Cory Vaillancourt

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Since 2001 the Smoky Mountain Aquatic Club has been geared toward having a nationally recognized aquatics program that develops and trains swimmers of all ages and abilities.

In the four years since they first launched, Waynesville’s Base Camp summer programs — day camps packed full of outdoor adventure and environmental education — have quickly risen in popularity, selling out in hours, months ahead of when the camps begin. 

When the last bell rings and the doors fly open loosing schoolchildren across the nation out into the sunny summer streets, many of them will turn right back around and participate in a plethora of camps and activities designed to keep them off the couch and active in the world around them. 

Three Democratic seats on the Haywood County Board of Commissioners are up for election this year, but only two of them are being defended by incumbents. 

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Problems with moist soil are mucking up what seemed at the time to be a quick, cheap and easy accouterment for an enticing economic development asset, spurring frustration from the public, political candidates and commissioners — frustration that all flows downhill.

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A legal snafu has halted work on the Frog Level parking lot paving project as well as delayed action on a possible property acquisition that would bring even more parking to the Waynesville business district.

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Allegations made by a member of Cherokee Tribal Council against a Smoky Mountain News reporter have resulted in a ban on all non-Cherokee media from Tribal Council chambers. 

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A spate of unusual campaign signs began popping up in Maggie Valley about a week ago and although the message is simple, the response has shown that in Haywood County, right and wrong isn’t always so black and Wight.

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A recent report published by nonprofit advocacy group Down Home North Carolina says that changing demographics and their accompanying shifts in political allegiance have forever altered the ideological character of rural North Carolina, and the subsequent Republican takeover of state government is hitting the working poor, people of color and the LGBTQ community hardest.

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While some Haywood County voters will head to the polls May 8 asking themselves who they’re going to vote for, many of those same voters may be asking themselves an altogether different question — what the heck does the Clerk of Superior Court even do?

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Recent efforts to enhance student safety by placing armed volunteers in the nation’s schools have resulted in predictable blowback from anti-gun activists, some of whom have claimed it’s an attempt by the National Rifle Association to indoctrinate impressionable young minds with pro-gun propaganda. 

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The next chapter in the saga of the historic Haywood Hospital is about to be written, but in the choose-your-own-adventure format of the existing saga, the happy ending of the county’s quest to unload the expensive, underutilized parcel has yet to be written.

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Of all the rugged places in Western North Carolina, one of the most pristine and unique is also one of the least known — but that’s by design. 

Mention Rocky Branch Lake and you’ll find few who’ve heard of it, and even fewer who’ve actually been to the 86-acre pool that serves as an ample reservoir for the Town of Waynesville’s drinking water. That’s because public access is restricted year-round. 

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This fall, voters in North Carolina will be treated to a new choice at the polls come election day. 

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Many Fridays a small group of longtime Canton residents meet up informally at the town’s historical museum on Park Street as soon as it opens in the morning to peruse the artifacts and talk about the town’s tomorrow, the town’s today and the town’s yesterday.

As they do, they sometimes come to the topic of the historic Colonial Revival-style building located just across the street since 1932 — the aptly named Colonial Theater. 

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Haywood County is suddenly a hot commodity for property developers; recent news of a proposed hotel in Maggie Valley was met last week with more news of a potentially substantial  “hospitality industry” development in Waynesville that is also likely a hotel.

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Next fall, students at Haywood Christian Academy will all attend classes together in a new building that brings the two campuses together but still leaves them room to grow. 

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Many people were surprised by the sudden resignation of Ira Dove from his position as Haywood County manager last October, but just as surprising was an announcement last week that Dove would rejoin the county in a role that is different, but not new to him.

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Haywood County’s only homeless shelter — and one of the very few in North Carolina west of Asheville — continues to advance its mission of transforming the most vulnerable among us by filling in some of the potholes on their road to recovery. 

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In almost every living American resides at least one sepia-toned memory embellished with song — that perpetual score to a first kiss, or a last dance. 

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When storied Western Carolina University men’s basketball coach Larry Hunter recently announced his retirement after notching his 700th career win, it was clear that a new era would soon begin for the WCU hoops program.

That era began just a few minutes ago, as Western Carolina University Director of Athletics Randy Eaton announced Hunter’s replacement.

Eaton said he wanted someone who wasn’t from a "maintenance" program, but rather from a program that had been built to be successful. Eaton also said he wanted someone with national and regional ties.

“I also wanted someone who understood that ‘student’ comes before ‘athlete,’” Eaton said during a press conference Mar. 27.

After conferring with basketball coaches and officials from around the region and around the country, Eaton said one name kept coming up.

“We didn’t get ‘a’ guy, we got ‘the’ guy,” Eaton said. “We have the man to lead this basketball team.”

The guy is Mark Prosser, son of former Xavier University and Wake Forest head coach Skip Prosser.

Prosser was, until Mar. 27, the associate head coach at Winthrop University, and had also served as head coach at Brevard College for a year.

“I’ve been very fortunate to coach at some very good places with some very good players,” Prosser said.

He’s also aware of the role college athletics play in Cullowhee, mentioning the type of program he intends to shepherd during his tenure.

“We’re going to go about this the right way. Our guys are going to be about the ABCs – academics, basketball, character,” he said. “We’ll get started very quickly in building that championship culture.”

WCU currently competes in the Southern Conference, and during the 2017-18 season notched an 8-10 record, well behind UNC-Greensboro’s 15-3 mark.

To find out more about WCU’s athletics program, including men’s basketball and Coach Prosser, visit www.catamountsports.com.

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Although it’s still early in the budget process, Interim Haywood County Manager Joel Mashburn told commissioners that requests for the FY 2018-19 budget already total more than $3 million over projected revenues. 

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A flurry of contentious public records requests by a longtime local government watchdog has prompted Haywood County officials to revise and update internal policies on how those requests are handled. 

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A major hotel could be coming to Maggie Valley sooner rather than later after the town recently passed a pair of amendments to its design guidelines to allow for taller buildings.

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Last week, students across the country walked out of classrooms to acknowledge the 17 people shot to death at Marjorie Stoneman Douglass High School in Parkland, Florida. 

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Two weeks ago marked the 53rd anniversary of a watershed moment in the civil rights movement — the Selma to Montgomery marches, where civil rights leaders including current Georgia Congressman John Lewis were badly beaten by Alabama State Troopers on the Edmund Pettus Bridge. 

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Outside the Haywood County Justice Center in downtown Waynesville, Haywood County Tax Collector Mike Matthews stands with a slim manila folder in his hands while an attorney nearby reads off a boilerplate legal notice required when the county offers a foreclosed property at auction. 

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Columbine, Sandy Hook, Stoneman Douglas — those names ring out like the bullets that once flew through their hallways, stark reminders of a perplexing and tragic problem that simply hasn’t gone away. 

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Right about the time this newspaper hits the stands on Wednesday, March 14, students at Haywood County’s two public high schools, Tuscola and Pisgah, will be hitting the bricks as part of a national school walkout to protest gun violence in schools. 

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Haywood County’s high-performing public schools will see a small budget increase for the FY 2018-19 school year, but at the same time takes care of some critical needs, including teacher supplement pay that helps attract and retain the best instructors. 

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The $100,000 grant to Haywood Community College from the Appalachian Regional Commission wasn’t the first made by the ARC in the area, but since the election of President Donald Trump in late 2016, there’s been an ongoing fear that any grant from ARC could be the last grant from ARC. 

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The type of traditional manufacturing that put many small towns on the map and provided a decent living to generations of Americans is long gone; it’s been in decline sine the 1970s and will never fully disappear, but the massive economic benefits of large-scale industrial production for the most part have. 

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The five men — three Democrats, a Republican and a Libertarian — hoping to unseat Asheville Republican Congressman Mark Meadows in November will now be joined by one woman, if she can get the signatures she needs to make the ballot. 

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For the first time in a decade, citizens in much of Western North Carolina will have the chance to vote for a Libertarian congressional candidate in the November General Election. 

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After a 13-year tenure as Western Carolina University’s head Men’s Basketball coach that also saw him notch his 700th career win, Larry Hunter will step down at the end of this season.

Only seven active NCAA coaches have more wins than Hunter, who this morning said that he’s glad to have been part of the growth he’s seen at the university.

“In the 13 years that I’ve been associated with Western Carolina University, I’ve seen a tremendous positive change at both the university and within the athletics department – and it’s been fun to be a part of some of that change,” Hunter said in a statement issued by CatamountSports.com Mar. 4. “With regards to the men’s basketball program, I was brought here to add some stability and do things the right way. I feel during my time in Cullowhee, we’ve done just that." 

Just 40 NCAA men’s basketball coaches have reached 700-win mark; a Feb. 3 home win over Samford put Hunter in elite company.

“Larry Hunter knows what he is doing,” said Tar Heels coach Roy Williams earlier this year. “He is a big-time coach, and I’ve known him for a long time.”

And Hunter’s coached a long time – 47 years, to be exact. He served as an assistant at Marietta College starting in 1971, became head coach at Wittenburg (Ohio) in 1976 and then moved on to Ohio University in 1989, departing in 2001. Hunter became a Catamount in 2005.

At Cullowhee, Hunter claimed a pair of Southern Conference North Championships and guided his squads to two appearances in the SoCon Championship game. According to the statement, a national search for the next Western Carolina head men’s basketball coach will begin immediately.

For more on Hunter, check out Todd Vinyard’s Feb. 14 story, A life in coaching: WCU’s Hunter earns career 700th win.

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“First, congratulations. Second, why are you here?” he asked.

The airy hotel conference room fell silent, nearly 200 eyeballs glancing up from tablets, phones, laptops, coffee, muffins and bacon. 

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Despite being called “a shameful person to deal with” and “obsessed” in highly unusual comments directed at him by a county official last week, Waynesville resident Monroe Miller shows no signs of halting his crusade to dig up some dirt on what he supposes are irregularities surrounding a Haywood County earthmoving project. 

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Growing up in Haywood County, Sheriff Greg Christopher certainly learned the value of hard work at his family’s farm and roadside produce stand, located just off U.S. 276 between Waynesville and Bethel. But that’s not all he learned there. 

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As someone who’s spent 13 years as a school superintendent and four decades as a teacher and administrator fostering the personal achievement and enrichment of others — all in Haywood County — it’s finally time for Dr. Anne Garrett to focus on her own goals and dreams.

“I think 40 years is a long time to do this, and it was just a good time for me. I think our school system is in really great shape. We’ve got good academics and a sound budget right now, we’re not having to close any schools or do anything negative,” Garrett said. “I think it’s just a good time to make that transition.”

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School administrators around the state have been crying foul since late 2017 over the way the North Carolina General Assembly implemented a new smaller class size requirement that was essentially an unfunded mandate.

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Local government watchdog Monroe Miller is well known to many in county government circles; he attends most Haywood County Board of Commissioners meetings and publishes his opinions — usually meticulously researched — on his blog, Haywood County Toeprints. 

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Although recent economic development efforts by Haywood County, including a highly anticipated partnership with the Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce, focus on drawing new business to the area, Haywood County Commissioner and Economic Development Council Board Member Mike Sorrells says devoting effort to retention and expansion of existing businesses is just as important. 

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A week’s worth of wintry weather in mid-January resulted in the cancellation of meetings by both the Haywood County School Board as well as public charter school Shining Rock Classical Academy, but while both entities violated open meetings laws in rescheduling those meetings without proper notice, only one of those public bodies has now admitted it and made amends for it.

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North Carolina is a huge state with tremendous climactic, economic and geographic diversity, but after a wicked bout of weird weather, including hurricanes in the mountains and blizzards on the beaches, the state’s one-size-fits all school calendar law still leaves many western counties singing the summertime blues.

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Sticks and stones may break some bones, but according to a lawsuit filed by one local politico, the memes can sometimes hurt, too. 

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A controversial video gaming parlor that opened on Dellwood City Road last summer will cease operations and remove all signage by March 9, according to a consent agreement between the town of Waynesville and Nudge City owner Tami Nicholson. 

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Asheville Republican Congressman Mark Meadows’ extreme partisanship, attempts to repeal the Affordable Care Act and hypocritical fiscal responsibility make him a prime target for electoral defeat this year, according to three Western North Carolina Democrats who plan to challenge Meadows for his 11th District seat.

First, though, those candidates will square off against each other in a Democratic Primary Election for the right to face Meadows in November; others may yet come as well –- the filing period for candidates doesn’t end until Feb. 28.

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Election season is right around the corner, as candidates begin filing paperwork to run for a variety of partisan offices from the federal level on down to state and local races in North Carolina.

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For generations, the people of Waynesville looked to the auto repair shop at the intersection of Branner Avenue and Depot Street as a place to get oil. 

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Haywood County Schools’ administration recently admitted it may have violated North Carolina’s Open Meeting laws by not properly noticing a board meeting that had to be rescheduled due to inclement weather. 

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