At our inception 20 years ago, we chose to be different. Unlike other news organizations, we made the decision to provide in-depth, regional reporting free to anyone who wanted access to it. We don’t plan to change that model. Support from our readers will help us maintain and strengthen the editorial independence that is crucial to our mission to help make Western North Carolina a better place to call home. If you are able, please support The Smoky Mountain News.

The Smoky Mountain News is a wholly private corporation. Reader contributions support the journalistic mission of SMN to remain independent. Your support of SMN does not constitute a charitable donation. If you have a question about contributing to SMN, please contact us.

SMN candidate forum Oct. 20

Although Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump have overshadowed nearly every other political campaign in the country, that doesn’t mean that those other campaigns aren’t important.

In fact, they may be more important. 

With the prospect of a hostile Republican Congress opposing most Trump and all Clinton proposals over the next four years, much of the real action that affects your day-to-day life will take place just miles from your home. 

This year, the Haywood County Commissioners’ race is among the most important in the area.

Voters will have a chance to weigh in on the service of one incumbent — Kevin Ensley — and also to fill the seat of longtime Commission Chairman Mark Swanger.

Whether or not the commission moves in a new direction — with a new chairman, to boot — is up to voters. 

The Smoky Mountain News is holding a forum on Thursday, Oct. 20, at the Folkmoot Friendship Center at 122 Virginia Avenue in Waynesville. Scheduled to appear are all four Haywood County Commission candidates — Robin Greene Black, Steve Brown, Kevin Ensley and Brandon Rogers.

Admission is free; a reception will take place from 6 to 7 p.m., allowing candidates to mingle with voters, who will also have the opportunity to tour the Folkmoot building and enjoy light snacks. 

At 7 p.m. any candidate on a Haywood County ballot in the upcoming election (except county commission candidates) may address the audience. State legislative candidates will have five minutes and others will have up to two minutes. 

At approximately 7:30 p.m., moderator and Smoky Mountain News Staff Writer Cory Vaillancourt will begin the forum, which is expected to take 100 minutes. Candidates will be seated on stage alphabetically: Black, Brown, Ensley, Rogers. In that order, candidates will give opening statements of two minutes each. 

Each candidate will then have two minutes to answer each question, proceeding in that same order. Follow-up questions may be asked by the moderator of any candidate, or, at the moderator’s discretion, rebuttals may be given to candidates who wish to address the statements of other candidates. 

The questions all revolve around a simple concept: the past, present and future of Haywood County. 

Residents of Haywood County will have the opportunity to submit questions. The Smoky Mountain News editorial staff will accept submissions via email, Facebook, fax, letter, phone or Twitter until Wednesday, Oct. 19. 

Once all the questions have been asked, each candidate will give closing statements two minutes in length in that same order: Black, Brown, Ensley, and finally Rogers. 

The moderator will then end the forum around 9:10 p.m. 



Haywood Candidate Forum

• Who: Candidates for state offices and county commission.

• Where: Folkmoot Friendship Center auditorium, 122 Virginia Ave.

• When: Reception at 6 p.m., forum begins at 7 p.m.

Go to top