Scant primary in Jackson commissioner race

While three of five seats are up for election on the Jackson County board of commissioners, there is primary competition for just one of the seats: the Democratic primary for the Cherokee/ Whittier/Dillsboro district profiled here.

 

William Shelton, 47, Whittier, farmer

• Experience: Shelton has been on the board for four years and is a full-time farmer. Shelton has worked as supervisor for the Jackson County soil and water conservation district and served as member of the planning board and the steering committee for the Mountain Landscapes Initiative.

• Platform: Shelton was elected to his first term after running on a platform of environmental stewardship and controlled development in Jackson County. While on the board, he helped pass steep slope and subdivision ordinances as well as create a Historic Preservation Commission and a Farmland Preservation ordinance.

“The beauty and natural resources of this area are our number one asset. We need, as always, to find ways to strike that delicate balance between growth and stewardship.”

Shelton said his focus now is on economic development, job creation, and fiscal responsibility.

“I think our goal as commissioners in Jackson County should be to support the infrastructure and services, from education and recreation to emergency services and well-justified capital projects, that would set the table in making this county as attractive as possible to people who are looking for business locations in this new ‘green’ and ‘high-tech’ economy.”

 

James “Bo” Brown, 55, Dillsboro, pastor/business owner

• Experience: Brown is pastor of Alarka Missionary Baptist Church in Bryson City, works full-time on the night shift at WestCare Medical as a floor technician, and is the owner of Bo Knows Construction.

• Platform: Brown believes the people of Jackson County are overtaxed and that over-regulation of development has accentuated the effects of the recession.

“The hard-working people who have grown up here starve or are having to sell off their land to pay the taxes. The people of Jackson County want a place they can be proud of, with jobs for all and the ability to keep their land for their children, so they too can raise their children here instead of having to go away to find work.”

As commissioner, Brown said he would seek to diversify the local economy by attracting manufacturing jobs and hiring local contractors for county work.

“Jackson County needs to seek manufacturing companies to come to this area to give jobs to the people. Tourism is fine, but not everyone has a business that runs on tourism. We really need stable places to work where people can look forward to having a retirement.”

Haire seeks re-election in N.C. 119 race

N.C. House District 119 represents Jackson, Swain and portions of Haywood and Macon counties. In the Democratic primary, incumbent Phil Haire faces challenger Avram Friedman. The winner will face Republican candidate Dodie Allen of Jackson County in the November election.

Phil Haire, 73, attorney in Sylva

Experience

Haire has served five terms as a state representative. He is chairman of the N.C. House Appropriations Committee. Haire served in the U.S. Air Force and obtained the rank of captain.

Platform

As chairman of the appropriations committee, Haire has seen the state’s budget crisis firsthand. He is running on a platform that features bolstering the economy, preserving jobs and balancing the budget.

“My number one interest is maintaining the fiscal integrity of the state. Let’s keep us strong without having to cut employees and services,” Haire said.

Haire points to his voting record on environmental issues — sponsoring steep slope development and clean air bills and promoting farmland preservation –– as proof that he is a champion for keeping the mountain region pristine.

“My people go back 250 years in the mountains, and I’m a mountain person, so it’s one of the first things I think about –– protecting this place,” Haire said.

Haire also emphasizes his record of helping critical local development projects –– like the Jackson County Senior Center in Webster –– and his advocacy for Southwestern Community College funding as evidence of his attention to detail in his district. His tenure has given him clout to help gets things done that a newcomer would not enjoy. He has pledged to keep education strong, and he said he will continue to press NCDOT to get I-40 open as soon as possible.

“I never get into finger-pointing,” Haire said. “I just run on what I’ve done, and if people like it, I hope they’ll vote for me.”

Jackson ridge law review off the table

The Jackson County planning board is no longer contemplating revisions to the county’s ban on ridge top construction.

The ridge law posed logistical challenges for county staff tasked with enforcing the ordinance. But discussion over how to tweak the ridge law resulted in backlash from the public, who feared the regulation was being weakened.

It turns out the planning board doesn’t have time to review the language of the ridge law anyway, according to Planning Director Linda Cable.

The planning board was asked by county commissioners this week to begin writing an ordinance that would regulate adult entertainment establishments. Commissioners also asked the planning board to tackle a false alarm ordinance that would incur penalties for homeowners if their security systems have an excessive number of false alarms, which take up valuable time for the sheriff’s office.

“Those are more important than reviewing the mountain and hillside development ordinance, which was administrative in nature,” Cable said.

Cable said the decision to table the review of the ridge law has nothing to do with the controversy it generated. Cable said there was never an intent to weaken the ridge law. The discussion was merely an attempt to clarify what qualifies as a protected ridge.

However, in an email memo to planning board members, Cable said said tabling the ridge law review, while intended only as an administrative change, made sense “particularly since it seemed to be controversial” and in light of “concerns from the public.”

TWASA looks for long-term solution on orphan sewer lines

Last month, officials from the Tuckaseigee Water and Sewer Authority and the Town of Sylva clashed over who was responsible for fixing a clogged town sewer line.

The issue has since been resolved, with TWASA’s board voting 4-1 to reimburse Sylva for the cost of the repair after all. But the larger issue of what to do with “orphan” sewer lines that don’t appear on TWASA’s maps remains.

A committee representing all of the entities that formed the TWASA two decades ago has been convened to examine and interpret TWASA’s charter, according to Board Chairman Randall Turpin

At stake is whether TWASA is responsible for maintaining and repairing lines that weren’t on the original maps back when the newly formed private enterprise took over Sylva’s water and sewer system in the early ‘90s.

“How do we categorize the lines that weren’t identified at that time?” Turpin said.

TWASA’s has a policy not to repair small lines that didn’t appear on the original maps.

Sylva Mayor Maurice Moody doesn’t understand how such a policy could be in place.

“From my perspective, when TWASA was formed in 1992, they accepted the entire sewer system in existence at the time,” Moody said. “Therefore, I feel they have the responsibility to maintain it.”

But while TWASA’s charter document clearly gives the authority the responsibility to operate and maintain the entire system, it also gives it broad discretion to determine how and when to repair, upgrade and maintain the sewer lines.

The TWASA board felt it was important to pay Sylva back for the clog in order to move forward with a more productive discussion, according to TWASA Executive Director Joe Cline.

But they also wanted the municipalities to understand the planning process that goes into upgrades and maintenance of the system.

Turpin said TWASA relies on a regimented capital improvement plan that goes through its Water and Sewer Projects Committee, a system set up in the charter document.

Turpin said the authority has to be able to budget for maintenance and upgrades each year based on projected revenues. Spur of the moment repairs on unmapped lines present a problem.

“If there’s lines that are identified out there that we can get to the WASP committee and into the capital improvement plan, then that’s a positive outcome,” Turpin said.

TWASA already has a board made up of representatives from Jackson County, Dillsboro and Sylva. But Turpin wanted to get other people into the discussion, so he asked the municipalities to appoint members.

Jackson County commissioners refused to make an appointment, saying that County Chairman Brian McMahan could represent the county through the seat he already has on the TWASA board.

The committee will include Brad Moses, Larry Phillips, Chuck Wooten and Brian McMahan from the existing TWASA board; Maurice Moody and Chris Matheson from Sylva; and Mike Fitzgerald and Wade Wilson from Dillsboro. The subcommittee will meet for the first time at 5:30 p.m. on Thursday, April 8, at TWASA’s main office.

Matheson said she was happy to serve on the committee, but she was still slightly confused about why she was needed.

“If going into the meeting, the idea is that the forming document is valid and binding and we just have to make sure everybody is on the same page, I’m fine with that,” Matheson said.

But she said Sylva’s board hasn’t changed its position that TWASA needs to repair broken lines when they cause problems.

Turpin said the meeting would provide a unique opportunity to talk through the issue of orphan lines and capital improvement planning.

“We have annual meetings with all the forming entities but this is the first time since I’ve been on the board that all of the entities have come together over a common concern,” Turpin said.

New Jackson library built as regional showpiece

The Jackson County Courthouse, Sylva’s most distinctive building, was built in a rush.

C.J. Harris, a prominent industrialist and wealthy Sylva businessman, bankrolled the $50,000 project in 1914 in return for the county seat being moved from Webster to Sylva. Harris had it modeled after the Madison County Courthouse and got it built in a year.

Transforming the historic building into a community space and anchor for a new county library has taken considerably longer. After a decade of debate, a year of planning and another year of building, the Friends of the Jackson County Main Library hosted a tour of the construction site last week to showcase the progress.

“We’re combining something that’s very historic with something that’s brand new,” said Betty Screven, a volunteer with Friends of the Library. “While it’s going to be modern in its technique, it will be historic in feel.”

Construction Manager David Cates of Canton-based Brantley Construction said the project will likely miss its December target for an opening date as a result of poor weather and complications with restoring the courthouse cupola.

“Our first 90 days of the project, we had 62 days of measurable rainfall,” Cates said. “We’ve worked around our elbow to get to our foot to get construction completed.”

Cates said the project will finish in the early part of 2011, but the tour showed that all the elements of what will be a regional showpiece are in place.

“This isn’t just going to be great for the people of Jackson County. It’s going to be great for Western North Carolina,” Screven said.

Architect Donnie Moore and interior designer Lynne Wilson of Macmillan, Pazdan & Smith have pored over historic records to revive the feel of the Jackson County Courthouse in its original state. The building was gutted during a renovation in the ‘70s and almost no original features remain. Love and Wilson used the Madison County Courthouse, which has kept its original character, as their model.

The new complex will feature three separate architectural spaces unified by recurring design elements. The old courthouse will be converted into a community space that will house the county’s historical and genealogical societies, the arts’ council, and catering kitchen. The historic courtroom itself will be renovated as an auditorium complete with vintage theater seats that will double as a community meeting room.

A giant addition will be built to the rear to house the new library. A glass atrium will connect the two and serve as the entrance to the complex. The atrium is to carry the name of the State Employees Credit Union Foundation in gratitude for their $250,000 grant.

The two-story rectangular library addition will be open to the ceiling in the center, showing off stunning stained glass skylights.

To offer some sense of the upgrade the new building represents, its children’s section will be larger than the entire current library. While the current library is drab-colored and lit by fluorescent light, the teen reading area on the second floor of the new library will feature a funky purple and orange design scheme, coffee shop booths, and a view of the Plott Balsams.

Jackson County Librarian Dottie Brunette, was inspired to become a librarian by her mother, Ada Moody Brunette, and by long-time county librarian Sadie Luck. Brunette said touring the construction site left her awe-struck.

“My mother, who’s the reason I’m a librarian, is hugging herself somewhere,” Brunette said.

 

Fundraising nears home stretch

The Friends of the Library is 90 percent of the way to its fundraising goal of $1.6 million to furnish and outfit the library.

As of last week, donations and pledges totaled over $1,440,535.

“It’s been a very grassroots effort, and the community has responded,” said Mary Otto Selzer, co-chair of the committee that led the effort.

Donations to the capital campaign fund may be made at the Jackson County Public Library in downtown Sylva, Friends of the Library Bookstore at 536 West Main Street, through the Friends website fojcml.org, or mailed to Friends of the Jackson County Main Library, P. O. Box 825, Sylva, 28779-0825.

Ashe squares off against three opponents

Voters in the Democratic Primary in Jackson County must choose which of the four candidates profiled below should advance to the November election. Two other candidates, Mary Rock and Tim O’Brien, plan to run in November as unaffiliated candidates, but won’t be on the ballot for the primary.

 

Jimmy Ashe, 50 • Sylva resident, Jackson County Sheriff

Jimmy Ashe has been the sheriff of Jackson County for eight years, but has worked in the office since 1981 when he started his career as a jailer. Ashe served in a range of positions and worked his way up to Chief Deputy in 1997. He was elected to the office of Sheriff in 2002 and re-elected in 2006.

Ashe said his goals for the coming term include opening a new south central district substation to better serve the Caney Fork, Little Canada and Tuckasegee communities. He also wants to create a sheriff’s advisory committee with representation from each community in the county.

“Being from here and educated here, I know the community,” Ashe said. “This is my home. I know the needs then, now, and in the future.”

Ashe said he chose to run again because he is young and has more to offer the county.

“To settle for anything less than experience, education, background, and commitment would be going back in time in an ever-advancing society,” said Ashe.

For more information: www.asheforsheriff.com

 

Robin Gunnels, 45 • Cullowhee resident, business owner/WCU police officer

Robin Gunnels is a small business owner with 15 years of law enforcement experience. Gunnels worked in the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office for seven years, rising to the rank of lieutenant. He left after Ashe made him a jailer and reduced his pay.

For the past eight years, he has run his own business, Custom Truck Covers in Sylva, and worked part-time as a police officer at Western Carolina University.

Gunnels said he is running for sheriff because he wants to incorporate his experience as a businessman with his experience as a law enforcement officer to provide better service to the citizens of Jackson County.

“The experience I’ve gotten in retail sales and service has given me a different view of the public,” Gunnels said. “That combined with what I learned in law enforcement gives me a good foundation for the work as sheriff.”

Gunnels said he would like to re-focus the existing personnel at the sheriff’s office in areas of special expertise –– like elder abuse, cyber crime, and drug enforcement –– to optimize service. He also said he was committed to changing the impression that the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office is unfriendly.

“None of the officers look happy,” Gunnels said. “When you’re out dealing with the public, you have to go out there with that attitude that you’re helping people.”

For more information: www.vote4gunnels.com

 

Marty Rhinehart, 49 • Sylva resident, excavator/floor tech

Marty Rhinehart is the owner of an excavating business and also works as a floor technician for Westcare at Harris Regional Hospital. Rhinehart has worked for both the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office and the Madison County Sheriff’s Office.

Rhinehart said he is running for sheriff because he wants to establish closer ties with the community.

“I believe if you dig deep into your community and serve the people of your county, the people will help you any way they can,” Rhinehart said.

Rhinehart likened Jackson County’s problem with drug dealers to a berry patch attracting bears.

“Drug dealers are like an old bear. They will hang around a berry patch, but if you take away that berry patch, that bear will leave,” Rhinehart said. “Jackson County has been a hub for drug dealers for years.”

Rhinehart said he intends to lead the sheriff’s office by example if he is elected.

 

Radford Franks, 55 • Savannah resident, bail bondsman

Radford Franks has spent the last 10 years working as a bail bondsman and bounty hunter in Jackson County. Prior to that he spent 20 years working as a builder in the southern part of the county.

Franks said he is running for sheriff to make the office more accessible to the people of the county. He intends to implement a system that will redistribute sheriff’s deputies more equitably throughout the county, particularly to the Cashiers/Glenville area. Franks also said he intends to meet regularly with community groups throughout the county.

“I am not saying I can solve all your problems. I can’t,” Franks said. “But I am saying I will meet with the residents of each community, in their respective community centers, to discuss the problems or concerns they have for their community.”

Franks also said he would not tolerate preferential treatment in his administration.

“I believe everyone deserves fair and equal treatment regardless of race, political views, or social level in the county. I will strictly enforce this policy and hold my deputies accountable for their actions.”

 

Mary Rock 42 • Sylva resident, bail bondsman

Born in Macon County to parents from Jackson County, Rock has spent her professional career between the two counties. After serving with the Military Police from 1986 to 1988, Rock attended Western Carolina University and received her basic law enforcement certification. The 42-year-old Sylva native has worked as a bail bondsman in Jackson County for the past 12 years.

Rock said she wants to bring professionalism and equity to the sheriff’s office.

“Since I was a child I’ve seen a lot of things I didn’t think was the best way to run that office and I waited a long time to see if anyone would change that,” Rock said. “I decided this year that I wanted to do it myself.”

Rock said running unaffiliated was a way of de-emphasizing the political nature of the sheriff’s office. She said her experience has shown her that political influence can affect prosecution in Jackson County.

“It seems to be a highly political position and it should be a service position,” Rock said.

 

Tim O’Brien 40 • Cashiers resident, private investigator

O’Brien has worked as a private investigator for the past two years. After growing up in Franklin, O’Brien got a degree in criminal justice administration from Western Carolina University and then spent eight years as platoon leader of a military police unit. He was honorably discharged in 1999 with the rank of 1st Lieutenant. O’Brien later served as a patrol officer in the Highlands Police Department, a detective with the Macon County Sheriff’s Department, and a special agent with the State Bureau of Investigation assigned to Western North Carolina. He has 17 years of law enforcement experience.

O’Brien said he wants to bring a new level of professionalism to the sheriff’s office that will take politics out of it.

“I have no political ambitions beyond being the Sheriff of Jackson County. I do not intend to serve on numerous political boards; my intention is to spend my time serving and protecting the citizens of Jackson County,” O’Brien said.

O’Brien said his experience as a business owner and law enforcement officer make him particularly qualified for the office of sheriff.

“I feel my seventeen years of law enforcement experience in patrol, investigation, and administration, combined with my business experience, makes me uniquely qualified for the office of Sheriff.

Arson case thickens plot in sheriff’s race

A fire at the business of a Jackson County sheriff candidate last week has cast a shadow over the race.

Robin Gunnels, owner of Custom Truck Covers in Sylva and a Democratic candidate for sheriff, believes the attack on his business was no coincidence.

“There’s things that led up to this that lead me to believe it was politically motivated,” Gunnels said.

The fire originated in a garage where Gunnels stored his campaign materials, which were destroyed in the blaze. With his signs gone and his business shut down, Gunnels is wondering how he will afford to run the rest of his campaign for sheriff. Gunnels insurance does not cover fire.

The Sylva Police Department confirmed last week that the fire is under investigation for arson.

“The fire is suspicious. There’s no doubt about that,” Sylva Fire Chief Mike Beck said.

The fire was discovered in the middle of the night on Sunday, March 21, when Sgt. George Lamphiear noticed water running out from under garage doors at Custom Truck Covers on East Main Street in Sylva. Lamphiear looked closer and saw heavy smoke inside the business. He called dispatch, and the Sylva, Cullowhee, and Savannah fire departments responded.

“The fire was about out by the time the fire departments got there, because it had taken out a water line or two,” said Beck. The fact that the fire had burned through the water line may have saved the building.

Gunnels said he got a call from Lamphiear notifying him his business was on fire. By the time he arrived at the scene, the damage was done.

Gunnels said he has no idea who started the fire, but after weeks of receiving harassing messages at his home and business, he is sure it is connected to the sheriff’s race.

Gunnels was once a lieutenant with the Jackson Sheriff’s Office but left the force soon after Ashe came into office eight years ago.

Gunnels estimates he lost $150,000 of property that include his election materials and parts he sells at his shop. Because many of the parts Custom Truck Covers sells were plastic, almost nothing was salvageable.

“I’ve lost a lot of equipment and I’m just trying to salvage what I can,” Gunnels said.

Gunnels said the fire would not deter him from pursuing the sheriff’s race, and he thanked the Sylva Police Department for their fast response.

“George was on top of his job. He saw something that wasn’t right, and he acted,” Gunnels said.

The Sylva Police Department has advertised a $2,500 reward for information.

Auto dealer reinvents to stay alive

When Daniel Allison III learned last May that General Motors wouldn’t renew his franchise agreement, he couldn’t believe it.

“Shock,” Allison said. “I think you go through being angry and then, once I got through all my feelings, I worried about how it would affect my customers.”

The letter stated that GM would discontinue Allison’s dealership franchise in October 2010. Ever since, Allison has been working hard to fight the decision and to find a backup plan.

He traveled to Washington, D.C., at the invitation of Congressman Heath Shuler to testify about the impact of the recession on small businesses in rural areas. He urged them to help small car dealers, particularly in light of the auto bailout for the big guys.

“It concerns me how this recession has affected small business,” Allison said. “A lot of the small rural dealers are just one group of casualties.”

When Congress ordered that GM grant arbitration hearings to its discontinued dealerships, Allison preserved hope and fought for a reprieve.

But in late March his last chance for survival as a GM dealer evaporated when Allison’s Chevy wasn’t selected by the automaker as one of 600 dealers nationwide to receive reinstatement letters.

“Prior to the arbitration, we’d been pursuing what our Plan Bs would be in order to keep as many employees as possible and keep the operation as similar as it could be,” Allison said. “We’re excited with what we’ve come up with.”

Last Monday, Allison opened a co-branded Meineke Service and EconoLube automotive garage to replace the GM service center once housed at the dealership. Meanwhile, he will sell a wide range of certified used vehicles on his lot, with a focus on offering varying price points.

“This has opened us up to a whole range of makes and models we haven’t serviced before,” Allison said.

The GM label may be gone, but the Allison name will remain a part of Sylva’s automotive landscape. Allison’s grandfather, Dan Allison, Sr., started the business in 1935 and since then, Allison’s has been selling GM cars in Sylva.

When the recession hit, Allison was confident he could weather the storm. But GM’s bankruptcy proceedings led to the auto giant announcing that it would close over 1,000 dealers. Allison’s fate as a GM dealer was out of his hands. In December, he began laying off staff.

“We basically held on as long as we could in case we could be reinstated,” Allison said.

In 2008, Allison’s Chevy had 17 employees. Today the number is down to eight, but Allison said he hopes to grow the business back as the economy strengthens. In the meantime, there’s the process of rebuilding a third-generation family business.

“It’s been a wild adventure trying to reinvent it,” Allison said. “I don’t think there’s any way you can realize ahead of time how many challenges there are.”

Jackson candidates chose unconventional path to the November ballot

Every so often a dissatisfied electorate injects a third current into the country’s two-party dialogue.

It’s happening this year with the Tea Party movement, and it’s also happening spontaneously in Jackson County.

Four Jackson County residents who want to be on the ballot in November are gathering signatures to qualify as unaffiliated candidates. Two who are running for commissioner are indeed unaffiliated, according to state voter registration records.

The other two are running for sheriff, but voter registration shows them listed as a Democrat and a Republican, so the unaffiliated route may simply be a strategy to earn a spot on the November ballot.

People who don’t want to run under the banner of a particular party have to beat the bushes with a petition drive in order to get a spot on the ballot in North Carolina. Unaffiliated candidates must collect the signatures of 4 percent of the voting public by June 25. The number comes out to 1,051 signatures out of Jackson County’s total 26,295 registered voters.

Jack Debnam, a Cullowhee-based realtor, intends to challenge County Commissioner Chairman Brian McMahan. Ron Poor, a faculty member at Southwestern Community College, will vie for the seat of sitting Commissioner Tom Massie. And both Mary Rock of Sylva and Tim O’Brien of Cashiers want to run against Jimmy Ashe for sheriff.

The aspiring candidates are choosing an unorthodox route to the general election but have the advantage of bypassing the party primaries in May.

None of the candidates said the Tea Party movement or the national election climate prompted them to run as unaffiliated, but Poor cited some of the key principles of the country’s independent temperament –– fiscal conservatism and defense of the Constitution –– as he explained why he wants to run.

“I have not yet found a party which I can believe in,” Poor said. “I am a fiscal conservative, government at all levels is larger and more expensive and intrusive than it should be and has nearly become choked off from the everyday citizen. My goal is to see it cut back, to see it opened up, to see it operate more efficiently and at lower cost.”

Rock and O’Brien, as sheriff’s candidates, enter a race with a crowded Democratic primary that includes an entrenched incumbent in Jimmy Ashe and three others.

Rock, who is technically registered as a Democrat, said her bid as an unaffiliated candidate was partly strategic. “There’s an advantage to doing the petitions that I saw,” Rock said.

The May primary narrows down the field to just one Democrat and one Republican who then advance to the November election. But in a county where Democrats reign, Republicans often don’t have a chance come November.

“In Jackson County, we always have a Democrat as sheriff, so the primary has always decided it,” Rock said. “Only one person comes out of the May primary with a nomination.”

But Rock could beat the system by advancing straight to the November ballot.

Another advantage of circumventing the party primary is that there is no limit to the number of unaffiliated candidates on the ballot, so anyone who succeeds in gathering the proper amount of petitions makes it.

O’Brien said he is registered unaffiliated but state records show he has been registered Republican. He called himself a “fiscal conservative” who intends to de-politicize the sheriff’s office.

Debnam also said he was registered unaffiliated, so he had no choice other than to go through the petition process.

“I’m not a Tea Party person. I’m a small business owner in Jackson County, and I’m really frustrated,” Debnam said.

 

Jack Debnam, Cullowhee, county chairman

Debnam is the owner of Western Carolina Properties, a real estate firm with offices in Dillsboro and Cullowhee. He has never run for political office and said he was inspired to run because the Jackson County board has not represented small business well.

Ron Poor, Sylva, running against sitting Commissioner Tom Massie

Poor is a registered real estate broker who also teaches electronics and computer engineering at SCC. Poor cited his opposition to tax increases and development regulations as reasons for running.

Poor accused the current board of a “draconian knee jerk reaction” when it passed a moratorium on new subdivisions and considers the current steep slope regulations too stringent.

 

Mary Rock, Sylva, sheriff

The 42-year-old Sylva native has worked as a bail bondsman in Jackson County for the past 12 years. She served with the Military Police and got her basic law enforcement certification from WCU.

“Since I was a child I’ve seen a lot of things I didn’t think was the best way to run that office and I waited a long time to see if anyone would change that,” Rock said. “I decided this year that I wanted to do it myself.”

 

Tim O’Brien, Cashiers, sheriff

O’Brien has worked as a private investigator for the past two years. He has a degree in criminal justice administration from WCU. He served in the military police, as Highlands Police officer, a detective with the Macon County Sheriff’s Department, and an SBI agent.

“I will serve as a sheriff who will dedicate himself to the issues important to our county and not to political ambitions or re-election. I will be fiscally responsible, remembering at all times that we are spending the peoples’ money. All crimes will be properly investigated, phone calls will be returned, and funding will be used appropriately on those things for which it is intended,” O’Brien said.

Library friends reveal interior design plans

The construction of the new Jackson County Main Library has been a community-driven project all along, and last week the community got its first glimpse of what the interior will look like.

Friends of the Jackson County Main Library held an open house at the old library to showcase the work of Lynne Wilson, the interior designer from Macmillan, Pazdan & Smith in charge of decorating both the historic courthouse and the attached library building.

Betty Screven of Friends of the Library said the event was a chance to share almost two years of work planning the library’s interior.

“We’re already picking out individual elements, and we wanted the public to be able to touch the carpet, to feel the fabrics, and really get excited about his new library,” Screven said. “This whole process has been finding out what the people of Jackson County want in their library, and this is the culmination of that.”

The Friends have raised $1,425,000 to outfit the interior of the building, and they’ve also worked hand in hand with Wilson to come up with a plan for the interior design.

“Lynne has come up with ideas and passed them by groups of people, and there’s been real discussion,” Screven said.

Wilson won a South Carolina historic preservation award for her work restoring an old firehouse in Newburg, and she has teamed with architect Donnie Love on a series of historic renovation projects. Those experiences, she said, have prepared her for the challenge of integrating the old Jackson County Courthouse with the newly constructed library building.

“The main thing was we wanted to keep the integrity of the existing courthouse, and we’re using a lot of those design motifs in the new part of the building,” Wilson said.

For example, the fretwork around the dome of the 1914 courthouse will be repeated in the patterns in the artisan metalwork railings on the second floor of the new building.

“The most fun part for me has been getting the input from the Friends of the Library and the community,” Wilson said. “It makes it easier to get the concepts right from the beginning when you have so many people who are so committed.”

The two spaces, old and new, are to be bridged by a glass atrium lobby that will incorporate the terraza floors and historic reproduction lighting fixtures that characterized the original courthouse.

The library will have a color scheme based in green that incorporates historic colors like the gold-hued Hubbard squash tone that is a favorite of Wilson and Love’s. The architectural showpieces of the new building are without question the stained-glass skylights that will adorn the ceiling of the new building, but the interior design showpieces will be the ornately decorated service desks that will incorporate the work of local artists.

“We were trying to think of ways to incorporate the local talent we have, but we didn’t want to fill the building with a permanent collection,” Screven said. “We thought the service desks would be perfect.”

Artists like Smoky Mountain High School’s Dylan Llassiah and local muralist Doreyl Ammons Cain submitted work for consideration by Wilson and her staff. Llassiah’s tiles representing the seven clans of the Cherokee and Ammons’ 16-by-8-foot heritage mural were two of the projects selected for posterity.

The 26,000-square-foot renovation and construction project has been a massive undertaking, but with the design team already picking out furniture for the building, Jackson County residents can be sure their new library is nearly a reality.

To learn more about the project, visit www.fojcml.org/new-library.html.

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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.