Canton leaders to compare and contrast lists

As everyone else compiles wish lists for the holiday season, Canton’s four aldermen will put together a list of their own on behalf of the town.

Soon after they were sworn into office last Tuesday (Nov. 24), Mayor Pat Smathers asked the aldermen to come up with a list of goals for the town, involving them in a process he began before the election.

In mid-October, Smathers published his 17-item wish list for Canton in an op-ed piece in The Mountaineer. In the editorial, Smathers wrote that he hoped to begin implementing the plan along with the newly elected aldermen soon after the election.

Smathers was prepared for the reality that the new aldermen would produce their own lists for what the town needs to prioritize. After his list was published, those running for office made it clear they would come up with their own agenda rather than just following Smathers’.

It remains to be seen how the new board will work with each other. Three of the four aldermen are serving their first terms after winning election in November. Two of the former aldermen chose not to run, and a third was unseated.

This makes the second election in a row that voters in Canton have swept in a new slate of candidates, having voted in three new aldermen in 2007.

Canton’s town manager will collate the aldermen’s individual lists and present a master list to the board at an orientation meeting in mid-December.

Some of the items on Smathers’ long list of goals included installing lights on town sports fields, creating a craft and farmer’s market, hiring a town recreation coordinator, and extending the town’s greenway.

Furthermore, Smathers called for an upgrade of town water and sewer lines around Interstate 40, where the capacity has been maxed out preventing new businesses from hooking on. Smathers wrote he’d like to annex new territory into the town limits as well.

Alderman Eric Dills dubs Smathers’ 17-point vision an “ice cream list” with broad goals that everyone in town could agree on.

“Everybody likes ice cream,” said Dills. “It’s not a real controversial list. It’s just whether or not it can be done, and how and who’s going to pay for it.”

Alderman Ed Underwood, who was elected mayor pro-tem at the meeting, agreed. Underwood stated that many of the board members’ ideas would likely coincide with the items on Smathers’ list.

“The main issue is going to be in how you fund them,” said Underwood.

Dills said some of his own goals for the town may not be as “flashy” but are still worthy of implementation.

For example, Dills said he’d like to see the town repaint parking stripes downtown and start washing streets regularly.

“It’s not an expensive proposition,” said Dills. “It’s a very pleasing thing to see for what it costs, which is almost nothing.”

Dills said he views the list as important in building a consensus among the board members on the direction Canton needs to go.

For Dills, that means stepping away from a push toward tourism.

“We cannot bet our future on trying to draw visitors off I-40,” said Dills. “We can be a wonderful residential town, a place where people want to come and live and raise families and retire.”

Underwood said his main goal was to make Canton a vibrant place to live, shop and play, meaning his list will include a variety of directions.

“From economic development to recreation to fixing potholes,” said Underwood.

While Alderman Jimmy Flynn supports the goals on Smathers’ list, he said that it was “obvious” that the aldermen needed to write up lists of their own.

Flynn said he needed more time to compile his list but that he would work with a particular vision in mind.

“Slow, steady growth that does not overburden the taxpayer or the town employee,” said Flynn.

Though Dills will dream up a wish list for Canton along with the other aldermen, he expressed hesitation about signing up for a plethora of expensive projects, citing a strong concern about keeping taxes low.

“We need to be like every other business, and conserve and tighten our belts,” said Dills.

Franklin voters stick with familiar faces

Not one face is changing in Franklin’s local government despite close contests for mayor and aldermen.

In a neck-and-neck race, Franklin Mayor Joe Collins beat out Alderman Bob Scott by only 14 votes to reclaim the office for another two years.

All three incumbents, Jerry Evans, Billy Mashburn, and Sissy Pattillo, held on to their seats for the next four years, edging out challengers Ron Winecoff and Angela Moore. Scott retains his board seat.

Collins and Pattillo interpreted the election results as a vote of confidence by Franklin residents.

“We have a board that in the last two years has done more toward the future of Franklin than any board has in any two-year period I can remember,” said Collins. “The town can expect we’ll move further ahead.”

“It was the quietest election I’ve even seen,” Pattillo said. “Usually when an election is quiet we’ve done something right.”

Meanwhile, Scott, whose campaign sounded the call for a more open and participatory government, said he would make the most of his two years left on the board.

“The mayor certainly didn’t get a landslide,” said Scott. “The voters have spoken, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to quiet down. I’ve got two more years and I’m going to give it my all.”

Collins acknowledged that Scott spent a lot of time and energy in his campaign, effectively using the Internet to reach voters.

“It was a close race, closer than a lot of people thought it would be,” said Collins. “Bob worked very hard.”

With an alderman and a mayor in stiff competition, tensions might carry over into Collins’ next term. During his campaign, Scott accused Collins of not always being forthcoming as mayor specifically by leaving him out of the loop on decisions like a three-year contract with CGI Communications to produce a series of streaming online videos about Franklin.

Collins retorted that communication is a two-way street and not every decision requires board approval now that the position of town manager has been created.

Moving forward, the board will have to decide what to do with the 13-acre Whitmire property on the east side of town and plans for a public park commemorating the historic Nikwasi mound.

While Collins said he favors a mixed-use development that will rush the Whitmire property back into the town’s tax base, Scott said he’d rather see the town hold on to the property to develop a museum, civic center, or a park.

Collins acknowledged that the pieces haven’t fallem into place on the Nikwasi park development but added that the project still had broad support.

“I think everybody in the end would love to see a park,” said Collins.

Meanwhile, Scott said the town should take a step back, do a feasibility study, and make sure the committee spearheading the project is inclusive and transparent throughout the planning process.

After Scott’s two years are up, he says he’ll officially retire his political career and return to his roots as a newspaper writer.

“I’ll be 71 years old,” said Scott. “I’ve learned a lot. I just don’t think politics are for me. I’ll go back to writing some commentary ... probably something scathing.”



Joe Collins (I)    255

Bob Scott    241


Town board

Seats up for election:    3

Total seats on board:    6

Billy Mashburn (I)    350

Sissy Pattillo (I)    313

Jerry Evans (I)    241

Ron Winecoff    234

Angela Moore    225

Registered voters:    2,651

Regional election results


Town board

Seats up for election:    2

Total seats on board:    4

Carroll Mease (I)    103

Jim Trantham (I)    95

Alan Trantham    42

Registered voters:    780

Voter turnout:    127 (16%)

Village of Forest Hills


James Wallace (I)    49

(running as write-in)

Mark Teague    22

Town board

Seats up for election:    2

Total seats on board:    4

Clark Corwin    56

Carl Hooper    55

Registered voters:    344

Voter turnout:    72 (21%)

Bryson City

Town board

Seats up for election:    2

Total seats on board:    4

Stephanie Treadway (I)    28

Tom Reidmiller (I)    28

Registered voters:    1,046

Voter turnout:    30 (2.87%)


Mayor, four-year term

David Wilkes    376

Don Mullen (I)    104

Town board

Seats up for election:    2

Total seats on board:    5

Gary E. Drake    330

Amy Patterson (I)    229

Hank Ross (I)    186

Registered voters:    893

Voter turnout:    429 (48%)

Canton’s future pivots on heated board race

When voters head to the polls in Canton next week, they will face a daunting and even unwieldy list to choose from: 10 candidates for four seats on the board.

Town politics in Canton have been marked by division the past two years, and the vast majority of candidates claim they will rise above the fray and bring an end to the stalemate that has stalled progress on some important issues.

Much is at stake as the historic mill town struggles to find its place in the 21st century economy. Canton is one of the last blue-collar, working towns in the region, where smoke dominates the landscape and the mill whistle still trumpets across town. But the mom-and-pop shops that once anchored Main Street have gone the way of suburban sprawl. Unlike other mountain towns that filled the void by catering to tourists, that model wasn’t in Canton’s cards.

Candidates running for town board say they want to help forge a new path for Canton, but to do so means ending the power struggles that have consumed the town’s agenda.

“I feel like the lack of cohesiveness on this board the past two years has kept them from making a lot of progress,” said Carole Edwards, one of the candidates.

“It’s like we are standing still, waiting to move forward,” said Angela Jenkins, another challenger on the ticket.

The mantra for change resonating through this election is not new. Two years ago, voters ousted three long-time board members and ushered in a slate of new faces for the first time in years.

“I think people were looking for some good positive change,” said Patrick Willis, who supported the turnover two years ago but is now running himself. “I think people were hoping for improvement the last election, but I didn’t see much improvement, so I think that’s why so many people are running now.”

Indeed, many candidates share Willis’ assessment of town politics.

“Two years ago, I was happy there was a change made,” said Gene Monson, another candidate. “It was time for some fresh faces. However, as a board, I don’t think they accomplished what they wanted to accomplish over the past two years — or accomplish what most of the citizens were hoping for.”

Those who swept into office two years ago admit they haven’t been as effective as they hoped.

“There was resistance to the improvements and initiatives we brought,” said Alderman Eric Dills, who seems to be at permanent loggerheads with Mayor Pat Smathers. “If the town has not progressed in the past two years, the mayor has to bear his share and can’t keep pointing his finger at the board and saying it is all our fault.”

While challengers are quick to criticize the current board for not getting along, few were willing to ascribe blame.

“I don’t know whose fault that is. That is very controversial, and I wouldn’t touch that with a 10-foot pole,” Edwards said. “You can’t place blame on any one person.”

Jenkins said the blame lies on both sides.

“I think it has been uncooperative all the way around. People went in there and picked a team,” Jenkins said. “It was us versus them.”

Kenneth Holland, another candidate, said he wouldn’t “point the finger at anybody.” That’s not what matters, he said.

“The net result is not a whole lot is being accomplished,” Holland said.

Candidates scrambled to fend off labels that would lump them into one of the existing camps on the board.

“I think the idea of a Pat Smathers’ camp and an Eric Dills’ camp is more in the mind of Pat and Eric than the minds of the citizens,” Monson said. “I think the citizens are saying ‘I agree with part of what one says and part of what the other says.’”

While campaigning to voters, however, Monson has been asked point-blank if he was on one side or the other. His answer?

“If elected, I am not in either camp,” Monson said.

Underwood said he wouldn’t “take sides” between Dills and Smathers. Candidates would lose votes from people on the other side if they openly testified to being in a camp, Underwood said.

Only Jenkins admitted to being in any particular camp: the people’s camp.

“I feel like I would be for the side that was for the people,” Jenkins said. “I think you should be able to voice your opinion but also be able to listen to other people’s opinion.”

That’s precisely what hasn’t been happening amidst the power struggle on the board, according to candidates staking out the middle ground.

“I hope I have the intelligence and humility to consider every idea on its merits and not based on whose idea it is,” Monson said. “I am more concerned about getting it right than being right.”

Willis said a difference of opinion on the board could be a positive thing if they listened to each other.

“I am all for putting out 200 ideas,” Willis said. “I don’t want the board members not to listen to an idea just because they don’t like who it came from.”



Dills said the new board members faced pushback on initiatives they tried to bring to the table over the past two years. Dills said those in charge at town hall tried to block the change.

One example involved installing swings at the town playground, which had been part of Dills’ campaign platform in 2007.

“I told people, ‘If I get elected, I am going to get you those swings,’” Dills said.

Shortly after taking office, Dills and the other new board members expressed their desire for swings. But Town Manager Al Matthews said the town’s insurance would go sky-high with the addition of swings, according to Dills. They continued to push the issue, however, and directed Matthews to research insurance rates. It turned out the town’s insurance rates wouldn’t “go up one cent,” Dills said.

“It was like pulling teeth to get the swings,” Dills said.

Dills recounted a similar resistance when he proposed extending the season for the outdoor pool by remaining open two additional weekends through the end of August.

“Mr. Matthews said it could not be done. He said it was impossible,” Dills said.

According to Dills, Matthews said it would be a problem getting lifeguards to work. But when Dills took his proposal directly to the town recreation committee, they said there was no problem getting lifeguards for two additional weekends. The extended season was a success this year, Dills said.

A top example of the quagmire on current board point is how long it took to hire a permanent town manager. Long-time Town Manager Bill Stamey retired shortly after the new guard was elected in fall 2007. Town Clerk Al Matthews stepped in as interim town manager, a post he held for another 16 months — which is how long it took the board to choose him to take Stamey’s place.

“We were in a state of flux during that time,” Edwards said. “It is a very important role for a town, especially a town this small.”

As the process drug out, Smathers publicly expressed his frustration. But Dills claims it was the mayor’s fault, not his.

“He kept blaming us for taking so long to hire the manager when he was delaying the entire process,” Dills said.

Smathers wanted to promote Matthews to town manager, while Dills supported an outside candidate. Dills was ultimately the only board member who voted against Matthews appointment to the post.

“I felt we needed a new manager for things to change,” Dills said.


Tax hike

While the majority of candidates say the turnover on the board two years ago reflected voters desire for change, Charlie Crawford, one of the aldermen voted off the board at the time, paints a different picture. He claims it was mostly backlash over a 5-cent property tax increase.

Crawford said the town had depleted its reserves on flood recovery, a catastrophe dating back to 2004 when a swollen Pigeon River consumed much of downtown Canton. The town had to rebuild the depleted reserves, he said.

“It absolutely had to be done,” Crawford said.

Crawford points to the failure of the current board to lower property taxes as proof there was no alternative.

“That says to me they knew absolutely nothing about what they were talking about before the election,” Crawford said of his ousters two years ago.

Not only did the newcomers not lower taxes, but they raised fees for town services like trash pick-up and water and sewer.

Jimmy Flynn, a long-time town employee now running for office, agrees discontent over the tax increase drove the election results two years ago.

“I think that tax increase was not thoroughly explained to the public,” Flynn said, adding that an incremental increase would have been more tactful.

Alderman Troy Mann, who is running for election, made the property tax hike his main campaign platform two years ago.

“Most people were upset about that,” Mann said. “We needed folks on that board who would look out for the expenditure of their tax revenue.”

But Ed Underwood, another candidate, questioned a governing philosophy that avoids raising taxes at all costs.

“They don’t care what happens to anybody else as long as their taxes don’t go up,” Underwood said. “If you’ve got that mindset, you are being a little selfish. They don’t want the town to progress. Other people are out there saying, ‘I wish we had things for our kids to do.’”

Underwood said he was not among those seeking wholesale change in leadership two years ago.

“I liked a lot of the board members who were there at the time. I supported some of the board members who were there,” Underwood said.


A big plan

Mayor Pat Smathers, who has held office since 2000, has aggressively pursued a new image for Canton over the past decade. The current board has stalled that vision, Crawford said.

Flynn agreed and said if elected, he would support the “mayor’s train,” borrowing directly from an analogy Smathers has used over the years to describe his initiatives.

“Even if it is moving very slowly, it still needs to be moving,” Flynn said of the train. “I think over the past two years, it has not went forward at all.”

While Smathers is running unopposed for mayor, he has not stayed out of the race. He wrote an op-ed column in The Mountaineer two weeks ago laying out a 17-point plan for the town. He directly challenged candidates to get on board with his vision and called on voters to pin candidates down on whether they would support him.

“My aim is to make the following items election-year issues so that I and whoever is elected can begin working on an implementation plan soon after the election,” Smathers wrote in the op-ed.

Many were careful to couch their support, however. They said they would support Smathers’ ideas on their merits, but not merely because Smathers wants them to.

“I will do what is in the best interest of the town,” Monson said. “As far as it being Pat’s platform, I am running to work for the citizens of Canton. I am not running to work for Pat.”

Willis said the members of the town board should also craft their own lists. The board should compare and contrast their lists, then rank the projects by priority.

“I don’t think all the ideas (on Pat’s list) are as important as Pat thinks they are. Some are. We just need to look at those,” Willis said.

Residents should be brought into the fold as well, according to Willis.

“In a perfect world there would be a number of residents who have input on what those goals should be,” Willis said.

Underwood said there’s not much Smathers left off the list.

“Pat listed a lot of things,” Underwood said. “I think anybody in that position who knew the town like Pat does would probably list the same things.”

Nonetheless, Underwood thinks there’s room for more input.

“Pat has put this list out there. Everybody else needs to put their list out there and come up with a consensus on how we need to attack what Canton needs,” Underwood said.

Underwood pointed out that Dills has not put out a similar list of his ideas.

Dills countered that not all of his ideas are tangible projects. One of his initiatives would be ending a long-standing practice of nepotism in town hiring. Another would be reducing the number of town employees who are issued unmarked town vehicles to drive back and forth to work.


What to tackle

The sheer volume of items on Smathers’ list left few stones unturned. The list called for installing lights on town sports fields, creating a craft and farmer’s market, hiring a town recreation coordinator and extending the town’s greenway. It included an upgrade of town water and sewer lines around Interstate 40, where the capacity has been maxed out preventing new businesses from hooking on. Smathers also wants to annex new territory into the town limits.

Nearly every candidate said they supported the items on the list in theory, although they had different ideas of which are most important and should be tackled first.

Holland said Smathers has been an excellent visionary for the town.

“He hits the nail on the head,” Holland said. “The problem is he can’t get everybody to go along with him on it. Some board members may have opposed it just because Pat proposed it.”

Dills said it would be hard not to support items on the mayor’s list.

“Who could be against those things? We all want outdoor lights at the international sports complex, but it costs $425,000 and the town absolutely doesn’t have it,” Dills said.

Alderman Troy Mann also questioned the usefulness of the list when there was no way to pay for it all.

“It would be foolish to go out and advocate spending $450,000 on a project without the necessary cash flow to pay for it,” Mann said.

Mann said he has tried to keep the reins on town spending during his term, even though it’s labeled as not progressive.

“I wasn’t bursting forth with a lot of ideas that would create a lot of tax requirements,” Mann said. “There are times in your own family budget that you put back those things you think you can do without.”

Mann said no board should fall in lockstep behind one person’s initiatives, which is one difference between the current board and previous board.

“It is not a given that if it is brought to the table it is going to be approved,” Mann said. “There is more discussion, more oversight. We are more engaged. Every issue is given more consideration.”

Crawford said just because the previous board got along doesn’t mean they rolled over.

“I had a number of disagreements with the mayor when I was on the board serving under Pat. They just weren’t worked out in public. They were worked out behind the scenes,” Crawford said. “You don’t air your dirty laundry in public.”

Meet the candidates

Two of the five seats on the Sylva town board are up for election. Both incumbents are running for re-election and will face three additional challengers.

The mayor’s seat is up for election as well, but Mayor Brenda Oliver chose not to run after 17 years at the helm and a total of 28 years on the town board. Oliver said she was simply ready to step down and that the town was likewise ready for new leadership.

Town Commissioner Maurice Moody is running unopposed for mayor. Moody’s seat is not up for election this year, so when he transitions to the post of mayor in December, he will leave a vacant spot on the town board. The other board members will appoint his replacement. Board members were uncommitted on whether they would appoint the next highest voter getter in the election to the vacancy.


Stacy Knotts, 38

Stay-at-home mom

Knotts has served on the board four years. This election, Knotts once again went door to door, visiting an estimated 500 residents.

“It was great. I got to hear from the residents in all different neighborhoods. I got to hear about things they liked as well as what they are concerned about. It was a big variety of things. The great thing is I can start working on them right now.”


Harold Hensley, 72

Retired maintenance supervisor for Jackson County Schools

Hensley has served on the board four years.

“There’s lots of money spent that I don’t think should be spent. I have pushed hard for cuts, real hard. There is no sense in every time you turn around you have to look at the taxpayers to bail you out.”


Danny Allen, 53

Not currently employed due to health reasons

Formerly a Sylva police officer and manager of Quinn Theater

“I just don’t think the board is a good representation of the whole town. The present board is catering to select groups. They are not seeing the overall needs of the people.”


David Kelley, 32

Works at Livingston’s Photo and is a Realtor with WNC Brokers

Kelley has no overwhelming desire to alter the town’s course. He thinks the current board is doing “an adequate job” and isn’t advocating for change per say. So why is he running?

“The town has been a big part of my life all my life, so I felt the need for a voice.”


Ellerna Bryson Forney

Could not be reached for comment.

Meet the candidates

There are 10 candidates running for four seats on the Canton town board. Only two sitting aldermen are running for re-election, with eight challengers. All four seats are up for election every two years. Mayor Pat Smathers is running for re-election unopposed.


Canton aldermen – Pick 4


Charlie Crawford, 74

Retired DMV inspector, currently operates a small car lot and construction company

Crawford was ousted in the last election two years ago after 16 years on the board.

“The people I’ve talked to are pretty well fed up. I think there are a lot of people running because there is an apparent lack of progress by the present board. We need to get back on a progressive agenda. We need to bury whatever differences we have to serve the town.”


Jimmy Flynn, 59

Safety director for Buckeye Construction Company, former town employee for 30 years

“You have to have a board that can agree to disagree and move forward. We just would like to see Canton go forward at some growth rate. It is not a bad thing when the board doesn’t always agree and vote on everything unanimously, but I think it is a bad thing when they almost never vote on anything important unanimously. That tells me there needs to be a little more cohesiveness.”


Gene Monson, 51

Owner of group purchasing organization for 130 restaurants that pool food orders to help realize economies of scale through bulk buying power

“The members of the current board individually are all fine gentlemen. However, as a board I don’t think they accomplished what they wanted to accomplish over the past two years or what most of the citizens were hoping for. I hope I have the intelligence and humility to consider every idea on its merits and not based on whose idea it is. I am willing to compromise. I am more concerned about getting it right than being right.”


Carole Edwards, 54

Regional consultant for Department of Social Services on welfare programs

“My slogan is a fresh and new perspective. I feel like I have the enthusiasm and heart to want to work for this town. We may try a lot of things that don’t work. If you don’t try, how do you know what works and doesn’t work? I may not agree with what someone else thinks, but if it is an idea, let’s try it and see if it doesn’t work.”


Patrick Willis, 29

Historic interpreter at Thomas Wolfe National Historic Site

“Honestly in the past two years I have not seen a whole lot of improvement in the town. I feel like the town could use some new fresh ideas and opinions. One of the things I would like to see is more open communication with the residents of the town from the town board.”


Kenneth Holland, 62

Retired pharmacist

“The current board has been divided down the middle on issues. The net result is not a whole lot is being accomplished. What they were planning on doing when they went in two years ago didn’t get accomplished as planned. We need to change things.”


Angela Jenkins, 42

Former stay-at-home mom now enrolled in a craft program at Haywood Community College

“I guess there are just too many different opinions about what needs to be happening and how to go about do it. There’s just no cohesiveness. You have to prioritize what needs to be done and find a way to get it done. I think it is going to be important that we have a board that gets along and gets the town moving forward.”


Ed Underwood, 60

Retired lieutenant colonel in US Army and retired state prison guard

“One of the problems with the current board is that it seems like the board members can’t work together. When you go onto a board like that you have your own personal agenda and have to try to set that aside to work as a team member. I’d say the consensus is the voters want a change.”


Troy Mann, 72

Retired cattle farmer

Mann has served for two years after running for election in 2007 as part of a wave that unseated three long-time board members.

“Our thinking was the citizens of Canton wanted some change over what had been. There is more discussion, more oversight, we are more engaged. Every issue is given more consideration. It is not a given that if it is brought to the table it is going to be approved.”


Eric Dills, 44

Residential contractor

Dills has served two years on the town board. He ran in 2005 and lost by five votes, but emerged in 2007 as the top vote-getter.

“When I ran before, I felt like the town was really going down. It was deteriorating. We were going in the wrong direction. The mayor controls the biggest part of the agenda. If the town has not progressed in the past two years, the mayor has to bear his share and can’t keep pointing his finger at the board and saying it is all our fault.”

Downtown platform

Several candidates have made downtown revitalization the central tenet of their campaign and consider it the one of the most important issues on the town’s agenda. They include Gene Monson, Carole Edwards, and Kenneth Holland.

“When I was growing up, it was a booming, prosperous little town. We have seen that go away. The downtown has kind of dried up,” Holland said.

Holland wants to see a downtown revitalized to look more like the town he once knew. And who wouldn’t?

“All the buildings were full,” Edwards said. “You had drugstores and you had clothing stores. We had a Belk’s on the corner. We had a jewelry store. You could buy a pair of shoes. We had all the things in our town that you would need.”

Canton is not alone in its plight. Small towns across America saw business sucked from their downtowns by strip malls and big-box stores as auto-centric suburban sprawl became the new way of life.

But Edwards thinks there’s hope.

“I really feel like we can bring this town back to life. I know other communities have done it,” Edwards said. “We shouldn’t sit there and say ‘We can’t do this.’ There is always an option out there.”

But others aren’t as optimistic. Several of the old anchor buildings are in the hands of owners who aren’t investing in their upkeep. Charlie Crawford, another candidate, questioned if the town could force the owners to do something with their buildings.

“People have a right to do with their property what they want to do,” Crawford said.

Crawford said the town has tried to create a nurturing atmosphere for revitalization. Crawford pointed to streetscape projects pursued during his tenure, which vastly improved the downtown appearance by burying power lines, installing historic lampposts and beautifying sidewalks and the public realm.

“I think the town has done about all it can do to help the building owners,” Crawford said.

The downtown proponents advocate cracking down on these building owners, however.

“Citizen after citizen after citizen appeals to the board of aldermen about the appearance of downtown. I hear the town say there is nothing we can do. I disagree. There is,” Monson said. “People sit here and say ‘As a property owner you own this and own that.’ But you don’t own it — you are simply a steward of that property.”

The downtown district has been recognized as a National Historic District and the town has a historic preservation committee to oversee it. Monson said the historic status provides a mechanism to compel building owners to take responsibility.

Holland agrees the town needs to more stringently enforce appearance codes for downtown buildings.

Alderman Eric Dills agrees as well.

“We need to require the building owners, most of whom do not live in Canton, to maintain their buildings to an acceptable standard,” Dills said.

Holland said the downtown needs an active merchants’ association to “get everyone pulling together.”

Candidate Jimmy Flynn would like to see a business organization take root in Canton, but said it shouldn’t be limited to the downtown area.

“I hate to think of downtown as an entity in itself,” said Flynn. “I feel like business in Canton is business in Canton, be downtown or anywhere else. I think we are too small a town to identify one little area to be economic development. It needs to be in any area that will accommodate business growth.”

“You can’t just focus on the downtown. You have to focus on the entire town,” candidate Ed Underwood said.

Three seek two seats on Maggie Valley board

The Town of Maggie Valley has a town board with four aldermen/alderwomen and a mayor with voting power. Each official serves a four-year term. This November, two spots on the Board of Aldermen are up for election. Alderman Mark DeMeola will not be running for re-election due to health issues with family members that will require him to travel out of the area often.


Aldermen – pick 2


Saralyn Price, 54, retired police chief and part-time restaurant hostess

Price is the only incumbent running for re-election. She has served on the town board for four years. In Price’s view, the town should operate as a team to bring economic development into Maggie Valley. “One of my biggest goals is to get everyone working together.”


Scott Pauley, 48, owner of Travelowes motel

Pauley said he’d like to put an end to the disconnect he sees between the town board and citizens. He plans to do that by providing an open ear to everyone’s concerns and bringing more transparency to the board. “You can’t make everybody happy, but if you’re honest and open from the get go, people aren’t going to be upset.”


Phillip Wight, 41, owner of the Clarketon motel and a heating/cooling company

One of Wight’s primary goals is to get things moving in Maggie Valley, especially when it comes to hiring a festival director. “Do they want to hire somebody or do they not? If I’m elected, it’s not going to take a lot of time to make decisions.”


Ron DeSimone, 56, general contractor

DeSimone said he’d like to focus a little more on services for residents, but also have the town encourage economic development by creating business-friendly zoning and ordinances. “Tourism is certainly a part of the picture, but it’s only a part. Not every business in Maggie Valley is a restaurant or hotel.”

Election guaranteed to bring new leadership in Dillsboro

This November, the Town of Dillsboro will elect all five members of its town board, along with a new mayor to replace Jean Hartbarger, who is stepping down after eight years as mayor and eight years as alderwoman.

One incumbent and eight challengers are hoping for a spot on the five-person town board. Another alderman has decided to run for mayor, facing competition from one other challenger. The town board members and the new mayor, who does not hold voting power, will each serve a four-year term.

In those next four years, Dillsboro’s leaders will formulate a strategy to win back the hordes of tourists — about 60,000 annually — who once came to take trips on the Great Smoky Mountain Railroad, which pulled out of town in July 2008.

The excursion railroad’s headquarters were in Dillsboro before the company moved all its operations to Bryson City.

The Town of Dillsboro recently partnered up with Western Carolina University to create a long-term vision for the municipality and brainstorm on how to boost a local economy slammed both by the recession and the train’s departure.

Another major issue facing the town is the fate of Dillsboro Dam.

Jackson County is battling it out with Duke Energy in federal court to prevent the Fortune 500 company from tearing down the dam.

Depending on who wins, the dam could be taken down by Duke or taken over by the county to be included in a riverfront park.

Many Dillsboro residents are infuriated with Duke and have circulated petitions to save the historic dam. Candidates for mayor and the town board recently weighed in on both key issues and discussed their vision for Dillsboro.


Mayor – pick 1


Teresa Dowd, 59, owner of West Carolina Internet Café

Dowd wants to work closely with Jackson County and the Town of Sylva, as well major employers, to help promote the town in a much more effective manner.

“I want to see the merchants not just survive, but thrive, and help them find the right niche.” Dowd said many ideas are floating around with the WCU initiative, but she would make sure those ideas are properly implemented.

Dowd added that businesses in town would do well to stay open later, thereby meeting residents’ needs.

Dowd, who is the chairwoman of Dillsboro’s planning board and holds a degree in environmental studies, said the dam is worth preserving. She has been a vocal supporter of saving the dam but said the town can’t interfere with the judicial process.

Dowd added that she hated to see Duke begin dredging backlogged sediment behind the dam in preparation for its demolition. “We’ll have to monitor the water quality, see what’s going on.”


Michael Fitzgerald, 57, owner of Fitzgerald’s Shoe Repair

Fitzgerald has served on the town board for five years and is now Dillsboro’s vice mayor. He said the town must redefine the way it does business to attract more tourists — without undergoing a complete makeover.

“We don’t want to look like Gatlinburg with Day-Glo Signs. We’re just a historic type of town.”

Fitzgerald said with such a small budget, the town probably can’t make another major investment until the Monteith Park project is complete.

Fitzgerald said he was asked about the dam four years ago when he ran for alderman. “The answer is the same. Dillsboro is not big enough to take Duke Power.”

Fitzgerald said he applauds Jackson County for trying to save a dam he sees as “picturesque,” but it may be time to move on. “I believe it’s time for it to end. I’m glad we’re going to get some closure.”


Alderperson – pick 5


Jimmy Cabe, 46, former carpenter

Cabe has served on the town board for the last 4 years. Cabe would like to cooperate with merchants in town and gain more input about increasing tourism before devoting town money to a specific strategy. “I’d be willing to listen to anybody’s plan.”

Cabe also said he’d like to see the town begin garbage pickup and build a sidewalk west of the Huddle House out toward the Green Energy Park.

When it comes to the dam, Cabe said he supports the county wholeheartedly. “My grandfather was the superintendent of that powerhouse. It’s an emotional thing for me ... I would like to see it stay.”


Walter Cook, 57, owner of Smoky Mountain Dog Bakery

Cook would like Dillsboro to be a “real living town rather than just tourist shops.”

He envisions a downtown where locals can have breakfast, lunch and dinner, visit a health food store and listen to live music — all within town limits. “We can’t depend on the tourists driving by. We need to market to the local folks, too.”

Cook said he would like to see the dam remain but is not sure it’s worth the cost of pursuing a legal battle.

“If it goes away, I think we should have bargained a lot harder.”

Cook said whatever happens, the town must adjust and do what’s best for its residents. That may include creating a riverfront park or it might mean using that land to develop housing to increase the tax base.


David Gates, 48, owner of Bradley’s General Store, Appalachian Funeral Services

Gates said his number one priority is to take care of Dillsboro’s residents. According to Gates, the town must bring in more glassblowers, potters, and local craftspeople to appeal to visitors.

“If we could attract more crafters, I think it would bring a lot of people.”

The dam is a “dead issue” to Gates. “I think the dam is gone. I don’t know that there’s anything that Dillsboro or the county can do to save it.”

Gates said it could end up being a win-win situation. Removing the dam would open up the area for rafting and tubing, or if it stays, it could be put into operation. “There’s opportunities either way.”


K. David Jones, 64, retired vice-president of administrative services at a community college

Jones would like to take an active role in promoting the town to tourists who are in the region but don’t know about Dillsboro.

He said he would also search for “more diverse” types of funding, like grants and even gifts, to supplement a “very lean” tax base. Jones wants to work with WCU in all aspects, including on environmental issues.

Jones said the dam is a “non-issue” for the town. “I’m not real sure that we should resist the dam efforts any further. ... It’s over with.”


Tim Parris, 54, mechanic and DOT worker

Parris said he favors increasing the tax base by attracting more businesses to town. “Everybody’s going to have to sit down and work together and get something back in Dillsboro.”

Parris said he would also like to see more support to keep the dam in Dillsboro. “They always talk about green energy, why get rid of one?”


Joseph Riddle, 69, retired car dealership manager

Riddle said Dillsboro is not big enough to bring in a major new attraction. “You can’t put a Dollywood here. There’s just not enough space.”

Riddle said there’s not much the town can do until the economy improves, but he believes the partnership with WCU is a positive development. Riddle said he’s focused more on providing more services to local residents.

Riddle acknowledged that locals feel strongly about the dam, which does draw tourists and is “nice to look at.” He said, “That decision’s been made. I don’t think there’s anything else that can be done.”


TJ Walker, 56, owner of Dillsboro Inn

Walker, who narrowly lost Dillsboro’s last race for mayor, said he’d try to bring forward thinking to the town. He would do so by appealing to younger people traveling by and bringing in newer and younger artists and craftspeople.

Walker said he’d love to see an artist’s cooperative or a farmer’s market set up at the old railroad station. He supports cooperating with WCU and Jackson County in general. “Dillsboro has suffered from self-imposed isolation.”

Walker was a leading opponent of tearing down the Dillsboro dam for years. But after settling a lawsuit with Duke to withdraw from the fight, Walker would not comment on the dam. In the past, Walker condemned town leaders for not doing more to join the county’s fight save the dam.


Charles Wise, 46, regional superintendent for property management

Wise said what Dillsboro needs is a new anchor for tourism that distinguishes the town from everywhere else in the area.

“Every town has the same thing. You gotta have something that separates you.”

Meanwhile, Wise said the town mustn’t leave out local residents in its considerations. For example, the town should keep parks open year-round, he said.

Wise said he supports Jackson County “120 percent” in its fight against Duke and is disappointed that the current town board did not join forces with the county to strike up a deal to acquire the dam.

He said the dam is a part of the town’s history. “You can’t hold on to everything. ... but I don’t see the reason for why that dam should come out.”


Emma Wertenberger, 63, owner of Squire Watkins Inn

Wertenberger is strongly interested in Dillsboro’s heritage, which she said might be the key to bringing in tourists from all around the world. International visitors appreciate the small-town American charm that Dillsboro represents, she said.

According to Wertenberger, restoring the Monteith farmstead could bring a big boost to tourism. Wertenberger emphasized that unlike the train, the farmstead couldn’t just get up and leave.

Wertenberger said she’d rather focus on cleaning up the waterways and fixing problems with the sewer plant than on Dillsboro dam. “Sometimes you can get too focused on a single issue ... there are other issues that need to be worked on.”

In the running

The Town of Franklin has a town board with six aldermen/alderwomen and a mayor who votes only to break ties. Mayors serve for two years, while aldermen/alderwomen serve for four. This year, the mayor and three aldermen/alderwomen are up for election.


Mayor — pick one

Joe Collins, 54, real estate attorney

Collins is finishing up his sixth year as mayor. He served as alderman for six years before that. Collins says he’s pleased with the switch to a government with a town manager and placing the new town hall in a remodeled building downtown rather than in East Franklin.

“I’m very proud and want us to keep it going.”


Bob Scott, 68, retired law enforcement officer and long-time newspaper reporter

Scott has served as alderman for almost six years. He emphasizes his support for open government and wants to get the public involved with monthly New England-style town hall meetings.

“In my mind, the government exists only to conduct the public’s business.”


Aldermen — pick three


Jerry Evans, 54, manager of Terminix Service

Evans has been an alderman for 12 years, with two of those as vice mayor. He said he’d like to see an economic development committee formed to keep money in Franklin and attract new businesses.

“Unless the town can help attract new businesses, there’s no opportunity for our children and grandchildren to live and work in Franklin.”


Billy Mashburn, 57, paralegal

Mashburn is Franklin’s vice mayor and has served as alderman for 12 years. He said that the town must be diligent about where it spends its tax dollars.

“Up to now the town is in pretty good financial shape. We haven’t taken a hit like other towns have.”


Angela Moore, 28, stay-at-home mom

Moore worked as Franklin’s GIS analyst for almost two years. She said she wants to get more people involved in local government and have the town lower its taxes. Moore said the town should only handle infrastructure, including roads, water and sewer.

“They shouldn’t be doing a whole lot other than that ... There’s a lot we can cut back on.”


Sissy Pattillo, 69, retired teacher/counselor

Pattillo has served as alderwoman for four years. She also serves on the Angel Medical Center Foundation board. Pattillo is a third-generation resident of the town with children and grandchildren living in the town.

“I have a vested interest here. Franklin has made great strides, and I would like to help keep that momentum going.”


Ron Winecoff, 69, real estate agent

Winecoff is the chairman of Angel Medical Center’s Board of Trustees and the county chairman of the investment and development committee. Winecoff said he wants to improve downtown and see the town make financial adjustments to accommodate for the recession.

“Government has trouble saying no to people, cutting down personnel and cost. I have no problem saying no.”

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