Archived Opinion

Rep. Pless bullies his way over local leaders

Rep. Pless bullies his way over local leaders

“Arrogant.” “Out of control.” “Power hungry.”

I’ve heard all these words — and worse — used to describe Rep. Mark Pless, R-Haywood since he’s filed two bills in the state legislature that would drastically change local politics and municipal powers in Haywood County. 

One of those bills would make all municipal and school board elections partisan  while the other would strip towns of their ability to exercise planning jurisdiction on parcels near their borders . Both were filed without the support or consent of locally elected leaders. In fact, leaders in all the towns named in the bill have said they don’t support Pless’ actions. 

Pless apparently doesn’t care. 

“They are having a hard time understanding that I don’t answer to them. They’re not my boss … It’s a matter of standing up for the people who sent us down here,” Pless told The Smoky Mountain News after getting blowback from the bill that would do away with extra-territorial jurisdiction. 

What’s interesting — and what Pless seems to forget — is that all these aldermen coming out against his proposals are also elected officials. They are also voters. They — as voters — are indeed Pless’ boss. At least that’s how most of us think the system works — voters and taxpayers go to the polls, cast a vote, and then the legislators, aldermen or school board members will hopefully act responsibly and carry out their campaign promises. 

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Pless, however, seems to think his role as a state legislator means he can simply run roughshod over local elected leaders, their own status as an elected official and their views on issues affecting how their towns should be governed be damned. Apparently, it’s only Pless’ views that matter. 

Let’s first look at the partisan elections bill. This has become a part of the GOP playbook, trying to turn nonpartisan local elections into partisan battles. As one Haywood municipal leader said after the bill was introduced, being Democrat or Republican doesn’t matter when it’s time to fix a pothole. Waynesville Alderman Julia Freeman, the lone Republican on the Waynesville board, had this to say about the effort to turn local elections partisan: “When you look at the country and the division, when you get down to local municipalities, I don’t think it’s a positive step forward.” Indeed. 

Advocates for making school board elections partisan often point toward issues like Critical Race Theory and what is being taught in public schools. But local school boards don’t make decisions about curriculum, which comes down from the state. Haywood County School Board Chairman Chuck Francis and the entire board came out strongly against a similar measure introduced by former state Rep. Michele Presnell (R-Yancey) in 2017 that would have made Haywood’s school board partisan. 

“We’re here to educate the children, not to apply to partisan politics, but do what’s best for the child,” said Francis in 2017. 

Francis recently changed his voter registration from Democrat to Republican, and now he’s changed his tune regarding partisan elections — I think. 

Here’s what he said regarding whether he supports Pless’ bill: “The real answer is yes and no. Yes, because it gives the voter a little more insight on how you would approach educational issues. With nonpartisan, you could always say, ‘I want to do what’s best for the children.’ Well, what is that platform? The voter is not informed a lot of times, and [partisan elections] make it easier to check a box and expect a certain outcome. You know that a certain person has certain beliefs. The downside is, you could possibly be held accountable by a party for your actions that may not go down the line of the party platform, even though you would support what’s best for the kids.”

Huh? Really, yes and no? Take a stand, Chuck. 

As for the bill stripping Haywood’s towns of their extra-territorial jurisdiction authority, Pless again seems to be advocating for some mystery citizens that he says are complaining to him. ETJ allows towns to enforce zoning ordinances on areas just outside their municipal boundaries, and to do so those towns must allow residents from those areas to serve on planning and zoning boards. Most of the developments affected by ETJs want to eventually be annexed and get town services, so in most instances the relationship between developers and the town is not as adversarial as Pless claims. 

This bill would also cost Haywood County government about $150,000 due to increased inspection and planning work, says County Manger Bryant Morehead. So if the bill passes, seems county taxpayers will have to foot the bill for Pless’ folly. As a former county commissioner, one would think Pless would have the foresight to talk about all the ramifications the bill would have before filing. Apparently not. 

Arrogant. Out of control. Power hungry. Yeah, I’d say those descriptions fit Pless’ recent actions. 

(Scott McLeod can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Leave a comment

4 comments

  • Just another typical narcissistic, incompetent, deranged, Trump type moron (as Trumps own staff called him) who thinks he is the next dictator. And I am a Republican, but an honest one with a working brain.

    posted by Don King

    Wednesday, 06/22/2022

  • Thanks for this editorial. A good number of these rear ends in Raleigh need a good comeuppance at the polls!

    posted by Keith Stiles

    Sunday, 06/19/2022

  • Pless is a misogynistic creep too. Dont forget that part! This guy has no business being in public office.

    posted by heather hyatt packer

    Friday, 06/17/2022

  • Scott,
    Thanks for the information and insight. It's hard to keep up on some of the more local issues going on and i appreciate your condensation to valued points.

    posted by Scott Grover

    Thursday, 06/16/2022

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