling me and observing your behavior and letting me know about. She, ‘I know that.’ She was very indignant about that, but now she's married and reflects on that, and it's very much a special memory. But it is that sense of place. It's a sense of security. It's a sense of mutual caring, a sense that gives rise to things such as—. I still celebrate the Make A Difference day kind of, where we go into the schools now. It's an old fashioned barn raising in one sense, but there's good fellowship and community, sense of common

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purpose, and it's very much alive in a small town such as Mars Hill today. So it's something that we need to preserve with great intentionality.
ROB AMBERG:
I'm going to ask, how old are you?
RAYMOND RAPP:
I'm fifty-five.
ROB AMBERG:
Okay. I'll be fifty-three next month. So we're pretty much the same generation. I'm curious then about your youth in western Connecticut. Did you experience that same sense of community then when you were growing up? Was it a small town?
RAYMOND RAPP:
Yeah, I grew up in the town of Bethel, which was a community of five thousand. My dad was a Republican town chairman, and he was very much involved in the community and the Masons and the church and everything. I did have, there was a similar sense of that. However, it was a community that was in the throes of change while I lived there from the exurbia coming from New York. It's a community now of about twenty thousand.
ROB AMBERG:
Wow.
RAYMOND RAPP:
And it's a place where when I return—I very rarely get back there, but periodically I've been back there and places where I grew up have simply been bulldozed. There are apartment complexes. There are shopping centers, that type of thing. What had been playgrounds and wooded areas and actually farmland? There were still farms there when I grew up. I've seen that transition at one time in my life. It was really in the throes of change when I was growing up. I remember they had their centennial anniversary in 1955, and that to me was almost a watershed. I remember their talking about they had reached this threshold figure of five thousand, and there was a

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great celebration of the growth of the town. But I don't think they anticipated the size growth that was really about to occur. It's really changed the nature of the community and the relationships within that community.
ROB AMBERG:
Yeah, my upbringing was similar. I was raised in suburban Washington, but it was out in Maryland and pre-Beltway [interstate bypass that circles the greater Washington, DC metropolitan area]. It was still a lot of small communities, and a lot of rolling farmland and farms that were still there. Then Beltway in the early to mid-sixties came in and the whole dynamic changed. That area, Montgomery County, Maryland was always one of the fastest growing communities in the United States, and the Beltway again just fed that. Certainly it exploded. In a way, then, your coming here was almost a return to some of that. So that must be nice.
RAYMOND RAPP:
It has been. So many of the values that I had seen in the small community, the rural values associated with that community I found here again when we moved here. I think I was puzzled about why it just seemed so easy to be here. I don't know a better way of describing, but it just was easy. My mother is a Down Easter from Maine. I understood the mountain humor very quickly because I had been raised around a family of Down Easters; that dry wit, don't crack a smile, but they'll pull your leg at the same time. It just felt natural, and it's really been years later that I've reflected on why that felt so good and natural and enjoyable, because when I came here, I certainly came here with the idea that we'd do this grant. We'd complete the grant period and move on. Yet here we are.
ROB AMBERG:
Here you are.
RAYMOND RAPP:
Twenty-three years later.

Page 6
ROB AMBERG:
And still comfortable.
RAYMOND RAPP:
It's not only comfortable, it's something that as we in the role that I'm playing now—what I wanted to be able to do is help the folks be able to preserve those features of this community that they want to preserve. Accommodate change; we're not going to stop change, but if we can accommodate it in a way that it doesn't overrun us [and] that we can control, then I think I can play a significant role. That's where I see things today.
ROB AMBERG:
Well, to me it's really interesting—the community in Bethel when you were growing up, it was really kind of on that cusp of change and starting to grow—to find yourself in the Mars Hill community when it is in my mind more than likely going to experience the largest growth in its history. This is going to be a really expansive area, I think, for the town and the whole community. In a way you are really positioned right in the right spot to really play a role with that.
RAYMOND RAPP:
Some of the things that we saw back in the early '90s—because as you know, this road has been promised to people in western North Carolina for at least forty years or more. But I think—every governor who ran for office in that period made commitments to complete this road, but I think everybody had heard that so often. When Jim Hunt really did start working to get the money to make it happen, folks still treated it as if, ‘Oh yeah, we've always heard about that. That's going to happen some day. Some day but probably not in my lifetime.’ That's why in '93 and '94 when they turned the first shovelful of dirt down here just to build the interchange, not to extend the road but to finally build the interchange, I think people snapped to attention and said, ‘Wait a minute. This is really going to happen, and if it's going to happen what are we going to do to plan

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for that so that we can control that change?’ There's some of us that didn't want us to become another gas station stop on I-26, or find a number of businesses in the community that were incompatible with the lifestyle we've grown used to. That's where we really moved into the strategic planning process which I think the whole town got behind, which was interesting because that shovel full of dirt when they turned it, people were saying, ‘Wait a minute. Change is about to occur, big change is about to occur.’ As you say, in dimensions that had not been experienced in most people's lifetime here. So they started that. When we sent out, we got the planning board together, the town board together in '94. We sent out a thirty-seven-question survey. Now that violates all the rules for sending out questionnaires. We sent it to 800 households in the town. Believe it or not, we got 256 responses to that questionnaire. People sat down and wrote essays. They told us about the things that they liked about this community and the things that had been special and the things that needed to be preserved. You had on one hand some that wanted to preserve the small town community, but we'd sure like a Wal-Mart down here would be a lot more convenient. We had to sift through some of that. There were some themes that emerged on that. Those themes were first and foremost to preserve the small town character of the community, because people like it when for example some of the older adults—when the police chief calls them in the morning just to check to make sure that if they live alone that they've made it through the night all right. They always have a friend when the chief calls to check that. That's very reassuring. There aren't a lot of communities that have a police chief that does that.
ROB AMBERG:
That's a wonderful thing, yeah.

Page 8
RAYMOND RAPP:
Absolutely. They reflected on that. They talked about, There are always tensions with the college. They certainly want to see the college campus beautified. They want to see that—the college itself had been an important part of the community, and to preserve that. They wanted to see our downtown revitalized, because at that point I think we had eight of the shops in downtown which were empty. So we really had kind of a hole in our living room, if you will. So they wanted to see some appropriate business development that went along with that. They wanted some efforts at beautification. They wanted a controlled fashion, find some ways that we could control development so that our people could have decent jobs. That working at a Hardees or a gas station is maybe not enough of an economic benefit from the coming of the road. Part of our work was to look at what would be appropriate economic development on that. So we came up with a strategic plan for the town that was finally approved in May of 1996. This was a two-year process. We had public meetings. We had the survey itself. We had an extended planning board for the town, plus the town board itself, plus others representing the college and other interests to sit in on these meetings to work on the plan. We came up with forty-seven key recommendations relating to what we wanted to see happen over the next ten years, ten to fifteen years in the town of Mars Hill. So one of the things involved revitalization of the downtown area, because it was getting shabby looking. It was, obviously many of the business had been here at one time, the food market, which had been in the center of town that the Robinsons had owned. There was Ingles, and of course, Ingles here in the community now has given way to the Ingles Supermarket, has given away to the superstores in Weaverville which are much larger.
ROB AMBERG:
And Marshall.

Page 9
RAYMOND RAPP:
And Marshall now. So they've moved out. There was a great dress shop here, Robinson's dress shop.
ROB AMBERG:
I remember that.
RAYMOND RAPP:
That was just, we had people that would come from southwest Virginia, eastern Tennessee, half of Biltmore Forest. That's where the women came because Willory knew their sizes, their likes and ordered accordingly, and just wonderful outfits that you would have in there. It was a tremendous downtown business, great draw. We had a good restaurant there across the street, Café Nostalgia, that really fed off of—so many of the people who would shop there and then come across the street to that, as well as several other restaurants that have come and gone over time. But they had moved out or were moving out. So we needed to do something, revitalize our downtown. So one of the recommendations from the strategic plan was to work with HandMade in America. They are a small town revitalization project, which we did. We worked with Becky Anderson from HandMade, and we put together a small town revitalization team that came in. One of the first things that we did was say, ‘Okay we've got to spruce up our downtown. We need something visible to show that we're serious about this.’ So at the corner as you come in on [North Carolina Route] 213 and Main Street, you'll see a gazebo there. We took $6,000 of grant funds that we had gotten through the HandMade folks. We got the owner of that, which is a private lot, to agree to let us use the space. We put up the gazebo and began the plantings that you see there now. That was kind of the signal that things were about to change in our community for the better, and what we were trying to do with the revitalization.

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ROB AMBERG:
It's interesting in that Mars Hill, I very clearly remember that period of time when the buildings were empty. There still are empty buildings of course, but that was kind of a phenomenon that was happening all over rural America. I mean, I travel a lot in rural North Carolina. I see this every little town that I go in. So it must have been kind of a daunting challenge to think that not only having to just revitalize your town but also realizing that you're kind of bucking the national trend to do that.
RAYMOND RAPP:
It was, but I really pay tribute to Handmade in America and Becky Anderson. We were the first four towns in their project; there was Andrews, North Carolina, Chimney Rock—
ROB AMBERG:
Bakersville.
RAYMOND RAPP:
Bakersville and Mars Hill. Those were the four, and we all faced similar problems. So some of our original meetings were just, I thought that they were wonderful because there were lots of idea sharing, and we even shared for example that every town has its group of naysayers. Mars Hill, it's down here at the Wagon Wheel, and we're building a gazebo. Well you should've heard the folks down there. How could you spend tax money on something as silly as this gazebo? Or as one of our friends from Bakersville said, ‘What is that gayzebub you've got over there? What are you doing over there with that gayzebub?’ But then within six months after it had been up people have started having weddings there. Choral groups were singing. It became really a centerpiece and a showpiece. People took a great deal of pride in it, and now you have to remind folks that that's only about four years old. They treat it as if it's been there since the beginning of the town. But it really did help key what we were trying to do in terms of this downtown revitalization. Then we have the Blue Ridge Realty that

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renovated its building, or its upstairs and down; there are apartments upstairs above that plus the business itself downstairs. We began that process of encouraging a development which was tied to really the Crafts Heritage tourism, because one of the things that you well know with Nobie Bracken and the hooked rug industry. What we wanted to do was, the tourists are going to come with I-26. What's the nature? Do we want to just isolate them and have some gas stations, fast food restaurants down here, or do we want to—and we were thinking about this both with the strategic plan as well as with HandMade—how about making [State Route] 213 from the interchange of I-26 coming into Mars Hill, how about making that the gateway to Madison County? As a result of that we—after we did the first project on the gazebo the second thing was, we need a Visitors Center for Madison County, and we don't have one. We searched for that. We finally put together what I think is still an unusual partnership. It's a partnership in which we've got the town of Hot Springs, Marshall and Mars Hill, the County of Madison through its economic development board, Madison Chamber of Commerce, the Madison Community, the Mars Hill College itself, which provided the building in which the Visitors Center is located, Blue Ridge Mountain Host, all to partner to pay the expenses of operating a Visitors Center. Folks who know county history know that that's pretty difficult to get because we're talking real dollars here. We're talking $1200 a year from Marshall that comes in to support that Visitors Center; $1200 a year from Hot Springs; $2000 annually from the economic development board of the county. So this was a partnership that was put together, that was cobbled together of folks that agreed that this concept, this notion of this Visitors Center drawing people from I-26 to the Visitors Center not to sell ticky-tacky rubber tomahawks, but to bring them here to expose them to some of the rich

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cultural heritage of this region—the hooked rug industry itself, the Bailey Mountain cloggers. We're thinking about how we showcase them, the national champion—I think this is the tenth straight year, they're ten time and current reigning national champions—to go to the depot in Marshall on Friday night for traditional mountain music, to go down to the French Broad River to go rafting, to go to the spa and the hot springs in Hot Springs itself. To get people off—and maybe this isn't their destination as they're passing through, but the next time they come through we'll get them to make this destination for a quality kind of experience, which is an integral part of what we are and who we are. We're still in the process of evolving the Visitors Center, but we have the rockers on the front porch because we think that says Madison County. We're informal. You sit down and rock and you talk. People respond to that. You go into what is a former house on the campus. So you're into a living room, dining room, what it was originally. But we're keeping the informality of that. In fact, right now we have the exhibits in here. We've got a class, Brenda Russell's class from Fashion Merchandising is looking at how the track lighting that needs to go in there needs to be displayed. We're talking to Richard Dillingham to see what the Rural Life Museum can provide for some items that can go in there that say Madison County, or antiques that can be used in the Visitors Center itself. The important thing is this is Madison County. This is unique, and it's the things that we have valued highly. It's the things that we want to preserve, and if you would like that, we'd like to have you as a visitor to come and experience that. So that Visitors Center, was one of the, that was the next step in this HandMade Project in terms of how we could make that into a realization. We did things, we had public meetings with people in terms of the kinds of businesses they wanted to see downtown. We talked very bluntly to some

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of the merchants that if this is the living room of Mars Hill, it's dirty. You need to spruce yourself up. We brought Ron Holster, who is in charge of the Main Street program over in Waynesville. They've just done an incredible turnaround in terms of their Main Street, and Ron is kind of the guru that made that happen. He came, and he was very blunt with them about how they need to merchandise themselves—the stores that were open, how to attract stores to the community and do simple things like make sure those plate glass windows are clean.
ROB AMBERG:
That's right.
RAYMOND RAPP:
It's your living room, and when you invite people into your living room do you have them dirty and dusty or do you try to have it picked up?
ROB AMBERG:
Exactly.
RAYMOND RAPP:
Those are the kinds of folks that came in and talked to us. We had an economic planner that came in as part of this process. We had Ron, who had been involved successfully in the Main Street project. People in the community we went over for example [and] looked at Black Mountain to see, Black Mountain has revitalized its community. We were looking at like communities that were struggling with the same issues, and particularly ones that had done it successfully. They were just more than gracious in terms of sharing some of the things that they did.
ROB AMBERG:
At some of those meetings—you were talking a little bit about how people in the community have kind of pitched this project over a period of thirty, forty years, perhaps, and have been just kind of thinking that it was maybe not ever going to happen. Was your sense when that groundbreaking happened and people were realizing that this is going to happen that the vast majority of people were very positive minded about it,

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that they wanted this in the community, that they—what might have some of those reasons have been for them?
RAYMOND RAPP:
I think no question about it, the ease of access in and out of the Mars Hill community itself and in and out of the region itself in terms of speeding that access. Hope for bringing of better jobs perhaps through some industry or that would be appropriate to the community, because part of our plan, our original strategic plan—in fact what we're working on right now and we'll roll out in January of 2001—is our new land use plan for the community. And what we're looking at as part of that is the Shadowline property, which is on the north end of town. It's thirty-four acres. It used to be a Shadowline plant that made lingerie. It was an old cut and sew operation for many years. It was closed about a year and a half ago. There were only about thirty-four people employed up there when it finally closed. At one time they had about 120 that were employed there. We began to look at that property with the county of Madison and say, ‘Now that's an appropriate area for industrial development.’ You've already got a plant there. We've got water to it. All we need to do is run sewer lines to it. We're in the process of extending our natural gas from Weaverville into Mars Hill, which will be completed this summer.
ROB AMBERG:
Wow.
RAYMOND RAPP:
Yeah, they've already started digging over by the Honeywell plant. So we knew these things were coming but we said, ‘Okay, do want to have something for our tax base, good jobs,’ and we do have the Honeywell plant which pays extremely well. There were 400 people employed there, and it's now a division of General Electric in the latest takeover that's occurred. It's a very solid plant. But what happens, you're always

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worried if you're tied to one plant, as we've seen with so many communities, and that plant closes for whatever reason or moves. So our idea that's evolved and is evolving with the industrial site where Shadowline was located, we'd like to have a large number of small companies up there so that if one goes out of business or moves we haven't had a total devastation to the economy. So we have Advanced Tools that's employing seventeen people that opened this past month. It has purchased the plant which occupies eight acres of the thirty-four acres. [Suits?] who owns that wants to develop that as an industrial park. We're working with another client right now who wants to move here that will employ thirty-five persons, between thirty-five and forty persons. They will build their own or build its own freestanding building on the site. For instance, Advanced Tools does not need all of their thirty-three thousands acres, thirty-three thousand, thirty-three thousand square feet I believe in that Shadowline building. He only needs a portion of it. So he wants to lease that as well to another production operation. Again the model there is a large number of small plants that will provide good wages for people that live here. Yet we won't be devastated by one of them going bankrupt, moving—whatever reason they might leave. What's exciting about that is when this property was put up for sale we talked with the potential owners. There were a couple of folks who went up there and looked at it. We and the County of Madison agreed to do some things—for example, extending the sewer lines up there to the property in exchange for a request that within five years they request annexation for the town. That all of them [get] the town's services. They want fire protection; they want sewer they want water; they want trash pickup. But rather [than] bring in someone that simply wanted to exploit us we wanted someone that would come in and be part of the

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community. And so the companies that we are talking with and the people that we're working with are very much of like minds. I think the growth may be a little slower. It won't be the big bang—here's a big plant kind of thing. We'll grow those jobs in a way that I think will be high paying jobs, people who want to become a part of this community and be good corporate citizens and be contributors to the community—
ROB AMBERG:
And more sustainable, too, because—
RAYMOND RAPP:
And much more sustainable because of that reason.
ROB AMBERG:
Of course. I'm curious. You were talking about the access that is provided with something like the highway and things like that and the people being very supportive of that idea. One thing that's interesting to me about that word access, it both brings people in and brings people out. One of the ideas I think of rural community is people do tend to stay in place—they're working on their land or they're working right in the immediate community. So I'm wondering, is that a kind of a contrary idea? It's almost, how does that work with this idea of kind of maintaining community?
RAYMOND RAPP:
Well, back to the survey, we did and people I think are very astute. They understood that they wanted the road. They wanted the economic changes. They wanted the benefits. They saw the benefits of it. But in the surveys themselves they talked about, But we want to preserve our small community. We want to preserve these relationships that are so important. Neighborhoods are important, and so they inherently understood that this, there was a flip side to this. When we were doing our own planning for this, we went and looked at the Interstate 40 impact study that was done between Raleigh and Wilmington. We wanted to see the results of that. What were some of the things that we needed to look at? One of the things that jumped out at us first of all was the fact that the

Page 17
nature of crime in the community would change. Right now, if there's a break in or something, it doesn't take our folks too long to figure out who's—
ROB AMBERG:
That's right.
RAYMOND RAPP:
Who's in the ().
ROB AMBERG:
I used to always love EY Ponder for that. EY just knew everything and everybody, and it was, something happened, he'd have it pegged in a minute.
RAYMOND RAPP:
Didn't have to wear a gun because there would be—
ROB AMBERG:
That's right.
RAYMOND RAPP:
So there's, the nature of—for example, hit and run kinds of break-ins, where people come off an interstate highway and break-in. They're gone. By the time police are there, they're probably already in at least South Carolina or something like that.
ROB AMBERG:
Or Johnson City.
RAYMOND RAPP:
Or Johnson City and beyond. So we began to say these are serious issues that we have to begin dealing with. That's why we were planning, because how are we going to have to change our police force? The thing that we did at Wednesday night's meeting, we have gotten a grant now from the Governor's Highway Safety Commission to buy a new police car. They will fund the first year one hundred percent salary of a new police officer, seventy-five percent the second year, fifty percent then decreasing. But we've got to have that. Do we need that officer today? No, but when 2002—in December of 2002 when we're sure that road will be open we definitely need to have that additional staff person on hand. Welcome Center, we're going to have to service that Welcome Center. The town of Mars Hill is the Welcome Center on the highway because we have to provide sewer and water. Now we're got, we're dealing with, struggling with

Page 18
our infrastructure as all small communities are, but that's a shock of thirty thousand gallons a day that we are going to have to send to the Welcome Center, plus process the waste water from that as well. So we're paying very close attention to these kinds of things because there is the other side of that. And clearly the thing—if you go to the heart of what people wrote about in their surveys, while they want the small community and they want the Wal-Mart at the same time, give them the choices and they'll probably go for the small community. So they realize while they want the convenience, they want the access to that, they really don't want the things that are the quality of life things that make Mars Hill community special. So that's the delicate balance we walk. Now we're helped by a number of things. We're doing our planning. The Ivy River watershed literally puts half of our town, half of our town under watershed restrictions.
ROB AMBERG:
Wow.
RAYMOND RAPP:
From one stance that's wonderful. That half by the way is from Main Street to the east to I-26. So when you come in the, off of I-26 on the 213 corridor that we talked about earlier, that's going to limit some of the development that's going to occur under that. At the same time, we've already got the state to invest about $180,000 in tree plantings. Three years ago we started the process of putting a tree line and other appropriate plantings coming up into the community itself, because if we identify ourselves and we want this to become the gateway to Madison, we're going to have to make that more attractive. We've begun the process of enforcing what had been a fifteen-year-old sign ordinance, but we caused some negative feelings about that. Not that we introduced any new legislation, or new ordinances—we are enforcing [those] that are already on the books. But we did—

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ROB AMBERG:
And that was for size of signs, placement of signs.
RAYMOND RAPP:
That's right. So there's no off-campus signage. The sign, the billboard that used to be just as you turned on the entrance ramp to what will be I-26, 19-23 now used to be that big billboard there. That's the reason it's no longer there. We're still in litigation over that, by the way. But we've gotten serious about that. We want to present ourselves in the best fashion possible. We've also adopted a community appearance ordinance. It took us two years to do it, and we only did that last year. If you build any of these structures in this community now, you must have appropriate plantings. We are beginning to pay attention to those kinds of things, and doing it very intentionally now. So these are things that have grown out of this. First, the strategic planning—first the road coming triggering the strategic planning, which has triggered everything from the land use plan that we're doing now to the downtown revitalization and business revitalization in the community that we've been working with in terms of HandMade. Again, making sure that it's appropriate for us. So I'm, these are all factors that get in there. How do we have a diversified economy in the balance that's there and provide good jobs for our people, maintain the small town values that I think that we all hold so dear and makes it so attractive to us? What's amazing to me is watching the rest of the country trying to establish or re-establish those values in their own communities through neighborhood organizations and cities and that type of thing. We've got it here. What we've got to do is preserve that. Accommodate the change. It's coming, and I mean, we can stand up there and rail against it, but it's coming. I think this community has demonstrated its resolve to seeing that we do control that in a way that is acceptable to us. It's not something that we wake up one morning and say what happened to us?

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ROB AMBERG:
It's interesting to me that—I was just up in Vermont about a month ago, a month and a half ago, and I was very much struck by the fact that you, first of all you saw no billboards the whole time I was there. Saw maybe one McDonalds, nothing like a Wal-mart or Home Depot, anything like that. Most of those places weren't there, but what I did see even on the very small stretches of interstate that were in northern Vermont, you get off those and into the small towns. There really are flourishing small towns from one to the next. You go in one, and each town seemed to have a hardware store and a bookstore and cafés and very small motels. No chain franchises, that kind of thing. That really struck me. At the same time, it's interesting to me that the way they've achieved that is by passing laws and passing zoning ordinances and things like that. It's curious to me that we now are—in terms of preserving some of those small town values we're basically having to pass laws to do that, to make sure that that happens and stays in place. Certainly not making a judgement on that, but it's really interesting that that's what we have to do.
RAYMOND RAPP:
I think if the community—and it's very difficult to get the community to agree to this in some ways, because you're going up against particularly a mountain culture [with a] ruggedly strong individualism, and value is inherent in the people here.
ROB AMBERG:
I can do whatever I want.
RAYMOND RAPP:
It's my land and I can do whatever I want with it. So the community really has to see itself in some kind of danger, and I really, I pay a lot of tribute to the people in Mars Hill. They are really very intelligent people. They really are. They look down the road, and they see what's happening. They look at other communities and see what's happening, and I think they say, ‘We don't want that to happen here. We're willing to

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get behind some ordinances that, to get behind some enforcement procedures to support these kinds of initiatives that are right for the preservation of what we're trying to preserve here.’ I think it's a, it'll probably never be quite what we wanted.
ROB AMBERG:
Right.
RAYMOND RAPP:
But it won't be what it would've been had we not done this. It's an ongoing process. The beautification efforts for the town continue. We just got two thousand bulbs for the town given to us from, through HandMade by way of the arboretum. These are all things that are just ongoing—how we can continue this process and how we can continue to clean up the corridor and make it inviting and attractive to ourselves and to those visitors who are guests that come to the community.
ROB AMBERG:
Right. Again back to that idea of access and people—I'm thinking of people coming in—do you see, well a couple of question regarding that. What has been, well in terms of, I'm seeing an influx of new people coming into the community more and more every year. Thinking back on yourself twenty-three years ago when you arrived, do you have a different sense of the type of people who seem to be choosing to move into not just Mars Hill but Madison County, or at least eastern Madison County? I'm thinking of places like Spring Creek.
RAYMOND RAPP:
There's clearly a different—there's a new group coming in. When I came to the community, there were a lot of “back to the earth” people in the community. But in fact while they were coming in in the `70s the fact of the matter was that the population trend was down and continued during the `80s. That was true in Mars Hill itself. Many of the shops had literally gone south to Buncombe County and Asheville. The businesses, the college was in a stagnant phase in terms of its [growth]. That was the `80s when the

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post-war baby boom had ended. So many colleges and universities were in periods of decline in terms of enrollment. That was experienced at Mars Hill College. If anything, what struck me during the `80s was really a static or almost a stagnant period where people were, there really was not much growth. The county was in bad shape financially. The town fortunately was in better shape. It was managed fairly well during the `80s—throughout in a very conservative fashion, but it was basically pretty stable. Not in terms of any growth, but—there was a decline in population. Then we turned the corner on the `90s and I think the—when Jim Hunt ran in '92 and was out here as he was in the `70s when he ran—“we are going to build that road and good things are going to happen.” Everybody nodded and said that sounds like a good idea, but when he really did set about seeing that money was put aside for that road—because it had been a target on the DOT plan as you know for lo these many years. There was never any allocation of any money for it.
ROB AMBERG:
Right.
RAYMOND RAPP:
He set about to do it, and then I think that combined at the same time there were more—
[END OF TAPE 1, SIDE A]

[TAPE 1, SIDE B]

[START OF TAPE 1, SIDE B]
RAYMOND RAPP:
And to the folks coming out for their hobby farms we have the influx of ever increasing numbers of retirees moving into the community. The capstone—or not really the capstone, but the next phase in that development was just the recent opening in April of 2000 of the Mars Hill Retirement Community. We've got fifty-four units there that can house sixty-nine persons in assisted living facility. That's phase one of a three-phase project that will involve the Bruce Farm golf course, condominiums and single homes

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that Jud Ammonds is planning to build. But again, when you're attracting retirees—you've got a significant retiree population in places such as North Laurel. So we're seeing these folks come into the county. Property values are going up. Mars Hill, if you have a house and you put it on the market, it literally is snapped up. You don't see those ‘for sale’ signs stay up on houses very long. The longest one I saw was a house on South Main Street that the person had no intention of selling. But she said, ‘I'm going to put this big price tag and if anyone is foolish enough to come down and buy it,’ this is what she told me, she said, ‘I'll sell it.’ That house sat there for about three months, and she just sold it a month ago. She said, ‘I couldn't believe it. We didn't dicker at all. They paid the money, so I'm moving back home.’ She's from over in Spring Creek; not Spring Creek, from Big Pine.
ROB AMBERG:
Does that give you pause this idea of—it's almost like there is a gentrification kind of thing that's beginning to happen in the mountains. As a student of history, you're aware of those kinds of processes, whether they be in cities or rural communities, and it's much the same. I'm curious as to your thoughts about that, I guess.
RAYMOND RAPP:
Well, it's a real phenomenon. Where I go with that is as a leader of the community I want to see that there be balanced growth. I would not want to see, for example, Mars Hill simply be a college town or a Honeywell community or a Mars Hill Retirement Community community. What we've got to get is balance here. I want retirees that come in here volunteer in our schools, for example. When we have a Make A Difference Day that they're out working a part of that, and seeing themselves as an integral part of this community and not, I raised my kids and now I don't want to pay taxes to support the schools, the other services, the parks, recreation activities. That kind

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of thing. So, yeah, I understand where you're going with that. I think just as a leader the question—and as a leader I say as long as we keep what we've put in some of these documents, that we've been planning that we keep balance in mind, that we not let any one segment become the dominant segment in here. We'll be okay and we can do it. As it relates to newcomers, I think there is a great desire in this country right now for people to come and live in communities such as this. That's why I think we're blessed in many ways. But I think as an educational institution of Mars Hill College, and someone such as Richard Dillingham with the Rural Life Museum—all of us have a—it's important for us to train our people, whether it be at the Visitors Center or new people in the community—train isn't the word, but educate, educate people about the evolution of this community. How it got here. How it evolved to the place that it is today and how they can plug in and be good neighbors. It's not a matter of, we're not going to have some of the things that you might have had in New Jersey.
ROB AMBERG:
Right.
RAYMOND RAPP:
But we've got some other things that make this as attractive, if not more attractive. So when you chose to come here, you were attracted by these things. With programs that we do, for example, we have a number of our newcomers who work in the Visitors Center. Annually we do a significant amount of training. We want them to know the history of this area so that they understand their place in it. But to make that programming available, whether it be theatre productions at SART [Southern Appalachian Repetory Theatre], whether it be through the Rural Life Museum, whether it be through special programs which are being done now over at the new retirement center where folks know about the community in which they have come to live [so] that we can

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take the native and the non-native—the implant, so to speak—and integrate them in terms of this community. But again going back to the balance, I think it can be done. I'm an example of someone who is an implant. I value the people here, the natives and the newcomers equally. But I also learned very quickly that it doesn't matter where I came from. Do I value what's here?
ROB AMBERG:
Right.
RAYMOND RAPP:
And the people and the perspectives, and am I sensitive to that history. It's not for the people who live here to educate me. It's really up to me.
ROB AMBERG:
Right.
RAYMOND RAPP:
But that's why I say the college as a mediating agent can be important in educating people and providing that backbone to make a successful transition into the community. I don't think I'm pollyannish. But I think if we're planning this way and if we're thinking this way and if we're developing programs with this in mind, we're going to be way ahead of other communities.
ROB AMBERG:
Yeah, it's significant. I mean, twenty-three years ago—I've been here a little bit longer than that, but not much; just by a few years. I knew Ron fairly well when he was here, Ron Eller. We were both here at the same time. It seemed to me back then that there were so significantly fewer numbers of newcomers that I sensed that—especially when I was living out in the county spending time either in Laurel or over on Big Pine—that there was a real need for newcomers to become part of the community, because you were real dependent on the local population for everything from learning what trees to cut for firewood to just maintaining and learning how to live in the community. I sense now that that's not as important for people coming in. It's not necessary; the population of

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new people has grown so large that we as a community really do need to concentrate on how we all work together and how to make this community what we want it to be. That to me seems significant. It's a different attitudinal shift.
RAYMOND RAPP:
Unless I'm misreading it, it really is a national—
ROB AMBERG:
I totally agree.
RAYMOND RAPP:
There is a desire for this. We get the travel writers through here periodically. They will talk about us as, What it is like in Mayberry? But they're saying it not with sarcasm. They're saying it with envy.
ROB AMBERG:
Exactly.
RAYMOND RAPP:
And how they can replicate that elsewhere, or bring it back. When people come—because it's this kind of value, these values and this orientation, and it's easier than if people simply come in as, We are the agents of change.
ROB AMBERG:
That's right. I think that's entirely correct. Do you see a role for—as part of that mix, as part of that diversity in the community, do you see something like farm land preservation as having a role in that and playing in that? This community has always been agricultural in its base, and that has been—whether it be tobacco production or just self-sufficient farming—
RAYMOND RAPP:
It's in our land use plan, as a matter of fact, that will roll out in January. We have one large farmer. So it's amazing to me. Folks come in and they love the bucolic setting, and they love the views, and then they have to live next to a dairy farm. So we have to, that's part of the education process. There are certain times of the year when the manure is spread on the fields, and the town's going to smell funny.
ROB AMBERG:
That's right.

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RAYMOND RAPP:
And it's a—
ROB AMBERG:
And that's one of the values.
RAYMOND RAPP:
But in fact, exactly right. With great intentionality we're trying to preserve that. As I say, part of this community will not be developed because it's in the watershed. So we'll always have that, but when I think of some of this community, it is a farm community or traditionally had been. The town itself, as you know, grew up around the college. The college was formed in, was organized in 1856. The town was not incorporated until 1893, but the town essentially grew up around the college itself. But this was right in the heart of farm country. These were the farm families right around the college itself. So I can't even imagine. Well, I can, but I don't want to imagine Mars Hill without that, without agriculture being a part of it. I think some experiments that were tried on the 900-acre Bruce Farm that the college owned () those days. We had the organic gardens out there that we were trying to promote. We were trying to upgrade the local herds as well. Probably would've been better if we had been an ag extension school [agricultural/cooperative extension school, i.e., a land-grant institution] because a four-year liberal arts college—that was a struggle to do that thing but—
ROB AMBERG:
It might have been a matter of timing, too. Just—
RAYMOND RAPP:
To get that thing. Now what's being planned for it, there was great intentionality about turning that into a rural Appalachian Center, which would be both living history as well as encouraging alternative crops and so forth. The only thing that scares me, there's an important symbolism in this and it goes back to your earlier question, is now we're looking at a golf course complex, retirement homes and single family homes out there. That—

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ROB AMBERG:
That's a significant change.
RAYMOND RAPP:
That is a one hundred and eighty degree turn from what that property was originally to be used for by the college. I appreciate the, both the symbolism and the reality of what that change means. But again, I think if we can, if we say that area is designated for that type of development, that's not the community of Mars Hill. That is that segment of the community and that particular portion. Again, back to the diversity and balance that we're trying to achieve. We're okay. We'll be okay. At least in that period of twenty years that's a dramatic change for what was envisioned for the property that Mr. Bruce had, his farm and the reality that is about to occur.
ROB AMBERG:
I'm curious, you are again not from here, not from around here are you?
RAYMOND RAPP:
No.
ROB AMBERG:
But you're also from the North. I'm curious then in your role as town mayor, how was that for you? How was that being an outsider and then running for public office, and what kind of issues did that raise for you in terms of insider/outsider? How did you respond to those things?
RAYMOND RAPP:
Well, I think it's something I live with everyday. First of all, I think having become a part of the community and been involved with a number of organizations and activities and community outreach, volunteerism in the community. I'd gotten at least known for that, and having some association with the college helped, because there is the tension between the college and the town which flares up periodically. Then there's just probably the length of time of having been here. Having said that, that evolved and I think a fundamental love and respect for the people of this community—I really do have a deep heartfelt admiration as we talked earlier. I really felt at home when I came to this

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community. There are so many values that I realize are rural values that I had grown up with and been away from, and very much the modernistic setting. When I came here, it felt natural. It felt good. I felt very good and functioning in this kind of environment, and a healthy respect for the people who have been here for so long. It helped. Now, the modernist thing is still there. I need to tell you immediately, because when I started pushing for a strategic plan—when I first ran there was a lot of resistance because I probably pushed harder than some folks would've liked me to push. In fact, the then mayor, who is a dear friend of mine, came to my house one night and said, ‘You know, you need to slow down a little bit.’ Another friend from the town came to me and said, ‘You know, don't be too quick to turn down the ivy. You may find a brick wall behind it.’ So I needed in those early phases to step back, because the thing that happened and that was told to me lovingly not—
ROB AMBERG:
Sure.
RAYMOND RAPP:
—not in a threatening way, saying, You know, maybe you need to slow down. You made some people feel as if you are beating them on the back to get these things done. I think trying, there are enough times that I don't lapse back and get pushy sometimes. But I try to be open and hear that and care about the people that tell me that, because they care enough to tell me and be respectful of that. I find these people just absolutely wonderful.
ROB AMBERG:
Yeah, my experience has been that if you are open to people around here, they just really not only appreciate but really respect opinions and respect the people themselves and their land and families, and all those kinds of thing. Then people basically will do anything in the world for you. That, I think, would include trusting you

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in an official capacity, I think again after a period of time. As you mentioned, it does take, people have to understand that you are making a commitment to this place. That's what one of the things that concerns me. I think a lot about when I first was here. I spent a lot of time over in Laurel with Dellie Norton. I recognized pretty quickly that Dellie's commitment to her property, to her land and the value that she placed on that land was significantly different than the value of anything my parents might have placed on their property in a suburban environment.
RAYMOND RAPP:
Absolutely. It's family. It's kinship, and the ties that are related to the land. It's a—it's an extended intricate network there.
ROB AMBERG:
In Dellie's place, too, I think there was a sense that she could, she knew she could sell the property. But she knew also she could live off of that property, and had lived off of that property. That had really sustained her and maintained her lifestyle, her integrity, her family all of those kinds of things. Again, I think that for those of us—and I include myself in this, certainly—my tie to the land is different. I truly love this place. I can't dream of living anywhere else. But yet I also know that I don't want to have to be self-sufficient off of my property either, and I don't know that I could, in all honesty. It's not like the stuff isn't there for me to do it, but I certainly don't know that I have the wherewithal to do it.
RAYMOND RAPP:
In 1981 we wrote a grant to the Humanities Committee, and the program was ‘Selling Your Land, Selling Your Birthright’. We began to look at some of the changes that had occurred or were about to occur in Madison County. We had session in Mars Hill; we had it over in Laurel at the Laurel School, in Hot Springs, but I remember that. People were passionate. It was amazing in their conversations and attachment to

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the land, yet there was something sad about it because they were saying, How can we preserve it? How—our young people are leaving. They're not going to work on the farm. It really kind of comes back to the coming of the () growth and—
ROB AMBERG:
It really does.
RAYMOND RAPP:
How do you keep? How do you stay?
ROB AMBERG:
It really does keep coming back to that. Again as we've mentioned, the road isn't necessarily the agent of change, but it will serve to accelerate it. But that process has been happening for a long time. Dellie's children certainly weren't interested in farming and staying there; they were ready to get out and work public jobs. That was certainly long before either of us got here. That process was already starting.
RAYMOND RAPP:
I saw that tape replayed with my daughter. That's why I shared with you before. The thing that was, she just couldn't wait to get over to Wake Forest. It never occurred to her to go to any school here that would be Mars Hill or any place else. She was ready for—that is normal developmental adolescent stage, and it was good that she went away. But then she saw it from a different perspective, and she used to regale her mates at school with stories of the bear which—last summer that she was here we had a bear, it was a dry season. It was rummaging through food and climbed the tree in front of the post office down there. She had, these guys were from Detroit and New York and places like that. They couldn't believe that you'd have that in a little town. So she would kind of laugh at that at first. Then it's interesting watching her transformation over four years. She had grown up in this community and now she really has this great appreciation for that and come back. So she wants to be able to be some way involved in preserving the same kind of heritage.

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ROB AMBERG:
I had an interesting kind of conversation with Lee Hoffman just a week ago as part of this project. Lee was talking about his dad and how his dad had always encouraged Lee and Will to get out and see the wider world, because—Dick had not so much a distrust, but he really had a knowledge of the makings of this part of the value structure in this mountain community being that you stay in place. It becomes a very insular kind of community, and that he in watching his sons grow up in it and going to Madison High and becoming kind of embedded in the community in one sense and then wanting them to get out. I'm kind of curious about your experience about that same idea with your daughter.
RAYMOND RAPP:
I was glad that she did that. But I was glad as a parent that was seeing developmentally where she felt almost chained. If you talked to her at that time, she almost felt chained by that. Now having gone out and traveled to Europe, to have studied away and to be exposed to a part of the world, I think she has come back to that different appreciation, and I'm glad. I would want any child to have that exposure, because it is the difference of making this a conscious choice as opposed to feeling trapped. When you make it as a conscious choice, after some experience, there's no substitute for maturity and motivation and experience. That's nothing that you can, as many times as you can say, ‘Oh no, this is the best place in the world to live.’ Until they experience it for themselves—
ROB AMBERG:
That's right.
RAYMOND RAPP:
It may be the best place in the world for me, but it may not be. My son, who is nine, coming up now—Aaron may find that in his world the best place for him is

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Atlanta, Charlotte, New York, overseas some place. That may be, that's part of our own self-discovery isn't it? Where we fit. You grew up outside of Washington—
ROB AMBERG:
And end up down here.
RAYMOND RAPP:
And end up here. It's the right fit. We have to discover that. I recognize that. That's why in talking to some implants coming in, I celebrate with the world in which they entering in coming here and try to enhance the appreciation of the world. The people, I mean, are just absolutely phenomenal, and I remind them they made this as a choice. If they start complaining about ‘You don't pick up the trash twice a week or we do it once a week’ or whatever, there are some trade offs here. It's a choice thing. How much do you love the place?
ROB AMBERG:
How much do you want to be here? What's your motivation for being here? What do you perceive the, and I guess I'm asking you to just kind of project down the road a little bit. What do you feel after 2002, the highway opens? What do you perceive as some of the other changes coming along the corridor? Maybe not just restricted to Mars Hill, but kind of along that stretch up to Tennessee line, which is—
RAYMOND RAPP:
If we can continue to do what some of us are working on—we've had a conversation with Jerry Plemmons, and Jerry and I serve on the Welcome Center Committee, for example. We were able to get the Madison County commissioners, the last board of commissioners to () heroic act in the midst of the campaign season by declaring this as a scenic road through here, so that no billboards could be erected. That was a pretty gutty thing for them to do.

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ROB AMBERG:
It is. I went to a couple of those meetings on the sign ordinances that they had down at the courthouse and listened to people like Harold Wallin be very eloquent about the fact that, ‘I want to make some money on—’
RAYMOND RAPP:
Passion.
ROB AMBERG:
Passion on this property that is cut off from me. I can do nothing with it now. Let me do something with this.
RAYMOND RAPP:
You're going right against the grain of a fundamental value system. It's my property; I can do with it what I want. That rugged sense of individualism that's tied to that. I'm cheered, for example, from the Welcome Center through Mars Hill and to the Buncombe County line, for example, that there's going to be limited development because of its location, number one. But number two, since we only have two interchanges in Madison County I think we—if we can control the development in the same way we're trying to do in Mars Hill so that we can get the type of development, encourage the kind of development—there's a key word—encourage the kind of development—work with people who want to develop it the way that we would like to see it developed—we'll be okay, because I think it's going to be one of the most scenic. You've been up there. You know. You drive along that corridor. That is going to be one of the most scenic stretches of roads in the eastern United States. It is just absolutely breathtaking.
ROB AMBERG:
All the way up to Erwin. It's just going to be ()
RAYMOND RAPP:
Absolutely. And the Tennessee folks have done their job as far as I'm concerned as far as preserving the scenic quality of that portion of the highway. We've done our part through the Buncombe County line. The cause celebre for me right now is

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to see if we can get Buncombe County to take similar action, because the last billboard you see is right here at the Madison/Buncombe County line at the Ivy River. Then it stops there. Now the city of Asheville has taken action. It's going to take about what, seven to ten years as those signs are amortized and then finally removed. They've done their part. What I really want to see is a scenic corridor that goes from the South Carolina line through the Tennessee line in North Carolina. So that we have this major thoroughfare but a major and attractive beautiful scenic highway that goes from one end to the other. We're laying some groundwork with the Land of Sky Regional Council. We've had conversations about this. We're cooperating with some of the groups in North Carolina, western North Carolina that are trying to make this happen. But that's probably not what you were really going for. What you're really going for is what do I see significant change. Places that have continued to struggle, for example, I guess a lawyer could make a career just doing title searches on property in Wolf Laurel. There have been so many, there have been so many land companies that have come in, purchased the land, setup the tracts, then gone belly up. A new operation takes over and so on and so on. I think that the places like that will probably now grow. That will stabilize and that will grow, because you're going to have this ease of access on and off of I-26. I think that if we can grow tourism the way we want it right now that will happen. I think people are doing it with intentionality. They're talking about the things that they want. We want to have Nancy Darnel's Pottery for example featured. That would be worth coming to Madison County to see. I'm not looking for ‘made in Hong Kong’ items to be found up and down Main Street. We want quality kinds of items. I think we're doing that with intentionality, working with HandMade in America on that. I

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think we can make that happen. It's going to take some time. But I think that's going to occur. We're going to try to really promote Western North Carolina, and Madison County, in particular as a destination location. We'll be staffing that Welcome Center. What we tell people about western North Carolina—what we want to convey—is in our hands to help shape. I think we need to see if we keep doing this, I think we're going to see more mobile entrepreneurs come into this area because they want to live here. They can do their business anywhere. They have internet access. So I think we'll see more of those kinds of individuals plus more high tech firms coming in here, because they can locate in conjunction with a college that has some brain power that they would like to be able to tap into, plus the access that they need. I think we'll see more of that occurring. I think you'll see what we're striving for is this balance. You'll see more retirees. They're going to come. You're going to see more folks coming out the corridor—just look at the land prices going up now—coming out of Asheville to buy their hobby farms, but we're in this community building one acre developments. Jud Ammonds down here on South Main Street has got those twenty-one lots down there. He's already sold four.
ROB AMBERG:
Wow.
RAYMOND RAPP:
These are, you've got Max Lenon down there developing his tract. I guess they are five acres, five and ten acre tracts that he's selling down there. So that trend, I think, will continue with folks that come here. I think the industrial base will remain fairly small. We've got a limited amount of land. These mountains are going to make sure there won't be the massive kind of industrial parks you see in the eastern part of the state or South Carolina. But we'll have that here, so we can provide a solvent employment base for our people.

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ROB AMBERG:
Do you see that growth moving west into the county?
RAYMOND RAPP:
Absolutely. Absolutely. In fact, what will happen sooner [rather] than later-and sooner is probably within a ten to twenty year period—we'll link up. In fact, we're doing engineering studies now with the town of Marshall to link our water and sewer systems together. They have excess sewer capacity and had a water shortage. We're in pretty good shape water-wise, but we're going to have to put an intake down there in the Ivy River as well. But by doing that we could adequately take care of their needs as well as growth along that 213 corridor There are nine or eleven miles between Mars Hill and Marshall. So we're planning for that kind of growth. We're trying to do this with some intentionality, because we do that—you see, we've taken what I think is a gorgeous drive through there. If we put that infrastructure in place along there this is going to be a corridor of economic growth for business as well as those subdivisions that develop off of 213 itself. There's no question about it. If you just watch the, where you're able to purchase land right now. It's moving west. The closer you are to the corridor, the prices are escalating tremendously. So property—I remember hearing this when in the little town going all the way back to Connecticut. I could have bought that land for forty-five cents an acre, whatever. Now they're talking about a piece of land down here, ‘I could've bought that for fifty four thousand.’ The asking price for the four acres right now is $900,000.
ROB AMBERG:
God. Is that along the—
RAYMOND RAPP:
Right down here on 213 beside the Hardees there.
ROB AMBERG:
Phenomenal.

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RAYMOND RAPP:
So here's a fellow who has basically been living on welfare for years and years.
ROB AMBERG:
And suddenly he's sitting on a gold mine.
RAYMOND RAPP:
Suddenly he's sitting on a gold mine.
ROB AMBERG:
Is he just, I'm just curious. Is he just ecstatic about that? Or is there this sense of—
RAYMOND RAPP:
I wouldn't characterize that. He would have a junk yard there if we had permitted him, if it weren't for—
ROB AMBERG:
Right.
RAYMOND RAPP:
But he's an interesting character. He's one that happened to be in the right place for him—if you think of it in that sense—at the right time when the road comes. He hasn't gotten anyone to offer. I know what the property, I know what the realtors say is the asking price for it. I don't know anyone who is offering the money. There are prices that are being quoted now right next to the Madison Manor up here, the land that's been graded out now. The price tag on that's a million dollars. So if you've got a spare million.
ROB AMBERG:
I'll go get that this afternoon.
RAYMOND RAPP:
Go get that this afternoon. You can go up there.
ROB AMBERG:
That's an interesting piece of land, of course, because the church and the cemetery were right there and sat right there behind that. That was all just wooded and really just a wonderful sense of a place for that cemetery. Again, to see it then take a—put a commercial value on it like that is a very significant change.
RAYMOND RAPP:
It's a major change.

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ROB AMBERG:
Like this man you were just talking about who would put a junkyard down there on this $900,000 property if the town would let him. That's got to be a really, almost like you were saying an every day kind of issue, where you are dealing with this older value system that has been in place for a couple hundred years. Yet with this change coming and not just the desire but the real need to accommodate this change and to really address it, that's got to be just a, a very, very difficult day in/day out struggle I would think. Kind of—
RAYMOND RAPP:
It's always a balance. There are some businesses that have cropped up down on 213, for example, in our long-range plan. I said, ‘Well I really wish that that would not be what develops there.’ So we are able to control some of it. We're not going to be able to control all of it. We'll set the direction and the trend and the tone, but then as it relates to the values, they're in conflict with that. There was just one fellow that said to me, ‘I appreciate what you are doing trying to save this piece of land of mine, but,’ he said, ‘if somebody gives me a million bucks, they can do any danged thing they want with it.’ I just, well, that's the struggle. That's the struggle. When you're dealing with the business people as well, walking into them and talking about economic development plans, of which they are a part and that they have a stake in—for example, and I'll give you just one of the most difficult battles that I got really beaten up on in the election a couple of years ago—the controlled signage stuff. Now it wasn't a matter of we understand if you're a business, you've got to have a sign. So we negotiated with the state to put up the logo signs that you see on all our interstate highways even though this 19-23 is not I-26 yet. It will not be until they complete the corridor. But we negotiated with the state to agree that they would put those up so that the businesses would have

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some signage too, so you would stop at the Hardees and the Exxon and the Western Sizzlin and the Texaco and whatever. That was just a, that was a nasty, that got into a nasty fight because, ‘You're trying to kill business.’ No, we really want it. We want to attract business to you, but—and we think by making that corridor and the way it's landscaped down here at the interchange that that will be inviting for people to come rather than just one big billboard after another. That detracts rather than attracts. We've learned that we have got to get the business people involved at every phase of this planning process so that they can feel that—they can see that there's benefits to them to do what we're doing and it's not being punitive.
ROB AMBERG:
That almost becomes a different way of viewing marketing as much as anything else. Just kind of maybe an older kind of viewpoint. ‘I've got a business. I've got to have a big sign’ as opposed to as you say have a very inviting kind of entrance way into the community that is just going to naturally bring people in. That is a very different way of marketing community and marketing place and marketing business. It's also, maybe a, maybe a more sophisticated approach or something, I'm not sure. But certainly a more modernistic kind of look, I think.
RAYMOND RAPP:
I think probably that's the key word there. The word is more modernistic look. When we went over and were doing our study, there was a group of us that went over to Black Mountain. We went to Black Mountain for two reasons. One, you've got Interstate 40 going right there by it.
ROB AMBERG:
Exactly.
RAYMOND RAPP:
And yet they're downtown. They've done just a wonderful job of revitalization. It's just a great place, Cherry Street there. They warned us about, You're

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going to have two business communities. You're going to have the one business community that will go up along the interstate, and then there will be the rest of your business community. In fact, that's what they've been fighting for a number of years. It was getting McDonalds, which had the—I don't know how high that McDonalds sign went up. But I mean you could see it for miles and miles away to get them to agree to the sign ordinance and bring that thing down in compliance. They're making some inroads over there, but we saw that happening. What we said is before that occurs, before we get these two business communities, let's see how much we can do to integrate those folks and in conversations on the community appearance board, on the planning boards and other ways. So we've been doing it with intentionality. Now the Comfort Inn is enlightening in this regard in two ways. First of all, the economic developers that came to us said, ‘You people keep thinking about this road and the development of your community and you're looking to Asheville. The growth is going to come out from Asheville.’ He said to us, ‘Watch out. You're going to get hit in the back of the head.’ We weren't quite sure fully what he was saying, but I mean, he was clear at saying there's going to be a lot of growth coming down from the Ohio Valley that's going to come down here investment-wise, as well as the traffic. This will become—as we know, the shortest route from the Ohio Valley to the beaches of South Carolina will be right through here. Well, the first business to buy property down here was a fellow from Parkersburg, West Virginia. Patel, who builds the Comfort Inn down here. Wait a minute. I guess we are. We're so focused on this growth from Asheville, we better be looking at it coming down the corridor. The second battle came with the appearance thing and getting Patel to understand. Patel had bought property all the way down. He is

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an investor, and he had brought property all along the route of I-26. He owns the Winston Hotel, which is there at the Biltmore Square Mall, the one they had all the problems with the contractors. It's open now, but he had built that. He bought property, I think, for a Holiday Inn Express at Weaverville, right by the Waffle House. And he bought this one. Now what he wanted was signage. We went out to dinner with him, spent three and a half-hours with him one night and had to convince him of this. He was trying to convince us that he needed signage. He couldn't have, his business would fall apart without it. He fussed and he fussed and he fought us and he fought the town and he pleaded and was trying to do everything he could. Finally there was enough resolve on the part of the community and this board that they weren't going to back down on the ordinances, and he's lived with it. But it's a constant, the point is that's a constant battle. We really did try to engage him and explain to him what we're trying to do to enhance his business. Well, it turns out that he's got a great operation down there. He by his own telling has exceeded his own estimation of his business plan for the expected revenues, and one of the reasons is because a number of the engineers and folks on the construction job spend Sunday through Thursday.
ROB AMBERG:
Stay down there.
RAYMOND RAPP:
That's right.
ROB AMBERG:
Plus it's the only franchise place in the whole county.
RAYMOND RAPP:
It is. It is, and that's providing the major income for the tourism development authority's budget right now.
ROB AMBERG:
I wanted to ask you, what do you think about the idea—again we are down at our place, and we've had visitors come down with their children from New York,

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Washington, that kind of thing. We immediately recognize kind of the ecotourism potential just on our little property. One day these kids go horseback riding. They go river rafting. We go swimming over in the Laurel River. My wife makes soap with them. Those kinds of things. We potentially would do photography, for example. So obviously it's kind of—these kids from DC or New York absolutely had a ball. Best vacation they've ever had, that kind of thing. So immediately our heads start clicking about those kinds of things. Is there a danger in kind of looking at that value system, looking at that what was kind of an integral part of life in the community but then having it become more of a museum, more of a tourism kind of thing?
RAYMOND RAPP:
I don't want to sound like a broken record, but that's where I go back to the diversity and balance. We've got to have the diversity, and it has to be balanced. If we become a museum, we're simply shutting the door to the majority of the population here. We've got so many people that are leaving the county now to get work. Even if they're still living in the county, they're in Asheville or some place else for their employment base. We have a retail leakage here that's killing us in terms of taxes. So if we don't think with great intentionality about how we preserve these experiences that are part of the traditional culture and the traditional rural way of life—that has to be a part of it. Ecotourism has to be a part of it. The cultural heritage tourism has to be a part of it. That's it. But I think we start kidding ourselves when we say now we can, this becomes sustainable economic development by pursuing these avenues exclusively. Then we're on a slippery slope, and what we're doing is a real disservice to the people that value these things and value the community and values. We've got to develop. We've got to have some plants in here. They could be high tech plants. We would encourage that. We

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want to get some business that want to come, we live in the most beautiful place in the world, period. We live here. It is wonderful, and there are people that want to come here and live. They can bring high tech jobs to us that are not polluting in terms of the environment. They can be housed in buildings that already exist, but that have a minimum impact in terms of the environment when they come here. These mobile entrepreneurs and retirees, the college students themselves, and be thinking of ways we can encourage them to provide opportunities for them so they can stay and not just be here for four years and go on, or live through their college years and go to Research Triangle [Research Triangle Park, NC]. Now you've got to Atlanta, Charlotte—
ROB AMBERG:
Right.
RAYMOND RAPP:
Whatever. I think we can do that without, while preserving it. I think it's just a fundamental respect for all of these segments and what they bring to us.
END OF INTERVIEW