Jessi Stone

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Students at Western Carolina University have helped hundreds of their fellow Catamounts register to vote in the 2020 election, and at the end of the day, they say it doesn’t matter whether they register to vote red or blue — just as long as they show up to cast a ballot. 

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The elusive youth voter. Politicians want to know what they’re thinking, what issues motivate them and what it takes to actually get them to the polls on Election Day.

Attempting to reach the 18-29 age bracket of untapped voters continues to be a high priority for political campaigns yet it’s still the age bracket with the lowest rates of voter turnout historically. However, recent data does show youth voters are on the rise. 

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Five candidates will be running in the primary election for a chance to claim an open seat on the Macon County Board of Commissioners. 

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Long’s Chapel leadership only received word about two weeks ago that its lease for The Open Door Ministry building in Frog Level would not be renewed for another year. 

SEE ALSO: Frog Level soup kitchen lease won’t be renewed

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Three Democrats running for county commissioner will appear on the primary election ballot in Swain County this year, and voters will determine which two will move on to the general election in November. 

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Capt. Danny Bates will serve as Franklin’s interim police chief while the town goes through the hiring process to find its next full-time leader of the police department. 

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The independent firm responsible for ensuring HCA Healthcare complies with the terms of its purchase agreement for Mission Health Systems held a public meeting in Franklin on Thursday, but residents were frustrated to learn there’s not much Gibbins Advisors can do about their complaints. 

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Haywood County Commissioners approved spending $49,000 to fund a space needs study at the detention center.

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For years opioids were overprescribed by physicians and overused by patients, leading to skyrocketing rates of addiction, overdoses and drug-related crime. Now that the issue has risen to the level of a national public health and safety crisis, society is more aware of the dangers associated with opioid abuse and physicians are learning new ways to manage patients’ pain levels. 

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After interviewing five applicants that applied to serve out an unexpired term on the Maggie Valley Board of Aldermen, the board unanimously appointed Twinkle Patel to the seat. 

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When teachers were starting their careers in North Carolina some 30 years ago, they did so with the understanding that their health care would be covered and the money they put into their retirement fund would cover the cost of living when the time came. 

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The Smoky Mountain News has lauched a digital newsletter that will publish every Friday morning to give you the latest breaking news as well as a preview of the weekend ahead.

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On Monday, Jan. 20, as many people were off work to honor the memory of the late Martin Luther King Jr., thousands of gun rights activists rallied at the Virginia Capitol to protest pending gun-control legislation passed in that state’s General Assembly. 

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The Maggie Valley Chamber of Commerce recognized the hard work of its many volunteers Tuesday night during its annual banquet and awards ceremony at Elevated Mountain Distilling Co.

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Something Dawn Gilchrist’s father-in-law, a retired Methodist minister, once said has stuck with her throughout her career as an educator — follow the gleam, mind the bend and enter the open door.

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Western North Carolina hospitals under the Duke LifePoint umbrella are celebrating several milestones in making communities healthier as a new year begins.

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Duke Energy Carolinas, LLC, filed an application with the North Carolina Utilities Commission Sept. 30, 2019, requesting authority to increase its rates for electric service in order to produce an additional $445.3 million in retail base revenues. 

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The Swain County Tourism Development Authority has approached the county about expanding the Appalachian Rivers Aquarium that just opened its doors in downtown Bryson City last summer. 

The aquarium is still working out some kinks and stocking the tanks with fish since opening in July, but already those operating the facility see the need for more functional space in order to keep growing it as a tourism attraction. 

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There’s just something so mysterious about Southern crime stories. Small towns with big characters and dark family secrets. People taking the law into their own hands and crooked cops turning a blind eye. If there’s one thing mountain folk appreciate, it’s a tall tale woven together through the decades.

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It was a sight to behold — more than 200 volunteers of all ages coming together on a cold Saturday morning in December to ensure the youth of Haywood County don’t go hungry. 

Those volunteers packaged 11,000 meals in under an hour, setting a new record for the Generosity Feeds program. 

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Macon County Sheriff Robbie Holland told commissioners last week that he tries his best not to ask for more money in the middle of the budget year, but after an inmate recently escaped from the courthouse, he said the lack of security at the facility must be addressed sooner rather than later. 

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Macon County commissioners approved two amended contracts that will hopefully keep costs down at the detention center. 

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Macon County commissioners recently recognized Miles Gregory for his many years of service to the county, including his 25 years as the chairman of the Macon County Airport Authority. 

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Swain County now has an emergency homeless shelter in downtown Bryson City thanks to a generous donation and the hard work of committed volunteers in the community. 

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Haywood and Jackson counties have been participating in an important pilot program this year in hopes of creating a more fair and swift court process in the judicial district. 

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Dawn Todd manages a humane society in Franklin. With a full plate at work, she isn’t someone who would usually get involved in someone else’s criminal matters, but she’s also someone who can’t turn away when she sees people being treated unfairly. 

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A new kind of professional development training session hosted by the Haywood County Chapter of the NAACP left local educators with a lot to think about as they return to their classrooms. 

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CJ Deering sat at her desk inside the Haywood County Detention Center when she got a surprise phone call from a woman who had been sentenced to prison nine months ago. 

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Haywood County commissioners may have to start seriously considering expanding the detention center now that the average daily inmate population is close to — and sometimes over — capacity levels. 

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In an effort to prioritize its long list of infrastructure needs, Macon County Board of Commissioners approved spending up to $300,000 last November to hire Moseley Architects to conduct a space needs analysis of county buildings. 

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The explosion of online vacation rental booking options like VRBO and Airbnb has completely changed the tourism industry, and while it’s been beneficial for Western North Carolina communities, it has also presented a challenge for counties trying to collect occupancy and sales taxes from overnight visitors. 

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Social services Agency Mountain Projects continues to be at the forefront of solving the affordable housing crisis in Haywood and Jackson counties. 

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The issue of homelessness has been a growing concern among Haywood County residents, businesses, law enforcement and government officials for the last several years.

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Although Franklin Republican Rep. Kevin Corbin has decided to run for the state Senate in 2020, Western North Carolina Republicans are intent on keeping his House seat out of Democratic hands. 

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The town of Bryson City didn’t have any contested races this year, which means no big surprises on election night. 

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The town of Franklin will keep its incumbent mayor while welcoming two new faces to the town board.

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Abundant Labs CEO Chip Miller looked like a college chemistry professor as he started drawing diagrams and compound percentages on the blackboard while trying to explain what it is the new enterprise is doing in Canton.

The Abundant Labs partners announced this summer they would be opening the $12 million state-of-the-art hemp processing facility inside the NEO Corporation building off I-40 in Canton and has now been in production for a month. 

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Hemp has only been legal in North Carolina for a couple of years, but already the plant is presenting an issue in the criminal justice system that the legislature is still trying to iron out. 

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A wide-ranging forum held last week at Frog Level Brewing to discuss Haywood’s homeless population revealed deep divisions about how to treat a vulnerable and visible segment of the population.

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Incumbent Mayor Bob Scott has won his fourth term in office against challenger Barbara McRae.

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Frog Level Brewing Co. was packed to capacity Tuesday night as community members came together for some good old tavern politics.

More than 125 people showed up to hear what the candidates running for Waynesville mayor and aldermen had to say about the ongoing issues arising in the community due to homelessness and addiction. By the end of the night, the main takeaway was that none of the candidates could point to one guaranteed solution. Everyone agreed that the complicated layered issue would take a multiple pronged approach and everyone working together toward the same goals. 

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After running unopposed for his last two terms in office, Franklin Mayor Bob Scott is being challenged for his seat by fellow Town Councilmember Barbara McRae. 

Scott is seeking his fourth two-year term as the town’s mayor and served as a councilmember for 10 years before that. 

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Voters will be faced with a long list of candidates when they go to vote in the Franklin Town Council election, but they should be aware that two candidates on the ballot have dropped out of the race last minute.

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The mayor of Bryson City and two aldermen seats are up for election this year but all three seats will be uncontested.

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How can $1.5 billion transform the health and wellness of Western North Carolina communities for decades to come? That’s the question Dogwood Health Trust’s Board of Directors is currently asking itself since the new foundation was tasked with spending the proceeds from Mission Health’s sale to HCA Healthcare last year. 

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It’s been about three years since the Tennessee Valley Authority tried to remove all floating homes on its 49 lakes.

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What started as a traveling bookmobile 75 years ago has now evolved into a regional system of six library branches. Together they are striving to provide a broad range of services to their communities while defending their relevance in a changing society. 

“I think we need libraries for a lot of reasons,” said Karen Wallace, who serves as the librarian at the Franklin library and also as the director of Fontana Regional Library System. “We always try to respond to the needs in the communities. Where is the lifelong learning coming from if not from a public source like the library?”

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Getting impatient waiting for private providers or the government to help in the effort to bring high-speed internet service to its rural communities, Macon County commissioners approved funding to support two community initiated projects already underway. 

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Swain Summits is a new community health initiative launched through a partnership between Swain Community Hospital and Swain County Health Department to help people live their best lives.

In 2014, Duke LifePoint Healthcare purchased three hospitals in Western North Carolina with the promise of drastically improving rural health care services. 

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