Candidates gather for 6-week Q&A

By Kim Lewicki, Highlands Newspaper

This week kickstarts a candidate Q&A that will feature a question and answer each week for six weeks culminating with the Thursday, Nov. 2 edition prior to the Tuesday, Nov. 7 election.

There are five candidates running for three seats on the Highlands Town Board. The candidates are Kay Craig, incumbent John Dotson, incumbent Brian Stiehler, Jeff Weller and Rachel Wilson. The candidates’ answers will be presented alphabetically.

Question #1

Tell us a little about yourself and why you feel this run for Town Board is important.

Kay Craig

My name is Kay Craig and I am running for town commissioner. I moved to Highlands as a newlywed in 1988. We raised our two children here and value the quality of life that Highlands has provided for our family. 

 I have had two businesses in Highlands. Highlands Cabinet Company which suffered during the recession and then in 2010 I opened The Ugly Dog Pub with the help of friends and family. 

I have served on five boards in Highlands and I feel that is important to give back to your community. I would be honored to serve on our town board and hope to effect positive governance for Highlands.

John Dotson 

For those who know me, you know that Highlands has my heart. For those who don’t, allow me to fill in some blanks.

In my younger years, I was an Army Brat; I lived in so many places it’s hard to remember them all.

My first memory of Highlands was about 1970 while doing a story for Foxfire magazine. I fell in love just driving through!

In 1973 I was lucky enough to return to Highlands for a short time. It was then I met my wife. We dated (long distance) and married here in 1975.

In 1986 I received a job offer and the opportunity to move to Highlands permanently. It took me about 30 seconds to accept!

My wonderful wife, Mary, and I raised two fabulous and successful daughters here. Both attended Highlands School from 1st thru 12th grade.

I have owned and operated Preferred Properties of Highlands for over 30 years and been involved locally since day one.

Previously, I have served on the Town of Highlands Planning Board, Chair of the Zoning Board, Peggy Crosby Center Board and Trustee of Highlands United Methodist Church. I was first elected to the Highlands Board of Commissioners in 2007.

Since being elected I’ve helped the town navigate numerous issues on and off the ballot – from mixed drinks to an updated Unified Development Ordinance to decisions on the boundaries of the city limits. I’ve given each issue, large and small, careful and deliberate consideration – always keeping how it will affect the present and future of Highlands top of mind.

Each election in Highlands is the voters opportunity to guide the future of our town. This one is no different.

I have no hidden agendas; I am in no one’s pocket. My number one concern is preserving the reason we all are here: Quality of Life in Highlands, North Carolina.

To learn more about where I stand on local issues, please visit my web page: or my Facebook page at: John “Buz” Dotson

Brian Stiehler 

My wife, Hilary, and I moved to Highlands 23 years ago because of my profession. I am employed as the Golf Course Superintendent at Highlands County Club. I have served and continue to serve in numerous community leadership roles through the years and was first elected as a Town Commissioner in 2011. Serving the community in this capacity is something that I find very rewarding and fun. Being engaged in the Town is something that motivates me and keeps me busy. The Town Board requires folks who are experienced, transparent, trustworthy, and rational. For me specifically, there are a couple things that are very important to me that I am constantly working on. First is the Town of Highlands Scholarship Fund, which I’d like to continue fundraising for so we can keep building this unique program. This fund allows graduates of the Highlands School to pursue post-secondary education with financial help from the Town. There is no other fund like this in the country because municipalities are typically not permitted to maintain investment funds. In 1975, thanks to the hard work of members of the Highlands community, the state of North Carolina granted permission to the Town to start this fund. In the last 13 years that I’ve been involved, over $200,000 has been added to the scholarship fund. The other fundraising project I will continue to work on, if re-elected, is for a new, state of the art playground that is currently in the design phase. We were so fortunate to have a donor come forward and pledge a generous sum that we will work to add to, to make this a reality for the young children in Highlands. The job of being a great commissioner goes so far beyond what the public sees at the monthly meetings, and it takes someone who has the time, the passion, and the energy to fulfill its duties. For the last 12 years, I have proven my commitment to the town and I’m respectfully asking for your support to continue to serve as one of your Town Board members. 

Jeff Weller

I have lived in Highlands for 30 years. During that time, I raised my two children, Colin and Emma, here as well. I’ve worked all 30 of those years professionally in the architecture, planning and construction field after graduating from Clemson University in Design-Architecture. In addition to spending time with my family and working full-time, over the years I have gotten great enjoyment through community service. My professional career and my community service has allowed me to work closely with both the Town of Highlands government and administration as well as the Macon County Commissioners and county sub-committees. 

In my professional career as a project manager for both residential and commercial projects, I spend significant time managing the design process as well as representing the owner(s) during the duration of the construction. At times, that involves problem solving and coordination between owners, contractors, suppliers, etc. Also, during projects’ construction, building codes, town and county ordinances and state regulations are involved. Navigating projects through all of these factors while at the same time maintaining quality design takes coordination and leadership. 

Over the past several years, there have been several Town of Highlands issues that have come through the town’s Board of Commissioners that were very divisive. I feel the time is right to get some new and fresh ideas and views on the Board of Commissioners. I also feel if elected, my professional experience and my community service has prepared me to have a positive impact. I’d like to engage the community more in decisions in a positive way and feel that I would be well prepared to see that through as a commissioner. 

I love Highlands and plan to spend the rest of my life on the plateau. I was very fortunate to raise my family in Highlands and I would like to help keep Highlands a community where my children and others’ future generations will want to live, work and raise their families as well.

Rachel Wilson

Macon County has been home for almost 30 years, Highlands for the past 5. My husband and I are about to celebrate 21 years of marriage and we have a son and daughter who both attend Highlands school. My favorite ways to unwind are to read, hike and spend time with friends. I have a strong history of fiscal responsibility working as the Director of Accounting for Old Edwards and volunteering as the Treasurer on two local boards. This run for Town Board is important because it is a chance for new energy and fresh ideas. The Town and Commissioners have done a lot of good, but we need to be more proactive and collaborative in shaping the Towns future and maintaining the sense of community that we have. 

The Oct. 5 question:

Are you for Short-term Rentals (STRs) in Highlands as they stand now? Do you think more or less regulations should be considered?


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