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Election season begins for municipalities

Election season begins for municipalities

As the candidate sign-up period for November’s municipal elections opens at noon on Friday, July 7, voters in most municipalities will start to learn who’s in, who’s out, who’s moving on and who’s moving up.

The towns of Canton, Maggie Valley, Clyde, Sylva, Dillsboro, Forest Hills, Franklin, Webster and Bryson City will all hold elections.

Perhaps the biggest changes could come in Canton, where longtime Mayor Mike Ray recently made his intentions clear.

“I was reading to a fourth-grade class in Bethel a few months ago,” Ray said. “They asked if I was going to be mayor again and I said I wasn’t.”

Although those fourth-graders have known for a few months, Ray made his first public statement on re-election when asked at the conclusion of a June 29 Canton Board of Aldermen meeting; he cited his own children and grandchildren as one big reason for his retirement from public service.

Ray said that after the looks of concern faded from the faces of the students in Bethel, he assured them that someone would come along to lead the town.

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That someone could be Canton Alderman Zeb Smathers, who has widely been seen as a strong prospect for the job.

“That was the first I’d heard of [Ray’s intention],” said Smathers of a Smoky Mountain News tweet breaking the news June 29.

Accordingly, Smathers declined to speculate on his candidacy on account of Ray’s abrupt notice, but did say that he’d since been asked by town employees and people across the county to consider replacing Ray.

Smathers said he’d discuss the matter with his wife, and that Cantonians would learn of his decision if and when he makes his candidacy official. Zeb Smathers is the son of Pat Smathers, a past, long-term mayor of Canton.

Smathers’ alderman seat is up, meaning he could run for alderman, run for mayor, or decline to stand for any office and instead retire to his law practice while nursing a ruptured Achilles tendon that’s kept him from standing for anything for weeks.

Canton Alderman Carole Edwards’ seat is also up for reelection; although she did not return a message sent June 30 seeking comment, it’s been rumored that she isn’t interested in serving in that role again, and there’s been little mention of her having mayoral aspirations, despite topping the 2013 “pick four” ballot with 365 votes to Smathers’ 362 in a contest that also saw current board members Gail Mull and Dr. Ralph Hamlett gain seats with 359 and 316 votes, respectively.

In Maggie Valley, seats currently occupied by Aldermen Mike Eveland and Clayton Davis are up for re-election.

“I have not made a decision yet about whether to pursue being an alderman,” said Davis July 1.

Alderman Mike Eveland was a bit more decisive.

“My plan as of right now is that I’m probably going to run,” Eveland said July 1. “A lot of things I ran on four years ago have been fixed, and things seem to be headed in the right direction.”

Eveland cited the “great job” Maggie Valley Town Manager Nathan Clark has been doing, satisfaction with the town attorney, better cooperation among the board and more stability in the town’s insurance expenditures as examples of what’s right with Maggie Valley right now.

Two alderman seats in Clyde — those of Jim Trantham and Frank Lay — are also up for re-election in what Haywood County Board of Elections Director Robbie Inman said was the smallest municipal election of the county’s four-year election cycle.

Inman also said that the candidate-filing period both opens and closes “promptly” at noon and lasts from July 7 to July 21.

In Jackson County, the Sylva town board has two commissioner seats up for election. While Commissioner Mary Gelbaugh said she plans to run again, Commissioner Barbara Hamilton couldn’t be reached for comment.

All five aldermen and the mayor of Dillsboro will be up for re-election. Aldermen Beaufort Riddle and David Gates said they will run again, but Alderman David Jones and Mayor Mike Fitzgerald are undecided. Aldermen Jimmy Cabe and Tim Parris couldn’t be reached for comment.

Two councilmembers and the mayor of Forest Hills are also up for re-election. Mayor Kolleen Begely will run again and so will councilmember Clark Corwin. Councilmember Carl Hooper is undecided.

In Webster, seats held by Mayor Tracy Rodes and Commissioners Alan Grant, Danell Moses and Leigh Anne Young are up for election. Rodes said she plans to run again. The three commissioners could not be reached by deadline.

Both aldermen up for election in Bryson City, Rick Bryson and Janine Crisp confirmed they would be running for another term.

In Franklin, terms are up for councilmembers Barbara McRae, Billy Mashburn and Patti Abel and Mayor Bob Scott. Abel will not be running again and Mashburn and McRae were not able to be reached before deadline.

Scott confirmed he would be seeking a third term as mayor. Even though Franklin council members serve four-year terms, the mayor only serves two-year terms.

Highlands Mayor Patrick Taylor and Commissioners Amy Patterson and Donnie Calloway are up for re-election.

Candidates may register during the sign-up period by visiting their county’s Board of Elections office.

Voters should be registered by Oct. 13 to participate in this year’s election, which will be held Nov. 7. One stop voting starts Oct. 19 and ends Nov. 4, and absentee ballots may be requested by mail from Oct. 6-31.

Jessi Stone and Holly Kays contributed to this story.


Municipal election timeline

• July 7 Municipal candidate filing begins

• July 21 Municipal candidate filing ends

• Oct. 6 Absentee by mail requests begin

• Oct. 13 Voter registration deadline

• Oct. 19 One Stop voting begins

• Oct. 31 Absentee by mail requests end

• Nov. 1-6 Absentee requests for sickness, disability accepted

• Nov. 4 One Stop voting ends

• Nov. 7 Election Day

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