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At least two elected officials need to go

As election fatigue sets in, keep this in mind: it’s the local races that will most affect each of us. The decisions voters make at the lowest levels of government will have the most impact on our lives here in Western North Carolina. 

The over-the-top television commercials, the misleading mailings, the signs, the newspaper stories and ads, the forums and Q&As, candidate hopefuls out on the stump — all of it adds up. By this point, the overload starts overwhelming one’s senses. What did we do with our time prior to this election, and how did we fill our pages?

Many have already voted, and most of those who go early have studied the issues and the candidates and are beyond being swayed. 

Our newspaper has rarely endorsed candidates in its 20-year existence. Newspapers that take that route typically have an editorial board in place comprised of several individuals who conduct formal interviews and base their endorsement on responses to key questions. It’s usually a rigorous process, and of course the endorsement must be considered in relation to the political leanings of any particular news outlet. 

However, I do sometimes take the opportunity to recommend against voting for those who don’t serve in the best interests of their constituents. For that, read on …

 

Vote Presnell out

Rep. Michelle Presnell, R-Burnsville, has served three terms representing part of Haywood and all of Madison and Yancey counties. During her tenure she has voted against several positions supported overwhelmingly by local leaders. She has been a detriment to Haywood County, and I encourage voters to support her opponent, Rhonda Schandevel of Canton.

Just last year, Rep. Presnell signed onto a bill that would have made school boards in her district partisan — this despite not having conferred with local boards and despite letters supported unanimously by the Haywood School Board and the Madison County School Board opposing the measure. 

This happened after an emotionally fraught local debate about closing Central Elementary School and the realities of state education spending. As school board members bemoaned state funding woes, Presnell shot back, calling Haywood school board members “disingenuous” and “shameful.” That’s the kind of representative she is.

Presnell has a record of not supporting local bills sought by county commissioners, town boards and other local officials if they go against her ideological bias. She has thrice refused to support a proposed increase in the room tax paid by visitors that would support tourism and provide money for infrastructure, this despite the measure being supported by every elected body in Haywood County, despite it being supported by the Chamber of Commerce and despite it being supported by the Haywood Economic Development Commission.

Presnell also blocked a referendum supported by Waynesville’s elected officials on the proposed merger between Waynesville and Lake Junaluska. She also blocked a vote on making the tax collector an appointed position — a measure also supported unanimously by county commissioners. Haywood is the only county in the state to still elect its tax collector, but since the current officeholder is Republican, Presnell just can’t see beyond her partisan blinders for the greater good of Haywood’s citizens.

The GOP bills itself as the party of home rule, of letting local leaders decide local issues. Presnell, however, is more interested in sending out press releases of her packing a sidearm and professing support for Second Amendment rights rather than letting Haywood County leaders make decisions for Haywood County. 

Elect Rhonda Schandevel for District 118.

 

Send Matthews packing

Anyone out there perfect? No, most all of us can easily admit that we can do better. But Haywood County Tax Collector Mike Matthews can’t. Asked if any of the criticism of his office was valid, here was Matthews’ response: “I don’t think any of it is.”

Well then. Doesn’t matter that he comes into work after 10 a.m. about half of the days he’s worked (according to county swipe card data), that he can’t answer basic questions elected county commissioners ask about the software program used by his office, that he and employees waived interest penalties for some taxpayers and apparently didn’t know that the practice was illegal. Doesn’t matter that about 10 employees have left their jobs in his office since he was elected.

Haywood County has the 64th best tax collection rate of 100 North Carolina counties. Despite Matthews protestations, the county can and must do better. The public schools, the sheriff’s department, the community college and other vital county agencies depend on the tax collector’s office to provide the funding needed to serve Haywood’s citizens. 

Elect Greg West — who is currently the assistant tax assessor — as Haywood’s tax collector. Haywood’s citizens deserve a trained, dedicated, full-time professional in this office instead of a lackadaisical politician who believes 64th out of 100 is good enough. 

(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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