Ken Czarnomski has always loved sketching and writing, but as a department chair for the sustainability and construction management programs at Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College, his projects consisted mainly of razor-straight lines and technical engineering language. There wasn’t a lot of room for freehand sketches or colorful commentary.
After retiring, Czarnomski began looking around for ways to pick up some of those hobbies he’d left untouched as a working professional. At the same time, he wanted to find a way to give back to his community, Haywood County. So, he started sketching hiking maps.
Waynesville Middle School is set to get a new roof, following a vote by Haywood County Commissioners to approve a project that the Haywood County School Board OK’d Sept. 8. The project will finish off a campaign against leaky roofs that Tracy Hartgrove, the school system’s maintenance director, has been championing since he arrived eight years ago.
With shrinking budgets, cries for higher teacher salaries and the struggle to keep test scores high while working with limited funds for resources such as textbooks and technology, local school districts have had their share of challenges this year. Four seats are open in this year’s race for Haywood County School Board, and those opportunities brought out a field of six challengers to face the four incumbents running for re-election.
Three challengers running for Haywood County commissioner are touting lower property taxes, a smaller budget, limited government, less regulation and personal freedom — the core tenets of conservatism with a Libertarian twist.
“The government needs to live within its means,” said Philip Wight, a Republican challenger. “It doesn’t seem like we are moving toward lower spending in the government. We keep looking at what more can the government provide. That is an unsustainable path.”
Criticism over taxes and spending from the conservative arm of the local Republican Party is nothing new for Haywood County commissioners.
So this election year, the three Democrats running for re-election came armed with talking points: only 29 counties have a lower tax rate, the county budget is smaller than it was five years ago and there are fewer employees now than five years ago.
• Kirk Kirkpatrick, a lawyer, has been on the board since 2002 and has been a supporter of recreation.
• Michael Sorrells has been a commissioner for four years and previously served six years on the school board. He is a service station, convenience store and café owner in Jonathan Creek.
• Bill Upton, the retired superintendent of Haywood County Schools, a principal and teacher, has been on the board eight years.
• Denny King, a conservative voice in county politics and frequent critic of sitting commissioner’s decisions, previously ran for a commission seat in 2012. He came within 300 votes.
• Phil Wight, owner of a motel in Maggie Valley and Maggie town alderman. Wight has long been involved in Maggie’s controversial breed of politics and a player in the tourism industry.
• Windy McKinney, is a historian and writer with a Master’s Degree in Medieval Studies from the University of Kent, in the United Kingdom. She is the Libertarian Party of Haywood County’s first candidate for county commissioner and feels the area is ready for a candidate who will “change politics as usual.”
Caleb Smith had no idea.
“I didn’t hear them announce it,” he chuckled. “I was backstage talking to Del McCoury about a guitar and he says to me, ‘Son, I think they just called your name.’”
Tucked away on the corner of Kentucky and Virginia avenues in the old Hazelwood Elementary School building, the Alternative Learning Center in Waynesville doesn’t look much like a high school. It’s got just four classrooms, and a stroll through the hall during school hours doesn’t reveal the usual scene of a teacher standing in front of orderly rows of desks. In fact, though about 200 students are enrolled at any one time, only 40 or 50 show up each day.
Work is underway on a multi-million-dollar environmental remediation project on the Old Francis Farm landfill near Waynesville. The first load of dirt was dumped Oct. 7, and on Oct. 6 Haywood County Commissioners approved a $44,500 contract for McGill Associates Engineering to do construction, landfill permitting and stockpile design for the fill dirt.
“It’s been a whirlwind of work from our side, the engineers’ side, and the N.C. DOT,” David Francis, the county’s tax administrator, told commissioners.