Sylva town board welcomes new member, new mayor

The race for Sylva town board was won by only a hair on Election Day.

The results show Mary Kelley Gelbaugh edging Danny Allen off the town board by a mere four votes. Allen has been on the town board on and off through the years, with a total of 10 years in office if you add it all up.

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.
Smokey Mountain News Logo
SUPPORT THE SMOKY MOUNTAIN NEWS AND
INDEPENDENT, AWARD-WINNING JOURNALISM
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.