With roots firmly planted in Western North Carolina, Bryson feels he is best qualified to be a voice for its people. Congressman Mark Meadows, R-Cashiers, has represented the district since being elected in 2013, but Bryson — who will be running as a Democrat — thinks he can do better.
“The N.C. 11th District has been poorly served during Meadows’ four years in office. He is, at best, ineffective; at worst, an expense we cannot afford,” Bryson said.
Bryson was born in Franklin and his family moved back to Bryson City when he was still a baby. Bryson City was named after his great-grandfather, T.D. Bryson, who was a colonel in the Confederate Army and the first representative to the General Assembly.
“His son, T.D II, was a Superior Court judge, my dad, the third T.D., was mayor here, Solicitor (D.A. now), Superior Court judge and candidate for Congress in 1960,” Bryson said. “So, you might say that I was born and bred to politics.”
After a long career as an industrial public relations writer in Cleveland, Ohio, Bryson, now 71, moved back to his hometown of Bryson City to serve his community. While he was unsuccessful at securing a spot on the Swain County school board, he was elected to the town board of aldermen in 2013. He said his record on the board shows that he can get things done.
For example, Bryson said he helped push through a major upgrade to the town’s water system.
“We were losing 50 percent of the water we pumped, but new digital meters cut our losses down to 20 percent and falling,” he said.
He has also led the charge to get Bryson City named as the newest “Trout City,” by the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission, which he sees a great opportunity to improve tourism and economic development. Lastly, Bryson said he’s led a statewide fight to keep the N.C. General Assembly from changing the formula for how sales tax is distributed. If the formula is changed, the town stands to lose a large amount of revenue, which could result in property tax increases for residents.
On the other hand, Bryson said Meadows had a major hand in the government shutdown that cost his district $23 million in lost wages and revenue. He says Meadows record for job creation in the region is dismal and that he’s done nothing to recover the money owed to Swain County by the federal government for the Road to Nowhere agreement.
“I am hopeful my record of being a voice for the people of Western North Carolina and someone who actually represents their interest will return me to Washington, D.C., for a third term,” Meadows said in response to Bryson’s announcement.
Meadows added that he looks forward to the coming months when he and the people of Western North Carolina get to know Bryson.
“I certainly applaud anyone who is willing to put their time, talent and resources to work for the public benefit,” he said. “Swain County has a rich history of great public servants, many of whom I call my friends.”
If elected to Congress, Bryson said he would push for a major new industrial complex in the district that would incubate clean industries in fields like biomedicine, solar energy, recreation and agribusinesses. He said sites could be spread all across the district and all manufacturing would have to be done in the U.S.
“But the best news is that it would enable the kids that we send off to get educated to have a place where they could earn a satisfying living and enable their own children to grow up with a mountain experience,” he said.
Bryson said his plan got a positive reception at the Democratic selection committee meeting recently in Asheville. While it’s still early in the game for 2016 election, Bryson said he is working on putting his campaign team together and looks forward to getting out in the district to talk to people face-to-face.