No contest in Bryson City race
The Bryson City Board of Aldermen race had little interest this year with only three candidates signing up to run and none of them contested.
Incumbent Mayor Tom Sutton signed up to run for a third term in office and doesn’t have any challengers. Sutton won his first term in office as a write-in candidate against the only other candidate on the ballot — Jeramy Shuler — by 22 votes. In 2015, Sutton narrowly defeated his mayoral challenger Catherine Cuthbertson by only six votes.
The Board of Aldermen has two seats open — incumbent Heidi Ramsey-Woodard signed up to run for another term and newcomer Chad Smith signed up to run for a seat. Unless a write-in candidate campaign heats up between now and election day, both Ramsey-Woodard and Smith will get a four-year term.
Long-time Alderman Jim Gribble did not sign up to run for another term.
The 2019 municipal election in Bryson City is a drastic contrast to the slate of candidates that signed up to run for the board in 2015 when four challengers signed up to run against Gribble and fellow incumbent Kate Welch.
While Gribble and Welch represented the old guard, the slate of new candidates wanted to have a fresh perspective on the board — one that was encouraging of local business growth as well as the wellbeing of residents. The outpouring of new candidates was likely a result of an ongoing dispute at the time between the town and the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad. The railroad, with support from the Swain County Chamber of Commerce, wanted the town to close off Fry Street near the train depot to vehicular traffic for the safety of passengers and with the hopes of turning the area into a public pedestrian plaza. However, the town board kept denying the request.
With Ramsey-Woodard winning the 2015 election and unseating Welch, she was able to break the 3-2 hold on the Fry Street vote and the board finally approved the street closure in 2018. Then Ben King, co-owner of Bryson City Outdoors, was elected to the board in 2017, bringing another young and progressive face to town politics.
Since the Fry Street debate died down, the board has been working well together with their number one focus on improving and replacing the town’s aging water and sewer system.