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Historic Haywood commission sworn in

Haywood’s two new commissioners (front, left to right) Tommy Long and Mark Pless are joined by incumbents (rear, left to right) Brandon Rogers, Chairman Kevin Ensley and Kirk Kirkpatrick. Cory Vaillancourt photo Haywood’s two new commissioners (front, left to right) Tommy Long and Mark Pless are joined by incumbents (rear, left to right) Brandon Rogers, Chairman Kevin Ensley and Kirk Kirkpatrick. Cory Vaillancourt photo

It was fitting that District Court Judge Donna Forga was on hand Dec. 3 to swear in the two new Republican commission members that will give the Haywood Commission, for the next two years at least, a first-ever Republican majority — her father Robert was the first Republican elected to the commission in 1994. 

That, according to new Chairman Kevin Ensley, was the first important step from Republicans earning just 28 percent of the vote in 1974 to winning four of the last five available seats on the board.

Ensley went on to congratulate Republican Tommy Long for being the top vote-getter, Democrat Kirk Kirkpatrick for winning his fifth term and becoming probably the longest serving commissioner in Haywood County’s two-century history, and Republican Mark Pless for winning what Ensley thinks is the closest commission race ever — just 43 votes.

“If you think your vote doesn’t matter, think about this,” Ensley said. “In each precinct we have hundreds if not thousands of people, in 28 of the 29 precincts, so if one person had changed their vote from Mark Pless to Michael Sorrells, there would be a different result.”

Commissioners also serve on a variety of boards that both hear from and present recommendations to the board of commissioners, which also approved a new slate of assignments during the meeting. 

Long will serve on the Commission for a Clean County, the Fairgrounds Board, the Solid Waste Advisory Committee (with commissioner Rogers) and the Watershed Review Board.

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Pless has been named to the Engineering Review Board, the Juvenile Crime Prevention Council, the Sediment Control Commission Pless and the VAYA County Commissioner Advisory Board.

Kirkpatrick is responsible for the Downtown Waynesville Association, the Haywood Chamber & Economic Development Council, the Haywood Regional Medical Center Hospital Authority, the Library Board of Trustees and the Tourism Development Authority. 

Rogers will represent commissioners on the Haywood County Health & Human Services Agency board, the Local Emergency Planning Committee, Mountain Projects Board of Directors, the Recreation Advisory Board and the Solid Waste Advisory Committee (with Long).

Chairman Kevin Ensley will sit on the French Broad River Metropolitan Planning Organization Transportation Advisory Committee, the French Broad River Rural Planning Organization Transportation Advisory Committee and the Southwestern Commission, as well as the Haywood Advancement Foundation and the Haywood Community College Strategic Planning Committee — both of which require the commission chair to serve. 

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