Keeping a campaign promise to have a physical presence in Buncombe County, newly reelected Rep. Patrick McHenry opened a district office Jan. 30 in Black Mountain.
The Republican is based in Lake Norman and represents the 10th congressional district, which was redrawn in 2011 to include most of Asheville for the first time. The district stretches all the way to the Charlotte suburbs and consists mostly of Piedmont counties, leading some local constituents to worry that Asheville won't get the attention it deserves under new lines that were drawn for partisan reasons.
However, in a press release announcing the opening of the Black Mountain office, McHenry seeks to calm any such concerns.
"My number one priority as a representative has always been to provide the best constituent services possible. If folks have an issue they need assistance with, we're here to help and answer any questions we can," he said. "I'd personally like to thank Mayor Bartlett and the Town of Black Mountain for the office space in the Black Mountain Town Hall."
In addition, McHenry encourages constituents who need assistance with the Small Business Administration, Social Security Administration, Medicare, Veterans benefits, procuring a passport, or other issues with the federal government to contact the office. It's located at 160 Midland Avenue in Black Mountain; staff can be reached by phone at 828-669-0600.
At the Jan. 30 grand opening celebration, McHenry met with a variety of local leaders, including Black Mountain Mayor Carl Bartlett, Buncombe County Commissioners Mike Fryar and Ellen Frost, Chairman David Gantt and others.
McHenry also operates district offices in Hickory and Gastonia.
Meanwhile, newly elected 11th District Rep. Mark Meadows recently opened an office in the Henderson County courthouse. The redrawn 11th District includes parts of northern and western Buncombe County and covers most of WNC. The Republican lives in Highlands and also opened an office in Spruce Pine.
Previously, Rep. Heath Shuler had a district office in downtown Asheville when all of Buncombe County was in the 11th District. The Democrat chose not to run for re-election last year, instead taking a job heading Duke Energy's lobbying operation.
UPDATE, Feb. 1: In response to some of the questions raised by readers in the comment thread below, Xpress inquired with McHenry's office about the financial arrangement for the Black Mountain office space. We received the following response from McHenry's Chief of Staff, Parker Poling:
“During these tough economic times, Patrick understands that the government must tighten its belt just like families do, which is why he voted to cut his own office budget 11 percent over the last two years and another 8 percent this year. In order to serve our constituents in Buncombe County and surrounding areas, we were able to work with local elected leaders to secure unused government office space, rent-free, just as we did with our new Gastonia office. Congressman McHenry appreciates the Gaston County Commission, Black Mountain Mayor Bartlett and the Board of Aldermen for accommodating our staff.”