Cory Vaillancourt

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When she showed up at Haywood Pathways Center, the woman and her young daughter had been homeless for three years. After three months’ residence in the new women and children’s dorm, the pair recently became the first family to leave it for a home of their own. 

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Like much of the United States in 2015, the Town of Waynesville was still straining to stand up straight after the Great Recession of 2008 knocked it knobby-kneed; although Western North Carolina suffered less and recovered quicker, erasing a decade’s worth of economic growth comes with consequences — declining property values, a general economic malaise and few forward strides taken. 

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They’re all hotel owners, they’re all devoted volunteers in their community and they’re all running for a seat on the Maggie Valley Board of Aldermen. 

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Much like this summer, a simple real estate transaction has led to important consequences for the Canton Board of Aldermen/women. 

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When North Carolina House District 119 voters get their ballots a little over a year from now, they’ll likely see two very familiar names.

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When Jim Moore ran for Clerk of the Superior Court back in 2018 he did so as a Democrat, but now that he’s running for a District Court judgeship, he’ll do so as a Republican. 

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A conditional rezoning request by developers of a 210-unit apartment complex located on the former site of a grocery store sailed through the Waynesville Planning Board on Sept. 16 with little opposition and is now moving toward a final hearing by the Waynesville Board of Aldermen on Oct. 22. 

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The race to fill an unexpired aldermanic seat in Canton just got a lot easier for Pisgah High School science teacher Tim Shepard.

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Like all of North Carolina’s universities, Western Carolina University in Cullowhee has some pressing capital project funding needs that aren’t being met, due to the stalemate in Raleigh over the state’s budget.

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Had he any other man for a father, William Franklin Graham III might still have become known as a North Carolina author, political commentator and conservative Christian activist. Instead, as the fourth child of America’s Preacher, Franklin Graham is so closely associated with and influenced by the ministry of Reverend Billy Graham that they merit near-constant comparison.


Counselors of presidents, proponents of charity, savers of souls, Franklin and Billy share more than just considerable political influence and a name, but Franklin’s taken on a far more high-profile persona in the political sphere than his father did.

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Western North Carolina’s brewery scene is a crowded, competitive place, but thanks to Canton-based BearWaters Brewing, Haywood County’s own small slice of the burgeoning industry is getting bigger, and getting better.

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Within the multi-layered strata of American governance, many people assume that the nation’s most sacred values — liberty and justice — are discussed only at the federal level, but the Town of Waynesville is about to demonstrate that often it’s local governments that must sort out what happens when the rights of one person bump up against the rights of another.

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As expected, a lawsuit alleging partisan gerrymandering in North Carolina’s congressional districts will utilize some of the same arguments that led to a state court finding a month ago that the state’s legislative districts were unconstitutionally gerrymandered. 

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Beloved but long-shuttered Maggie Valley mountaintop amusement park Ghost Town in the Sky is once again under contract, giving new hope to those who long for the park’s revitalization.

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While the benefits of regular exercise are well known, most people think the only way to stay in shape is to join a gym. 

But that doesn’t work for everybody, all of the time; busy lifestyles can compete with limited hours, the gym can be intimidating for some and a general lack of knowledge can leave beginners wondering where to turn. 

You don’t have to be a famous athlete or entertainer to take Pilates classes from Nikki Perkovich, but if you do, you just may find yourself training with some of them. 

It’s been said time and time again after forums, panels and public meetings held in communities across the country over the past dozen-odd years: if we could talk our way out of the nation’s opioid crisis, it would have been over a decade ago. 

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After more than six months spent searching, the Haywood Community College Board of Trustees announced on Sept. 19 that it had identified a successor to retiring President Dr. Barbara Parker. Parker will leave the school in December after six years, but not before spending her remaining days working with the school’s next president, Dr. Shelley White. 

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The last of Fred and Moody Parker Coward’s nine children, Herbert “Cowboy” Coward, was born in rural Haywood County in August 1938. His mother died early on, so Cowboy’s father worked at a number of jobs to support his large family, including a long stint at Barber’s Orchard in nearby Waynesville. 

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While Haywood County native Herbert “Cowboy” Coward may be best known for his spine-tingling performance as a toothless mountain man in the 1972 film “Deliverance,” that was almost 50 years ago. 

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The need for mental health, substance use disorder and intellectual/developmental disabilities resources in North Carolina is growing, but funding is not. In fact, another massive cut is on the horizon, and Haywood’s government and non-profit communities aren’t happy about it. 

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Taxpayer-funded Shining Rock Classical Academy’s attempt to address its long history of public transparency law violations got off to an inauspicious start when the school failed to provide proper public notice of a Sunday afternoon meeting intended to educate its unelected board – about half of whom actually showed up – on public transparency law. 

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Haywood County has taken its first formal step forward in pursuit of a proposed $13 million, 40,000-square-foot central administration facility requested by Haywood County Schools. 

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Election officials from across the region gathered in Haywood County last week to be among the first to witness public demonstrations of new state-certified voting systems designed to bolster both the efficiency and the security of the state’s elections. 

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A powerful voice for Western North Carolina in the North Carolina General Assembly is about to pop the kickstand on a long career in public service, but even though Franklin Republican Sen. Jim Davis has already passed the torch to his heir apparent, at least one other Republican is lining up to take a crack at his seat. 

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First steps are being taken on a major new residential development proposed for the site of a former grocery store and strip mall on Waynesville’s busy Russ Avenue. 

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After a tumultuous year that saw all manner of controversy — from parental complaints to illegal meetings, transparency issues, secret building projects and dramatically lower enrollment — there’s finally some good news to report from Haywood County’s only public charter school. 

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After years of disuse, a hidden gem in the heart of Waynesville’s downtown is finally ready to reclaim its rightful role as one of the community’s social and business hubs. 

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Hurricane Dorian has slowly but surely been making its way toward the east coast of the United States, but Haywood County’s already been seeing some positive effects from the massive storm — evacuees seeking high ground, away from the coast. 

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Strong growth in winter and Haywood County’s smaller municipalities has local tourism numbers up over last year, in some cases, substantially. 

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With a major new administration facility proposed and a shuttered elementary school still sitting empty, Haywood County Schools finds itself at a crossroads as its schools fill up, even before a number of new apartment complexes plan to accept new tenants in the coming months.

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As the state of North Carolina moves forward with some bold new changes to how it will administer Medicaid, Haywood County’s Health and Human Services Agency is trying to get out ahead of the makeover by letting beneficiaries know what they can expect.

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The next few months could prove fateful for Haywood County’s only public charter school, Shining Rock Classical Academy, as a series of reports and performance reviews come due that will determine if, and for how long, the taxpayer-funded school will be allowed to continue to operate. 

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There’s probably no bigger economic development issue in rural America than access to dependable high-speed internet service. 

“One hundred percent,” said Rep. Kevin Corbin, R-Franklin. “It’s the biggest issue in Western North Carolina as far as infrastructure and the economy.”

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Shining Rock Classical Academy has a history of transparency problems, but after an Aug. 19 meeting with representatives of local media, it looks like the taxpayer-funded school’s unelected board is finally going to do something about it. 

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A proposal to consolidate several aging Haywood County Schools administrative buildings into a single multi-million dollar state-of-the-art facility first discussed months ago has suddenly taken on an unanticipated but not unwelcome urgency.

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For years, the town of Canton’s municipal wastewater has been treated, free of charge, by the various operators of the town’s iconic paper mill, but a grant application to be filed by the town wants to study the feasibility of sending that waste to Waynesville’s new treatment plant, once it’s constructed. 

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After narrowly losing out in each of the past three years, developers have finally been awarded tax credits that will make redevelopment of the county-owned Historic Haywood County Hospital into 54 residential units financially feasible. 

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Just off Waynesville’s North Main Street, in one of the town’s most blighted areas, on top of a small hill sits a little green house that many people drive by each day, without noticing it at all. 

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Editor’s note: This is the eighth in a series of stories on Haywood County’s public charter school, Shining Rock Classical Academy, which has been beset by a host of academic and organizational problems since opening in 2015.

Although plans for a new facility proposed by taxpayer-funded Haywood County public charter school Shining Rock Classical Academy have been scuttled due to an unexpected decrease in revenue brought about by dramatically lower student enrollment totals for the current school year, questions about how Shining Rock’s unelected governing board got so far along in the planning process without any public mention of the project continue to linger, and the school’s not talking. 

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July 2015: Shining Rock Classical Academy, a brand-new taxpayer-funded public charter school governed by an unelected public board, violates closed-session laws pertaining to property acquisition before it even opens by refusing to name the parcel in question.

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Back-to-school time is here again, and at Shining Rock Classical Academy — Haywood County’s only public charter school — it looks like students this year will have lots more room to grow. 

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Editor’s note: This is the seventh in a series of stories on Haywood County’s public charter school, Shining Rock Classical Academy, which has been beset by a host of academic and organizational problems since opening in 2015.

Since 2015, Haywood County’s first public charter school, Shining Rock Classical Academy, has used more than $2.75 million in local taxpayer money to educate children to a level far below the county average, and also below the state average.

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After a routine surgery, Haywood County native Clayton Suggs ended up hooked on opioids until on the first day alone in his new apartment after a year of sobriety, his addiction eventually cost him his life. 

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That empty black and white building on the corner of Branner Avenue and Depot Street is about to be filled — with a touch of green. 

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It was finally moving day, and that empty little Greensboro apartment must have seemed like a mansion to 29-year-old Clayton Suggs. 

Fitting, the lack of furnishings; the whole thing was a blank slate, a new start.

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Dr. Stephen Wall couldn’t have come to Waynesville at a better time. 

“There were four pediatricians in Haywood County, and three of them retired all at the same time,” said Wall. “So Dr. Bob Earnest recruited me and another guy, Dr. Garnet Maharajh, to join Haywood Pediatrics, which he started two years prior, in 1987.”

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Education, litigation, big pharm, little children, doctors, disease, disability, death — the debate surrounding vaccination thrives at the intersection of some of the most contentious topics of the day.

It’s an emotional subject, to be sure, but it’s also one of the most rigorously vetted and empirically analyzed, owing to the scientific nature of medicine. 

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A highly-anticipated reform bill that will open up new revenue streams for the state’s estimated 80 craft distillers has cleared the North Carolina General Assembly and currently awaits the governor’s signature.

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Although Republicans still control both chambers of the North Carolina General Assembly, Democratic victories in the 2018 legislative election stripped Republicans of their power to override the veto of Gov. Roy Cooper, D-Rocky Mount. That, said Waynesville Democratic Rep. Joe Sam Queen, has changed the political climate in Raleigh. 

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