Franklin residents cast vote for change

Despite a crowded field in the Franklin election — a dozen candidates in all — a handful of victors emerged as clear frontrunners ahead of the pack.

Most of the winning candidates for aldermen and mayor reflect a public desire for change.

Franklin mayoral candidates offer contrasting styles

Franklin’s mayoral candidates are offering voters distinctly different visions of leadership as they square off for the town’s top political position.

Sissy Pattillo, who is completing her second term as a town alderman, used the word “collaboration” at least four times while answering questions during a recent forum sponsored by the Macon County League of Women Voters.

Sylva candidates support helping downtown

The town of Sylva has struggled this year with balancing its budget and keeping businesses filling its downtown storefronts.

Going into next year, those same problems will likely continue to challenge town leaders, and whoever is elected as mayor and to the Sylva town board this November will have to grapple with how to overcome them next year.

Tourism tax increase at root of complaints lobbed against Maggie mayor

Two Maggie Valley aldermen recently indicated that they have a laundry list of grievances against the town’s mayor, but there is one complaint that stands out among the rest.

Opponents of Maggie mayor try but fail to remove him from office

As the Maggie Valley Board of Aldermen called its monthly meeting to order, it was the last item on the list that had town hall overflowing — a call for a hearing to consider the mayor’s alleged misconduct.

Franklin mayor set to retire

Franklin will soon be saying goodbye to its sitting mayor and longtime town politician Joe Collins. The Franklin native has announced he will not seek re-election in the approaching race, bringing to a close a 10-year stint as mayor and a total of 16 years serving in local politics.

Face of Sylva board may change come November

fr mauricemoodySylva Mayor Maurice Moody has announced he will retire from town government and not seek reelection in the upcoming election. His departure, after 16 years on the Town Board of Commissioners, will leave a void of experience in local government and force Sylva voters to choose a new leader.

Election protest by Waynesville mayor candidate gets denied

A challenger for the mayor’s seat in Waynesville protested the election results this week, claiming residents of a new apartment complex were disenfranchised.

A mapping error caused temporary confusion on Election Day over whether residents of the apartment complex were eligible to vote in the town election.

Hugh Phillips, who lost his bid for mayor by 31 votes, filed a formal protest with the Haywood County Board of Elections calling for a special election that would give 81 registered voters living in The Laurels at Junaluska a second chance to cast ballots.

The protest was denied, however, after the election board ruled that there was no evidence any voter was turned away from the polls or prevented from casting ballots.

“I can’t find that we denied anybody the right to vote,” said Grover Bradshaw, a member of the Haywood Election Board.

Phillips plans to appeal to the N.C. Board of Elections.

Phillips was joined in the protest by a resident of the apartment complex, Ed Henderson, who ultimately voted in the election but not without some hang-up. Henderson went to the polls the morning of Election Day and popped his head in to ask whether his name was on the roster as being eligible to vote in the town election.

“I didn’t think I was in the city, but I wanted to make sure. They could not find me so I simply said ‘thank you’ and turned and left. I didn’t fuss or protest because I thought they very well might be correct,” Henderson said.

The Laurels at Junaluska is on the outskirts of town. The apartment complex for elderly and disabled residents was built in 2007. It’s located near the Junaluska Golf Course, off of Russ Avenue past K-Mart. This was the first town election since the complex opened.

Because of a mapping error, it didn’t show up in the election database as being inside the town limits.

Once back at his apartment complex, however, Henderson decided to double-check with the apartment manager to determine if they were in the town limits, he said.

“I have been a voter all my life. I have never missed an election,” Henderson said.

When he learned they in fact were in the town limits, he called the county election office, which put him on hold to figure out what had gone wrong.

Henderson said county election workers were “profusely apologetic.”

“They said if you will please go back down to the precinct we will make sure your vote is taken. They were very concerned that I have that opportunity,” Henderson said. “I certainly don’t perceive this as being a deliberate act. It was a clerical error.”

Meanwhile, a couple who lives in the apartment complex had also come to the polls to vote, but unlike Henderson who informally popped his head to see if his name was on the roster, they officially presented themselves to vote. Precinct workers couldn’t find their name on the list.

In practice, the couple should have gotten special paper ballots. Known as provisional ballots, they would have been set aside and dealt with after the polls closed.

Poll workers are given marching orders that no one leaves without voting, according to O.L. Yates, chairman of the Haywood election board.

“Everybody that comes in, if we can’t find them, we give them a provisional vote,” Yates said. Election workers later research whether the voter is indeed eligible, and if so, the “provisional ballots” are tallied into the results.

In this case, however, the couple became angry when their name wasn’t on the voting roster and left before poll workers could offer them provisional ballots, said Robert Inman, the Haywood County election director.

“(She) was upset and decided to leave before there was an exchange of communication that would have led to her casting a provisional ballot,” Inman said.

Even though the couple left, the poll workers called the county election office and reported the incident. They researched the couple’s name and address and discovered the mapping error. The couple was contacted and asked to come back in and vote, which they did.

The mapping error was fixed and all residents of the apartment complex were added to the voting roster by 10:45 a.m. on Election Day. Both Henderson and the couple who were initially told they weren’t on the roster came back in and voted. Ultimately, nine residents of The Laurels at Junaluska voted in the election.

“If you had been denied your right to vote we would have a problem with it because we don’t want to deny anybody the right to vote,” Yates told Henderson at a hearing on his election protest Monday, Nov. 21.

Henderson agreed there is no way of knowing whether anyone tried to vote and couldn’t, especially since the error was fixed by mid-morning.

Yet Henderson believes that everyone who lives at The Laurels was disenfranchised from the outset — simply by not knowing whether they were in the town limits in the first place.

“They had no idea they were eligible for this election,” Henderson said.

Anyone in the apartment complex who had registered to vote in the past four years had been issued incorrect voter registration cards that failed to include they are eligible to vote in town elections. Phillips questioned whether voters may have called the election office in advance of the election to see if they were eligible to vote, and being told no, never bothered to come to the polls in order to cast a provisional ballot.

Inman said that while the mapping error is regrettable and being taken seriously, the election board isn’t responsible for making sure people know whether they reside in the town limits.

Henderson pointed out that in such a close election — only a 31-vote spread between Mayor Gavin Brown and Phillips — the voters in the apartment complex could have swung the election had they voted. Only nine of the 90 registered voters in the apartment complex cast ballots.

“The 81 votes that were not cast could potentially effect the outcome for mayor,” Henderson said.

“We can’t be responsible for the ‘what if’s’ if they did and ‘what if’s’ if they didn’t,” Yates replied. “We can’t be responsible for the 81 people who didn’t vote.”

That’s the whole point of provisional ballots, Yates said. Anyone who shows up to vote gets to do so, even if they have to fill out a paper ballot and have it verified later.

“If they had gone by their precinct, they would have gotten a provisional ballot,” Yates said.

Besides, the only remedy would be to hold an entirely new election. It would be illegal to hold a special second election for a select group of residents in the apartment complex, said Chip Killian, the attorney for the county election board.

Holding a new election for the whole town would cost $10,000 to $15,000 dollars, Yates said.

Hugh Phillips said he doesn’t want to cost the county the money of holding a second election but doesn’t think it is fair that people were led to believe they weren’t in the town limits and that they may have voted otherwise.

“I hold the Town of Waynesville and Haywood County responsible for this snafu,” Phillips wrote in his election protest. “Someone in the town or county should have made known to the Board of Elections that these residents were citizens of the town and had the right to vote.”

Phillips said he got a list of registered voters from the election board when campaigning, and that list didn’t include The Laurels at Junaluska. As a result, he didn’t reach out to them with his candidate message.

Henderson made it clear in his protest that he wasn’t happy with the election outcome. He wanted Phillips to win.

But he says even if Phillips had won, he still would have filed his election protest on principle.

Canton candidates target downtown revitalization, recreation

Four years ago, candidates for office in Canton wanted new faces. Two years ago, their platforms were cooperation. And this year, business development and recreation are the common threads among candidates.

“I think we also need to look at doing our best to attract new residents to Canton and new businesses to Canton as well,” said Patrick Willis, who is spearheading StepUp Canton, a program aimed at spurring economic growth in the town.

Willis, who ran unsuccessfully two years ago, said Canton needs to market its assets: its comparatively cheap property values, its friendly atmosphere and its family-oriented recreation.

All the candidates shared a similar desire to revitalize downtown Canton.

The town should also work with existing businesses to improve the appearance of local storefronts through grants to owners willing to redo their façades, said Alderman Ed Underwood.

“It’s just got to be a cooperative effort,” he said. Underwood cited his personal effort to improve the town’s appearance by picking up trash once a week while walking through town with his wife.

The candidates emphasized some form of combined effort between the town and business owners, many of them discussing the need for a business or merchant’s association to serve as a driving force for commerce.

When current Alderman Jimmy Flynn ran for office two years ago, he pressed for the creation of a business association, he said.

“That is what I will continue to push every chance I get,” Flynn said.

Fellow candidate Phil Smathers said such an association is key if the town hopes to bring specialty shops to Canton’s Main Street and beautify its downtown.

“Certainly, everybody’s moving for progress,” Smathers said. “We are expecting big things to eventually come.”

A couple of candidates even mentioned offering incentives to draw businesses to the area.

“We’re going to have to work as a team to get things going,” said candidate Cecil Patton.

Patton said the town must work with property owners and businesses to fill the empty storefronts along Main Street.

Stanley Metcalf also said he would like to see more local businesses on Main Street, adding that it is difficult to own a business in Canton, but incentives might entice people to open a store.

“In my opinion, Canton is an unfriendly business town,” said Metcalf, who owns a lawn care service.

It seems every time a business does something to promote itself, such as place a sign on the sidewalk, it breaks an ordinance, he added.

Willis and Underwood, another candidate and current alderman, both cited updating the town’s website as an important tool for promoting Canton to prospective businesses and residents.

“That gets the word out,” Underwood said.

Recreation reconstruction

From replacing its aging pool to lining up acts to play in the historic Colonial Theatre, Canton board candidates agree that the town needs to step up its focus on recreation.

“We’re going to have to take a hard look at that pool,” Underwood said. “We’ve got to have that pool.”

Flynn agrees that the pool needs to be replaced — a cost of more than $1 million.

The swimming pool only has about three years of life left in it, said Flynn, who wants to start a recreation fund to save money for the replacement. Flynn said the town should start other reserve funds for future projects as well.

Adding lighting to the ballpark complex, creating more paths for pedestrians and cyclists and repairing the pool are among Smathers’ list for recreation improvements.

One of Patton’s main campaign goals is to increase activities for kids and seniors. He said the town should offer games and keep the pool open later so that there is not a shortage of recreation opportunities for either age group.

The past two years

Canton has an unusual election cycle: all four town board members plus the mayor are up for election every two years. Two years ago, a slate of three new candidates prevailed in the election. A similar upset was seen four years ago. The widespread dissatisfaction that drove those elections does not seem as prevalent this year, however.

“I’ve got all respect in the world for the board that is in there now,” said Smathers, a challenger in the race. “To me, it’s been one of the best boards that has been seated in Canton in years.”

Smathers said he is not looking to oust one of the current board members. Instead, he is running for the seat currently held by Alderman Eric Dills, who is not in the race this year. Smathers was a longtime town employee and cited his experience working with the town budget.

“I am running on experience as an asset,” Smathers said.

Other candidates had more mixed reviews of the current town board, however, questioning whether it has accomplished enough.

Willis said if elected, he wants to work with other board members to create short- and long-term goals, which the town can work toward.

“I have not seen or heard what direction the town wants to go with,” Willis said, adding that he thinks the board can accomplish much more than it has in the past couple of years.

“Not everybody is going to agree on every issue … but if there is common goals that the board can come up with then they should work to get those goals accomplished,” Willis said.

Willis, who chose Canton as the place to raise his family, wants to see the town develop in a positive way.

Metcalf said he thinks the most recent board has done “a pretty decent job,” but he would not care if the whole board were replaced.

He would like to see more local people get involved, he said.

Currently, the Board of Aldermen holds its meetings at 10 a.m. on the second Tuesday of the month and 7 p.m. on the fourth Tuesday of the month. Metcalf said he wants to change the time to make it more convenient for local residents to attend.

The incumbents running for re-election pledged to continue on the same course.

“For me and Jimmy and Kenny, we’ll continue working together (if we are re-elected),” Underwood said. “We haven’t kicked the can down the road.”

“I think we’ve been very progressive,” Flynn added.

Underwood said there is more they would like to accomplish, however, after coming on the board just two years ago.

“You couldn’t do everything in two years,” Underwood said.

The board began and will continue its sidewalk and street repair work, said Underwood and Flynn.

This board has spent more money on roads, fixing potholes and paving, than any other board in the past 10 years, Flynn said. It has cut expenses, held the tax rate steady and combined staff positions when an employee retired or quit to save money, he said.

The town has also begun replacing the sewer line along Champion Drive around exit 31 off Interstate 40. The line was undersized and as a result, lacked capacity for new businesses. Replacing the line had been a top goal of aldermen who were elected two years ago.

Kenneth Holland, a current alderman who is also running for re-election, did not return multiple calls requesting an interview.

 

Alderman: pick four

 

Ed Underwood, 62, retired army lieutenant colonel and retired state prison guard, current town board member

• Continue street and sidewalk repairs

• Clean up the town, including façade improvements

• Replace the pool

 

Jimmy Flynn, 61, safety director for Buckeye Construction Company and retired assistant town manager, current town board member

• Create a recreation capital reserve fund

• Establish a business association

• Keep tax rates down

 

Phil Smathers, 64, retired fireman and building inspector

• Start a downtown business association

• Improve local recreation, including adding more paths for pedestrians and cyclists and lighting at the ballpark

• Beautify downtown Canton

 

Cecil Patton, 84, retired Army sergeant

• Offer more activities for the elderly and children

• Maintain current local tax rates

• Work to keep businesses in Canton

 

Stanley Metcalf, 54, owner of Metcalf and Associates Lawn Care Services

• Make Canton more business friendly

• Change the board’s meeting time to promote more resident involvement

• Award contracts to in-state businesses

 

Patrick Willis, 31, historic interpreter at Thomas Wolfe National Historic Site

• Improve the town’s website

• Increase communication between businesses and local officials

• Market the town’s assets to draw new residents and businesses

 

Kenneth Holland, 64, retired pharmacist, current town board member.

• Holland did not return phone calls requesting an interview.

 

Mayor: pick one

 

Mike Ray, a former Canton alderman, is running unopposed. Current mayor Pat Smathers is stepping down after 12 years.

Meet the candidates: Who’s who in Waynesville’s race

Waynesville mayor: Pick one

 

Mayor Gavin Brown, 64, attorney. Mayor for four years, town alderman for eight

Every morning Mayor Gavin Brown dons his town of Waynesville pin on his suit lapel before heading out the door to his law office. If he forgets, his wife never fails to remind him.

Brown makes a habit of strolling Main Street almost every day. He sticks his head in businesses to say “hello.” If he sees tourists taking pictures, he offers to step behind the camera so the whole family can be in the photo. If he sees men loitering on benches while their wives shop, he stops and hands out his mayor’s business card.

“I say ‘I have a few minutes, I’m the mayor, what do you want to know?’” Brown said. In exchange, he queries them on where they’re from and why they chose to visit Waynesville.

“It’s fun for me to do that,” Brown said. “I am nondiscriminatory … I talk to anybody.”

Those who know him wouldn’t doubt it. He even carries a list of all the downtown eateries to offer tourists wondering where they should eat.

Earlier this summer he noticed an elderly lady on Main Street who was feeling faint. He helped her inside the nearest business, LN Davis Insurance agency. He asked the employees to get her some water and offered to call her a medic.

“I really feel that my job is to be the head cheerleader for the people of Waynesville,” Brown said.

Brown’s four years of mayor have been devoid of controversy, scandal or dissent, giving him a clear leg up against his challenger.

Low voter turnout is a fear among the incumbents, however. If voters happy with the direction of the town feel the current leaders are a shoe-in and stay home on Election Day, a minority of voters with an ax to grind could swing the race.

 

Hugh Phillips, 50, co-manager at Bi-Lo grocery

Hugh Phillips ran unsuccessfully for mayor four years ago, but undeterred, he is back for another bid. Phillips said that people might not have taken him seriously last time. After all, he jumped right into politics for the first time in the mayor’s ring, rather than wading in as a town board candidate first. But there’s a reason, he said.

“If I ran for alderman and got elected, I don’t know if I could get along with the rest of the people on there. I think we would have butting heads,” Phillips said.

Of course, even as mayor, Phillips would still have to sit shoulder to shoulder with the other board members in meetings, and his vote doesn’t count any more than their votes on the issues. But he thinks he would get to control discussion more, he said.

“I said if I was going to do this, I was determined to make a difference, so that’s why I am running for mayor and not alderman,” Phillips said.

Phillips said he has been to one or two town board meetings, and none since signing up to run for election.

As a manager of Bi-Lo, customers are constantly bending Phillip’s ear, and not just about what aisle the bread is on.

“People tell me the town board is not approachable. They aren’t in touch for the citizens of Waynesville,” Phillips said. “If you are elected to office you should be working for the people. That’s my first and foremost.

“People’s got to be able to talk to you. It’s who you work for is the people of Waynesville,” Phillips said.

Phillips said the biggest thing that motivated him to run is the town’s development standards, which he said are too strict and are deterring new business.

Phillips was not aware that the town board relaxed some of the standards earlier this year in response to complaints from the business community.

 

Waynesville town board: Pick four

 

Alderman Wells Greeley, 59, president and owner of Wells Funeral Homes and Cremation Services. Alderman for three years

Wells Greeley was appointed to the town board to fill a vacancy left when former Alderman Kenneth Moore died three years ago. It wasn’t exactly new to him, however. He’d been on the town board in Canton for four years in the early 1980s. Both his father and grandfather were town aldermen as well.

Greeley said serving on the Waynesville town board has been an “enjoyable and rewarding experience.” The board is professional, courteous and thoughtful. The board is devoid from petty politics that plague some small towns. There are no entrenched camps, no staking out of sides before meetings.

“Everybody is an individual,” Greeley said. “It was a pleasant surprise to me to know that everybody’s voice was really heard. We didn’t always agree, but at the end of the day, we came away with a respect.

“I was fortunate to come on board and inherit such a good team. I want to try to continue the great work we are doing,” he said.

Greeley credits the board’s demeanor, in part, to Town Manager Lee Galloway. It’s why finding the right replacement for him when he retires next year is what Greeley calls “Job One.”

“That is going to be the most critical issue that the new elected town board will face,” Greeley said.

The town has hired a consultant to aid with the search. A glutton for public input processes, the town has asked the consultants to include community leaders in crafting a vision for what skills and traits the next town manager should possess.

Greeley believes he is well suited to the important task. He was on the UNC-Asheville board of trustees when it conducted a search for a new chancellor. And as a business owner with 15 full-time and 20 part-time employees on the payroll, he is no stranger to hiring.

 

Leroy Roberson, 67, owner of Haywood Optometric Care. Alderman for four years

Leroy Roberson has been an eye doctor on Main Street for 35 years and remembers all too well the days when downtown wasn’t the vibrant place it is now. More than a quarter of the storefronts were shuttered, and buildings had fallen into disrepair.

“Slowly but surely with the efforts of the Downtown Waynesville Association, it has come back and it has become a model for other downtowns. Statewide people know Waynesville,” Roberson said. “It has shown us what can be done when there is a public and private synergy. The amount of money the town has put in to streetscapes is small compared to the private investment, and the result is you have some very viable businesses.”

Roberson considers the town’s investment in downtown “less than a drop in bucket” compared to the benefits it has reaped.

The success story shapes Roberson’s philosophy for the town now. Take pride in the town, invest in it, make it attractive, and prosperity will follow.

“You can take pride in Waynesville now because of what’s been done,” Roberson said.

Roberson, who previously served on the Waynesville town board in the 1990s, has also learned the worth of local business owners who are vested in their community. While some opponents in the race complain the town’s development standards don’t accommodate chain store style architecture, Roberson places a higher value on local businesses anyway.

“If you spend $100 in a local restaurant, $68 of the revenue will be circulated through the community. If you go to a chain like Cracker Barrel or Sonic or anything like that, $45 recirculates through the community. Which would you rather have? For me it is a no brainer,” Roberson said.

Roberson said an important goal for the next four years is creating a vision and plan for South Main Street, the corridor around Super Wal-Mart. He doesn’t want it to become another Russ Avenue, but instead wants the town to lay the groundwork for a pedestrian-friendly, aesthetically pleasing mixed-use district.

 

Gary Caldwell, 58, production manager at Cornerstone Printing. Alderman for 12 years

When Gary Caldwell first ran for office 12 years ago, his platform was recreation, namely pushing through a town recreation center.

Little has changed, at least as far as his platform is concerned. The recreation center, a crown jewel for Waynesville, is now built. But Caldwell’s got other projects he’s pushing for. He’s the chief advocate behind a skateboard park currently under development. The town has put in $80,000, and gotten $80,000 in grants. That’s only half what’s needed, however, and Caldwell is working on fundraising.

Caldwell also wants to nurture recreation offerings at the Waynesville Armory, which has blossomed lately as a senior recreation center, from bridge games to the new Brain Gym.

“The big thing down there now is pickle ball,” Caldwell said. “You can’t hardly get a parking space.”

Caldwell wants the town to buy a neighboring vacant lot to create more parking for the Armory, and then build sidewalks and plant trees along the street leading to the Armory from Frog Level.

This ties in with his other pet project: revitalizing Frog Level. Caldwell works in Frog Level, and has been active in forging a path from the forgotten side of the tracks to a flavorful downtown business district.

“They call me the mayor of Frog Level,” Caldwell said.

He is brokering a deal now among Frog Level merchants and the town to install street lamps in Frog Level, borrowing from a similar project on Main Street years ago. Businesses raised money for the lampposts, while the town streets and utility workers provided the labor to install them. Caldwell remembers the lamppost project on Main Street nearly failed.

“We just kept bearing down on it,” Caldwell said. And that is his motto for the next four years.

“We just got to keep going on the same track that we are going,” Caldwell said.

 

Mary Ann Enloe, 70, retired Dayco senior purchasing agent

Mary Ann Enloe is a well-known local politician. She was a county commissioner for eight years and the mayor of Hazelwood for 12 years, its own town prior to merging with Waynesville.

Her heart is in town government, she said. She grew up immersed in it: her father was mayor in Hazelwood for 27 years.

“I have the experience. I have the interest. I have the time,” Enloe said. “If I have a platform, it’s common sense. My daddy taught me that. If all else fails common sense will carry you through.”

Enloe also believes she can bring representation to the Hazelwood area and west side of town.

“Historically people look to me to be their voice when they think they don’t have a voice,” she said when asked who her constituents in politics have been.

Enloe won’t say anything negative about the current town board, however. She has had a bird’s eye view of town government for the past year as a correspondent covering the town for The Mountaineer newspaper.

She quit being a correspondent for the paper after announcing plans to run, given the obvious conflict of interest. But she kept right on going to the twice-a-month town meetings all the same.

That, coupled with her years in town and county government, means she won’t have a learning curve if elected, she said.

She knows the town’s tax rate to the 100th of a penny — 40.82 cents. She can recite how much profit the town made selling electricity last year — $1.2 million. She knows how much debt the town has now, how much will be paid off this year, how much a penny on the property tax rate raises.

“I have a lot to offer,” Enloe said.

As for her view of elected leaders?

“We work for close to 10,000 people,” Enloe said of the town’s population. “We have 10,000 bosses.”

 

Sam Edwards, 57, substitute teacher and GED instructor

Sam Edwards is conservative by any standard. He believes in not just small, but extremely small government. He believes in only the bare minimum of regulations, preferring for government to get out of the way of business.

Edwards helped start a group called the Waynesville-Haywood Concerned Citizens, which shares many of the ideas and philosophies of the Tea Party.

“There is cross fertilization,” Edwards said of his group and local Tea party followers. The concerned citizens group has registered as a Political Action Committee to donate to town board candidates and take out political ads for candidates.

A web site created by the group blames the town for driving away new businesses with its too-strict development guidelines — guidelines that mandate sidewalks, require so many trees in parking lots, limit the height of signs, and lay out architectural standards.

Edwards said government shouldn’t intervene in such things. If a business wants to build, don’t tell them where or how. Business sense should dictate they build something that looks decent.

“I do not think a responsible business is going to trash the neighborhood they are moving into because they know it is bad for business,” Edwards said.

Edwards admits the metal warehouse design of new Dollar General’s cropping up in the county or the cinderblock architecture that was a hallmark of Walmart in days-gone-by wasn’t particularly pleasing. Nonetheless, he doesn’t like government intervention when it comes to what gets built on private property.

“You have to trust people to make decisions that are good decisions and allow them to be adults and occasionally make mistakes and fail,” Edwards said.

Edwards said government can’t be the problem solver for everything. If kids need a skate park, then private enterprise, not the town, should step up to the plate.

 

Julia Boyd-Freeman, 44, director of REACH, a domestic violence nonprofit

Julia Boyd-Freeman made an important choice when she moved back to her hometown of Waynesville in her mid-20s.

“The people make the town. It has such a personality of its own that is unique in a way that you don’t see in many areas, and the natural beauty is just incredible.”

That same passion for Waynesville has motivated her to seek a seat on the town board.

“I have a fresh perspective that I think could bring some positive solutions to the challenges we are going to be facing and opportunities coming down the pipeline,” Freeman said.

Freeman was working as an interior designer when she landed the role of REACH director 15 years ago. The organization was between directors, and Freeman, who was on the board, stepped in to serve as an interim but never left.

Freeman is billing herself as a pro-business candidate.

Freeman is one of three challengers in the race criticizing the town’s development standards as too strict. Despite an overhaul of the standards over the past year, a process driven by a blue-ribbon committee comprised mostly of businessmen, Freeman believes the town’s ordinances need to be loosened even more to remove “undue burdens” on business.

“I think it is a priority to start that review process again,” Freeman said.

Freeman is one of three candidates being supported by the conservative group Waynesville-Haywood Concerned Citizens. Freeman, a Republican, does not share all their views, however. She does not believe the town’s new fire and police department are extravagant, nor does she believe the town has been wasteful in spending.

As part of her pro-business platform, Freeman also wants to develop a new road plan for South Main Street that will make the corridor more fertile for business growth. She is concerned about the ability of the town’s aging sewer lines to serve business expansion and wants to perform an assessment of the system.

 

Coming next week: Did Cracker Barrel really walk away from Waynesville?

Waynesville’s elected leaders believe the town is on a progressive track, one that has made Waynesville one of the most prosperous and desirable towns in Western North Carolina for business and tourists.

The town has been a magnet for development despite the recession, from giant chains such as Best Buy, Staples and PetSmart, to local entrepreneurs opening upscale restaurants, microbreweries and art galleries.

But opponents claim that town leaders have been unfriendly to business, imposing costly development standards. Aimed at improving the aesthetics of commercial districts, the town standards are too arduous and have deterred business from locating here, they say.

The Smoky Mountain News will investigate the truth behind these claims next week.

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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.