Forest Hills mayor misses deadline, will run write-in campaign

Jackson County poll workers will contend with write-in ballots from at least two towns on election night this fall. One is Webster, where not enough people have stepped forward to run, leaving the town’s fate up to write-in candidates. The other is in neighboring Forest Hills, where the mayor missed the deadline to file for election and will now wage a write-in campaign.

Forest Hills Mayor James Wallace was hiking in the Swiss Alps in July when the sign-up period for candidates came and went, unbeknownst to him. When Wallace got back in town, he went by the election office only to discover he had missed the filing period and it was too late to get his name on the ballot. He now says he will run as a write-in candidate.

In the meantime, another candidate, Mark Teague, filed to run for mayor at the last minute. Teague was initially planning to run for a regular seat on the Forest Hills town board. He appeared in the Jackson County election office minutes before the filing deadline only to learn no one had signed up to run for mayor yet. So Teague filed to run for mayor instead.

Wallace said he always intended to run and had even told the rest of the town board that he would.

While Teague initially thought he was running unopposed, he said it doesn’t bother him that Wallace will be running after all as a write-in.

“Whatever turns up, turns up,” Teague said. “I was just looking to help out the neighborhood.”

Teague, 45, owns a company called Environmental, Inc., which provides wastewater treatment services. Wallace is a retired Western Carolina University professor.

Forest Hills is a tiny town of less than 350 registered voters. It was incorporated as recently as 1997 with the sole purpose of creating land-use protections that would keep out student apartments, trailer parks and undesirable commercial enterprises.

Forest Hills lacks a town hall. Records were historically kept at the mayor’s home, with the boxes shuffled off between neighbors when a new mayor got elected, along with a special fireproof box for the most important documents. When Wallace became mayor, he didn’t want to become custodian of all those boxes, however. When none of the town board members were willing to take in the boxes either, Wallace suggested renting a storage unit. Instead, the town board chose to have the records digitized with discs placed in a safe deposit box.

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