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%)

Price and Pauley ride easily into office in quiet Maggie race

After a feel-good race lacking much controversy, Maggie Valley voters have re-elected Saralyn Price to her second term on the town board, sending with her a fresh face, motel owner Scott Pauley.

Both Price and Pauley ran on campaigns that promised to bring a balance between business and residential interests. With about 140 votes each, the duo solidly beat out candidates Ron DeSimone and Phillip Wight.

After results were called on election night, Pauley said he’d already printed out business cards with his home and cell phone numbers and was ready to hear what constituents have to say.

“I’m going to be all ears and eyes and feet moving as fast as I can,” said Pauley, who added that he was humbled by his win.

Price and Pauley said they are ready to get moving on promoting the festival grounds to attract tourism to the town. They also said they had reservations about the proposed design standards that would regulate the look of new construction and major renovations.

“Maybe this concept would be better received when we get out of this difficult time,” said Pauley.

“I don’t think anything can be done overnight,” said Price. “Even with new construction, it costs a whole lot more to change appearances.”

On Tuesday, all four candidates lined the front lawn of Maggie Valley’s town hall, greeting voters before they went inside to cast their ballots. Some, like Wight and Pauley, arrived in the early dawn. Wight and Price offered constituents doughnuts and coffee, while Price even threw in some Maggie Valley keychains.

Maggie Valley resident Jeremy Case, 30, said he voted for Price because she provided a “good voice” for Maggie Valley. The message Case wanted to send to the town board is to put tourism second on their priority list.

“Help the local people first,” said Case.

Meanwhile, Deb and John Schaefer came out specifically to cast a vote against Price, who voted to annex their subdivision, Campbell Woods, into the town limits.

“The good thing about annexation is that you can vote,” said Deb.

John, 60, said he voted for DeSimone and Pauley because of their professional backgrounds.

“One is a motel owner, and one is a realtor,” said John. “That’s what needs to be represented here because that’s what the town is.”


Maggie Valley
Town board

Seats up for election:    2

Total seats on board:    4

Saralyn Price (I)    141

Scott Pauley    140

Phillip Wight    82

Ron DeSimone    45

Registered voters:    1,027

Voter turnout:    224 (22%)

Allen joins Knotts on Sylva board

Danny Allen, a former Sylva town commissioner who has been off the board for two years, will reclaim his seat after being the top vote-getter in the town election.

Commissioner Stacy Knotts followed closely on his heels, while Harold Hensley narrowly lost re-election. Hensley said he is not too disappointed, however.

“I will have a lot less headaches,” Hensley joked.

Hensley and Allen shared a similar platform, being closely aligned on most issues, making it unusual that Allen won while Hensley, a sitting town board member, did not.

The chance to serve with Allen again “was the only reason I would have cared to go back on,” Hensley said. Hensley has been in the minority on several split votes defining town board dynamics the past two years.

Two years ago, Allen tied for third place with Town Commissioner Ray Lewis, but rather than holding a run-off election Allen stepped down. Allen was fighting cancer at the time.

Knotts said she was pleased to go back on the board.

“I am excited that I get to work four more years for the town,” said Knotts, a stay-at-home mom.

One of the first decisions facing the town board will be appointing a new member to its ranks. Town Commissioner Maurice Moody will be vacating his seat on the board to become mayor. 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.

Hensley said it would make sense to appoint the next highest vote-getter to the vacant seat, which would place him back on the board. Allen and Lewis would likely support such a move since they historically have been in the same camp as Hensley.

But the other two board members — Knotts and Commissioner Sarah Graham — have been on the opposite side of many issues.

While the mayor only votes in the case of a tie, Moody could find himself as the deciding vote in appointing a new board member, who in turn will hold a swing vote on what could otherwise be a split board.

Knotts and Graham have a more progressive platform, while Allen and Lewis have more conservative views. They opposed town funding for the Downtown Sylva Association and the use of tax dollars for the construction of the downtown Bridge Park concert pavilion — two things Knotts and Graham supported.

Sylva had poor voter turnout of only 14 percent of registered voters.

“I was really surprised the turnout was so low,” Knotts said.

But voter Minnie Casey, 83, wasn’t among those who stayed home.

“I just knew I was supposed to vote,” Casey said.

Jim Moffett, 50, also felt it was his civic duty.

“I believe in voting. If you don’t vote, don’t complain. I think we need some new blood in this little town so it doesn’t become stagnant,” said Moffett.

Moffett said controlling development and protecting the environment were the issues that brought him to the polls.



Maurice Moody    174


Town board

Seats up for election:    2

Total seats on board:    5

Danny Allen    119

Stacy Knotts (I)    117

Harold Hensley    109

David Kelley    79

Ellerna Bryson Forney    46

Registered voters:    1,684

Voter turnout:    242 (14%)

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.

Sylva candidates split on funding for downtown projects

The election for Sylva town board next week will determine the philosophical direction for the town.

The board has been marked by split votes over the past two years, stemming from deep-seated ideological differences.

Two years ago, the majority on the board shifted away from a more traditional mindset toward a more progressive bent, reflecting the growing number of newcomers and young people moving to town. This election, the pendulum could swing back to the traditional camp, or swing further toward the progressive side.

The more traditional camp — consisting of Harold Hensley and Ray Lewis — has consistently opposed town funding for the Downtown Sylva Association. They also opposed funding for the downtown Bridge Park concert pavilion and were against allowing dog walkers in the park for sanitary reasons.

They have been on the losing side of issues over the past two years, however. Danny Allen, who lost re-election two years ago, was once in their camp. If he wins his seat back, they would once again be in the majority.

Town Commissioner Stacy Knotts, who is up for election, has partnered with Sarah Graham and Maurice Moody to pursue a more progressive agenda of town initiatives.

Another challenger in the race, David Kelley, says he wouldn’t join the progressive camp by default but he would be more flexible than Hensley in advancing the progressive agenda.

Kelley, 32, said he straddles the divergent philosophies on the board. On one hand, he’s younger like Knotts and Graham and spends a lot of time downtown. On the other hand, he was born and raised in Sylva and can identify with the more traditional views of long-time residents.

“Sometimes Harold and Ray are more traditional because they have been here longer and are closer to a lot of the natives,” Kelley said. But, “I can see ways of improvement and change that might be good overall that maybe the others can’t see or don’t want to see.”

Whichever side wins the election will have a chance to further solidify their agenda on the board by appointing a like-minded board member to join their ranks come December. Moody will vacate his board seat to become mayor, and the rest of the board members get to appoint his replacement.

Knotts got more votes than Hensley when the two appeared on the same ballot four years ago. Like this time, there were two seats up for election on the board. Both were running unopposed, however, creating a shoe-in for each.


Bridge Park

One issue that shows the dividing line on the board is funding for downtown amenities. Hensley and Allen both raised issues with the money spent on Bridge Park, a small vacant lot downtown that was converted into a gathering place featuring a covered pavilion stage with a grassy lawn.

“I talked to a lot of people and they are saying they are not going to use that park,” Allen said. “But who pays for that? It is the taxpayers. That park is not a necessity in these times right now. The taxpayers are on fixed incomes.”

Hensley agreed. He said the town contributed around $100,000 to the creation of the park, including $12,000 on the sod alone.

Knotts supports the investment in Bridge Park and thinks the public appreciates it. She has heard a lot of support for Bridge Park on campaign rounds.

“A lot of people really like Bridge Park,” Knotts said.

Residents tell her they like the progressive projects the town has embarked on, Knotts said, whether it was Bridge Park, the launch of curbside recycling and plans under way for a Sylva to Dillsboro sidewalk.

While Hensley prides himself on penny-pinching, Knotts said he does not have the monopoly on safeguarding taxpayer dollars.

“I think all the board members have been good stewards of the taxpayers money. Many, many of these projects are funded by grants. We are as efficient as we can and definitely scale back,” Knotts said.

Kelley wouldn’t weigh in on whether Bridge Park was a good use of money. He has heard from both sides, he said.

“It certainly is nice and is definitely improves the town overall,” Kelley said. But he thinks the board could communicate better with residents about those types of expenditures.

Allen said the current board’s focus on downtown, like the town’s effort to provide plastic baggies for dog walkers to clean up after their dogs, is excessive. He said Knotts’ camp has been catering to special-interest groups who want to shape Sylva to suit their own lifestyle.

Hensley opposed spending town dollars on the plastic baggies for dog poo as well. He suggested banning dogs from Bridge Park as an alternative solution so that people could enjoy the park without worrying about sitting in dog poo while watching a concert.

Hensley still doesn’t favor a contribution of town dollars to the Downtown Sylva Association — another source of debate on the board.

“I don’t think the taxpayers send their money down there for us to decide to give it to other charities,” Hensley said.

Several years ago the town contributed $20,000 to DSA. But Hensley, Lewis and Allen voted to reduce it to $2,000. When Graham unseated Allen, the philosophy shifted and the town partially restored funding to $12,000 a year, where it now stands.

“I think they are a great organization, but I do not believe in using tax dollars to fund it,” Hensley said.

Knotts said the work of the Downtown Sylva Association is important to the quality of life of all residents . DSA performs vital community service by generally promoting downtown and staging events, including the Christmas Parade and Greening Up the Mountains festival. Knotts sees it as an economic investment, since downtown events bring in visitors, who in turn support businesses throughout town.

Hensley says he is not against downtown, however. He would like to build a public restroom downtown and employ a police officer who walks the streets of downtown like in days gone by.

Knotts said several issues will face the town over the next four years. She sees the town board weighing in on how to solve traffic congestion on N.C. 107. The town will also likely tackle new development guidelines along the commercial corridors leading into town.

A trail and recreation plan for Pinnacle Park will be adopted. And the town will have to decide what to do with a town building occupied by the Golden Age Senior Center once it moves into a new senior center built by the county. Knotts wants to see it turned into a community center of some sort.

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.

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.”

Smokey Mountain News Logo
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.