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Wednesday, 06 January 2016 16:57

And the 2015 award winners are ...

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op frThe idea to start handing out annual spoof awards instead of the traditional year-in-review that most newspapers do was the brainchild, as I recall, of staff writer Becky Johnson. Those who know Becky and have read our paper for a while know she’s been both an editor and reporter here at SMN, and has written many award-winning pieces.  She’s always looking for different and better ways to do things, and this idea has stuck.

The end-of-year awards (published last week,  www.smokymountainnews.com/news/item/16926-2015-news-in-review) have become one of my favorite annual traditions here. It’s interesting and fun to sit down, dissect the past year’s news and try to figure out what kind of treatment will work best. We’re smart enough to know that we don’t succeed in all of the spoofs, but there a few every year that are pretty good. So, forgive for going into a little more detail on a few of my favorites from this year’s list.

The “Oz the Great and Powerful Award” went to Canton Mayor Mike Ray. Ray supported two challengers who were trying to win seats on the town board. What we pointed out was that he did so somewhat surreptitiously, giving the challengers money for their campaigns but never openly — at least not in front of the media — expressing support for them or opposition to the sitting aldermen they were challenging. 

Like Oz from the movie, he operated from behind the curtain, pulling levers, twisting knobs, trying to keep up appearances.

And we didn’t say what he did was wrong or even unusual. Ray’s public service is commendable and his devotion for Canton is obvious. As a football coach I eventually came to detest said on a regular basis, “it is what it is.”

What’s perhaps better than the award we gave Ray, though, is what happened to our newspapers in Canton. We deliver every Wednesday, and by Thursday we were getting calls that every stop in Canton was out of papers. They were gone. People either loved the stories in last week’s edition or, Oz-like, someone went behind the scenes and made sure all the papers disappeared. We’re looking into it.

Very few people make our awards list year after year, but Rep. Michelle Presnell, R-Burnsville, is on a two-year run. Anyone who follows Presnell’s shenanigans in Raleigh will certainly understand why we pick on her: she makes it easy.

This year, Presnell got the “Michelle Knows Best Award” for her continued efforts to block the merger of Lake Junaluska into Waynesville. 

As an elected leader, Presnell certainly has a right to speak her mind in Raleigh. The problem is that she refuses to come right out and say why she is against the merger. All the leaders of these communities want is for their constituents to have the opportunity to vote this proposal up or down. 

But no, Presnell keeps up her opposition, blocking a bill that would let the citizens have their say in the matter, proving that she is certainly worthy of the “Michelle Knows Best” moniker. I mean, letting the democratic process play out just isn’t a good idea, not when you have leader who knows better than anyone else what is best.

Maybe, maybe this will be the year Presnell is beat and gets the opportunity to spend more time with her family in Burnsville instead of having to travel to Raleigh to do the people’s business. We can only hope.

And, perhaps my favorite, is the award given to an attorney for Western Carolina University, the “Straight Shooter Award.”

When it comes to tailgating and college football, everyone knows that the libations play a big part. So when WCU wanted to expand the tailgating area to accommodate more before-game festivities, university attorney Mary Ann Lochner had this to say by way of explanation when the proposal came before the board of trustees: “We want to drink in more places than we currently do. What else? Are there more questions?” Go Catamounts.

(Scott McLeod can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..)

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