O'Connell has run the Pisgah Inn on the Blue Ridge Parkway since the late 1970s. The inn is actually owned by the Federal government, with O'Connell the "concessionaire" running it. In October of 2013 he was ordered to shutter the inn because of the government shutdown that was engineered, just incidentally, by Congressman Mark Meadows, big in the Freedom Caucus at the time and big in the 11th CD.
At first O'Connell defied the shutdown order and achieved hero status among people who hate the government:
O'Connell said he has heard from thousands of people since making his stand. His story caught fire on social media with tweets and Facebook posts decrying the government's move to close the business. He said the support has been humbling.
"I've heard from liberals, and I've heard from conservatives," he said. "I've heard all of them, from everybody. They all have said the same thing, every one of them: Don't give up. Fight tyranny. That tells me that if someone threw a match in the middle of the country it would explode right now." [USA Today]
...about 30 protesters, some of them identifying themselves as members of the Tea Party, showed up at the inn to protest its closure. Bruce O’Connell, the managing director of the Pisgah Inn, became an overnight hero for anti-government conservatives and the inn was seen as a symbolic battleground. [Ashvegas]
When Park Service police cars blocked the driveways, O'Connell had no choice but to comply. The shut down lasted a week. (Speaking of cognitive dissonance: Tea Partiers, who fervently wanted the government shut down, rallied behind a concessionaire who defied the order to shut down. It's head-spinning time in the mountains!)O'Connell gets high marks for his management of the inn:
As the inn’s concessionaire, O’Connell has won contracts to keep running the place until 2024; swapped the restaurant’s canned food for quality, local fare; and implemented numerous green upgrades—from solar panels to tankless water heaters—while adding amenities like Wi-Fi. The inn gets rave reviews and was voted the Best National Park Lodge in the country by the readers of USA Today in 2015. [WNC Magazine]
So -- just trying to keep up with Republican politics in the 11th CD -- three personalities at least will probably appear on the Republican primary ballot in 2022:
Incumbent Madison Cawthorn, the neo-maxi zoom dweebie we've come to know
Wendy Nevarez, from Asheville, a Navy veteran we profiled here (and who we think has zero chance of winning a Republican primary)
Bruce O'Connell, notorious hotelier with an axe to grind and a good reputation among Tea Partiers