Archived News

West out as Haywood tax collector

Haywood County's new tax collector will be Sebastian Cothran. Haywood County's new tax collector will be Sebastian Cothran. Donated photo

The state of North Carolina’s only elected tax collector and one of Haywood County's few elected Democrats will lose his seat after being defeated by his Republican challenger.

Greg West, who's served in the role for four years, came up short with 47.46% of the vote, against 52.54% for Canton resident Sebastian Cothran.

"I'd like to thank the voters for putting their faith in me. I'm happy that I won, I'm happy to serve and just want to give a a big thank you to Haywood County for voting me in there," Cothran said. "I was a little nervous going in there but it all worked out." 

A Democrat, West defeated embattled then-collector Mike Matthews, a Republican, in 2018 by 1,070 votes out of 24,686 ballots cast — good for a 4.3 percentage point margin of victory.

Since then, West has increased his tax collection rate to 98.35%, higher than both Matthews and Matthews’ predecessor, Democrat David Francis. Collection rate is important, because per statute counties must apply the previous year’s collection rate to the estimated total tax levy for the next year when constructing their budgets.

If the rate is low, commissioners have to set their expectations accordingly, and may have to come out of fund balance or raise taxes and fees to make up any deficits. A difference of 1% is equivalent to about $460,000.

Related Items

Cothran, just 21 years of age, serves as treasurer of the Young Republicans club at UNC-Asheville, where he’s about to graduate as a double major in accounting and political science.

Despite his lack of professional experience and relatively young age, Cothran was exceptionally versed in the responsibilities and obligations of the tax collector position, telling The Smoky Mountain News in September that “There’s always room for improvement until you get to 100% [collection rate] so even a one-hundredth of a percent means thousands of dollars for the county.”

Leave a comment

1 comment

  • This result is, without a doubt, the most troubling one I have ever seen in my life, and it forces me to question some of my bedrock beliefs about democracy and "representative" government.

    * First of all, having a partisan election for a position like tax collector is ridiculous. It shouldn't even be an elected position, and it isn't in 99 of the 100 counties in North Carolina. Our state representatives bear a heavy burden of blame for allowing this result to have even been a possibility.
    * Tax Collector should actually be an appointed position, and the person in that position should be selected upon the basis of the qualities he/she brings to that position - qualities like experience, maturity, a clear vision for his/her role, demonstrated interpersonal skills, office management skills, etc. Fundamentally, it is a high level, and profoundly important county position that has NOTHING to do with someone's political affiliation, or gender, or race, or anything other than those job-related skills and experience. If the current, Republican dominated Board of County Commissioners had the power and were asked to select between Greg West and Sebastian Cothran, who do you think they would pick?
    * What a sufficient proportion of the voting public in Haywood County has done now, by virtue of a clearly uninformed and completely partisan voting pattern, is to place an immature, inexperienced youngster in a position where he will be completely at a loss. The tax collector's office will now have to be operated by the experienced people who have been doing an outstanding job under Greg West's leadership. But they will have to do so without additional compensation or recognition for what they are being forced to do, and they will have to do it without any leadership whatsoever - NONE!
    * I am still in shock, and anyone who isn't shocked and concerned about this result is either (1) completely clueless about how important the tax collector's office is and how important it is for a tax collector to have the respect of county employees and the public in general, or (2) so wrapped up in some sort of twisted partisan ideological belief system that he or she has lost all sense of why government - especially local government - even exists in the first place.

    I have no idea where we go from here. Maybe this result will provide the impetus for changing Haywood County's method of selecting its tax collector, but we are probably stuck with this kid for the time being. I sure hope he doesn't have a final exam scheduled, or a big thesis paper due, at the same time as an important county meeting. Will he place the well being of Haywood County's taxpayers over his own personal desire to get that college degree? Who knows? But thanks to all the blind partisans who voted in this past election we will now possibly have the opportunity to have that question answered.

    Ever heard about the dog that actually caught the car? Well, what may have. seemed like a cute idea at the time, I suppose, to Sebastian and his buddies - i.e., chasing that "tax collector car" - may not feel so cute or clever right now. And who will suffer? No doubt, the dedicated professionals in the tax collector's office will, and almost immediately. But in the end it will be everyone in Haywood County who will suffer because of the ignorant and completely blind partisanship that has taken over this county. As a lifelong resident of Haywood County, I am sickened by it.

    posted by John Sanderson

    Friday, 11/11/2022

Smokey Mountain News Logo
Go to top
Payment Information


At our inception 20 years ago, we chose to be different. Unlike other news organizations, we made the decision to provide in-depth, regional reporting free to anyone who wanted access to it. We don’t plan to change that model. Support from our readers will help us maintain and strengthen the editorial independence that is crucial to our mission to help make Western North Carolina a better place to call home. If you are able, please support The Smoky Mountain News.

The Smoky Mountain News is a wholly private corporation. Reader contributions support the journalistic mission of SMN to remain independent. Your support of SMN does not constitute a charitable donation. If you have a question about contributing to SMN, please contact us.