Uncontested primaries on tap for Jackson
Though both of the Jackson County commissioners up for re-election will have competition when November rolls around, the primary season will be quiet with only one person from each party running for each seat.
The most recent candidate to sign up is Mickey Luker, 47, who put in his name to run against incumbent Mark Jones for the Cashiers seat just minutes before the deadline. With 20 years of experience working for county government as a social worker and 10 years of owning the Caney Fork General Store, Luker, a Republican, said he feels like he has something valuable to bring to table if elected.
“I think it’s the perfect opportunity to be able to give something back to the community in which I live,” Luker said.
In addition to his work experience, Luker’s also been quite involved in local issues, serving as a founding member of the Jackson County Tourism Development Authority, on the Tuckaseigee Water and Sewer Authority board, on various state boards involving social services and as an officer in the Cullowhee Fire Department.
Of the current board, Luker said, “I think their focus needs to be different.” He said he’d like to see the county run more efficiently, like a business, and improve services to Cashiers residents by making sure a representative from each department holds weekly office hours in the southern end of the county. He’d also like to look into merging the social services and health departments, as has been done in the state government as well as in counties across North Carolina recently.
Regarding the impending revaluation and the county’s full plate of capital needs, Luker said those priorities need to be looked at carefully. When it comes to one of those capital projects, expansion at the Green Energy Park, Luker said he sees the undertaking as public funding of private enterprise and that he’d take a different tack than the current board.
“We ought to look at some ways of exiting out of that,” he said. “Are they self-sufficient, and if they’re not, we need to determine if they’re not going to be able to be self-sufficient. And if not, think of an exit strategy for that Green Energy Park.”
In the general election, Luker will run against incumbent Mark Jones, a Democrat. Jones, 56, has been on the board since 2006. Former general manager and current morning manager at High Hampton Inn — Jones gave up the general manager’s gig when he was elected commissioner — Jones has been a proponent of the Green Energy Park since the beginning and said he’s hoping for another four years to see through some of the projects he’s helped start, especially the expansion of water and sewer capacity in Cashiers.
“This is starting to come to a crucial time where I worked hard and diligently to make sure there’s funding to get this the next step forward,” said Jones, a TWSA board member.
Both Jones and Vicki Greene, the other commissioner up for re-election, have said that this will be their last term if elected. Like Jones, Greene will go uncontested in the primary but will face Republican Ron Mau, a finance professor and councilmember for the Village of Forest Hills, in the general election.
With candidate sign-up complete, the field for Jackson County commissioner includes:
• Vicki Greene. 65, is a Democrat completing her first term as commissioner. Her career included 36 years with the Southwestern Commission, where she eventually held the position of assistant director. She is running in District 3.
• Ron Mau. 51, is a Republican who currently sits on town council for the Village of Forest Hills. He is a professor and department chair for Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University’s online campus and holds advanced degrees in engineering and finance. He is running in District 3.
• Mark Jones. 56, is a Democrat who’s sat on the commission since 2006. He is the former general manager and current morning manager for High Hampton Inn in Cashiers. He is running in District 4.
• Mickey Luker. 47, is a Republican who owns Caney Fork General Store and spent 20 years in social work. He’s sat on a variety of state and local boards. He is running in District 4.
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