Archived Opinion

Let’s get the ‘dump Presnell’ train rolling

op frLet the campaign to unseat Rep. Michele Presnell begin. During her two terms in office Presnell has been an obstructionist and a demagogue who has blocked progress in Haywood County on several fronts.

Presnell, a Republican from Yancey County who represent the 118th District, will face Democratic primary winner and Haywood County School Board member Rhonda Schandevel in the Nov. 8 general election.

It’s hard to find a single issue to start with — there are so many — in asking voters to turn Rep. Presnell out. That said, let’s start with the planned closing of Central Elementary School. Rep. Presnell misled constituents about education funding and used some pretty damning language in describing the local school board.

Rep. Presnell says Haywood County has gotten more education funding since she was elected. She’s right. However, what she always fails to point out is that the increase — and more — went for relatively small step increases in salaries, so there is less to spend in the classroom.

Here’s the facts, and I’m using Rep. Presnell’s numbers. In the last four years, teacher salaries in Haywood have risen by $1.6 million. State increases in funding over those four years amounted to $600,000. That leaves $1 million less to spend in the classroom. That’s what we used to call simple math when I was in school. Additionally, the county’s share of the lottery proceeds has dropped by nearly $500,000 as legislators have diverted that money to other uses.

So let the GOP tout the education funding increases all they want, but the truth is that the increases have not kept up with the rising costs. Schools are having to do more with less.

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On top of this, Rep. Presnell has not admitted that the funding increases actually mean less money to use in classrooms. In fact, she continues to use words like this:

“Fault lies with Haywood County School Board members for their gross mismanagement of resources.”

“Gross mismanagement?” Perhaps she disagrees with spending choices made by the school board — and that’s OK — but to call it “gross mismanagement” borders on ridiculous. Please take me to a school and show me “gross mismanagement of resources,” Rep. Presnell.

Where else has Rep. Presnell been on the wrong side of helping Haywood County? Two stand out: she has blocked the merger of Lake Junaluska and Waynesville (despite the fact that her district does not include either) and she shot down a proposed tourism room tax increase that was widely supported by local leaders.

And just to point out how ideologically far to the right Rep. Presnell is, don’t forget that back in 2013 she co-sponsored a measure that would have allowed North Carolina to declare an official state religion. I guess she just forgot about the First and Fourteenth amendments? Sounds preposterous, but google HB 494 and Rep. Presnell and read about it for yourself.

The Smoky Mountain News very rarely endorses candidates (I think the number is four in the 16 years we’ve been in business). We write extensively in our news section about the issues important in each election and leave it to voters to make up their mind. We don’t, however, follow up those stories with an opinion piece citing our choice for whom we think is the best candidate. Instead, we leave that up to the voters.

The tradition of endorsing candidates has a long history in American journalism. Going all the way back to the Revolutionary War era, newspapers were often mouthpieces for one political party and devoted their coverage to convincing voters that party was the right one to lead.

We’ll never do that, but we will always support reasoned, thoughtful legislators who value the hard work and on-the-ground knowledge of local leaders over their own political ideology. That means don’t vote for Rep. Presnell, but instead vote for Rhonda Schandevel come November. Let’s get this train rolling early.

(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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