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Haywood’s League of Women Voters fosters non-partisan involvement

By Julia Merchant • Staff Writer

Voters can thank the recently formed Haywood County League of Women Voters for the opportunity to hear what each Waynesville mayor candidate had to say about the important issues in the Nov. 6 race.

The League was the sponsor of the first Waynesville mayoral forum of this election season — held Sept. 27 at the Folkmoot Friendship Center.

The Waynesville chapter of the League was founded in April by local women from both the Republican and Democratic parties. National chapters of the organization have existed for decades.

Co-president Linda Tout got involved with the League 40 years ago.

“I actually had opinions about amendments on the ballot. I never would have known that without the League,” she says.

The League’s goal is to talk about pertinent issues to a community, spread the word to local voters, and make citizens aware of who represents them. The organization prides itself on being non-partisan.

“We discuss issues that are pertinent to both parties and the community,” said Kathleen Balogh, the League’s advisor and a member of the Buncombe County League of Women Voters. Balogh’s job is to mentor members of Waynesville’s fledgling League. She volunteered to moderate the mayor’s forum to demonstrate to local League members how a forum is conducted.

Balogh said the non-partisan nature of the group makes meetings a place “where people can express viewpoints and not be criticized for them.”

Sybil Mann, who helped start the group after being inspired by a chapter in Macon County, said that by welcoming everyone discussions can truly focus on the issues rather than getting too caught up in the divisions between parties.

“The best thing about the League is that it focuses on the high ideals of democracy,” said Mann.

The Haywood County chapter of the League boasts 26 members, including men. Though the organization kept its name, it has long since welcomed the opposite sex as members. Look for announcements about a planned aldermen’s forum to be held in the coming weeks.

To get involved with the group, contact Bobby Hurd at 828.627.3676.

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