Cory Vaillancourt

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It was a struggle from the start — getting in, getting people and supplies up and getting the lumber down — but the mostly-forgotten century-old logging camp now hidden beneath the placid waters of Lake Logan in southeastern Haywood County still casts a long shadow on the area and its inhabitants. 

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After nearly 245 years, Haywood County’s Bethel community remains just a small part of a relatively small county, but the impact the Bethel Rural Community Organization’s had on the area in the last 17 years has been anything but. 

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It was fitting that District Court Judge Donna Forga was on hand Dec. 3 to swear in the two new Republican commission members that will give the Haywood Commission, for the next two years at least, a first-ever Republican majority — her father Robert was the first Republican elected to the commission in 1994. 

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The strange saga of Maggie Valley’s Ghost Town amusement park has more twists and turns and more highs and lows than a roller coaster, but now that the latest ride up Buck Mountain is over, two investors say CEO Lamar Berry has thrown them for a loop. 

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There, in Sumter County, Georgia, not far from the Alabama line lies the tiny town of Plains (pop. 784), a most unremarkable place home to a most remarkable man. 

Home for President Jimmy Carter has always been the clay roads and cotton fields of Plains, except when he was at Annapolis, in the Navy, or serving as state senator or governor or president. 

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A pair of congressmen — one Democrat and one Republican — were slapped with sanctions by the House Ethics Committee last week in relation to separate cases of sexual harassment.

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Citing a slowdown in federal funding and a desire to run a regularly scheduled circulator route across Haywood County, Mountain Projects Transit Director Chuck Norris reached out to Haywood County commissioners for more fiscal flexibility and an advance on a county match. 

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It was a journey I thought would last three days but has already lasted a year, with no signs of stopping.

It was 50 miles in 60 hours, all on foot. It was two sleeps outside, and one in the shelter where I ate my Thanksgiving dinner. 

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With a new board that will subsequently change the face of Haywood County government set to be sworn in on Dec. 3, the current lineup of commissioners took action Nov. 19 to ensure the Jonathan Creek project will continue as envisioned by them. 

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A major project slated for a prime parcel in Waynesville’s burgeoning Russ Avenue commercial district could soon transform a local shopping plaza into dozens of residences. 

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A juvenile justice system already stressed to the limit is about to be stretched even further, thanks to a change in state law that will increase caseloads as well as the need for youth diversionary programs. And although this coming change has been on the radar for some time now, there’s still no clear signs on who’s going to pay for it, how or when. 

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Two years ago, a Smoky Mountain News analysis of precinct-level elections results painted a portrait of a red county getting redder — at least electorally. This year was almost as rosy for Haywood’s Republican voters, who saw their candidates return to the U.S. House and the N.C. Senate as well as swing the Haywood Commission from a 3-to-2 Democratic majority to a 4-to-1 Republican advantage. 

Results in the Haywood County Board of Commissioners race hit the county like a cannonball, with Republicans taking two of three seats — all previously held by Democrats — while also earning themselves a 4-to-1 majority on the first-ever Republican-controlled commission. 

As the pace of growth and development begins to pick up across Haywood County, demand for basic services like sewer, water, fire and police protection are bound to increase, but another basic component of everyday life in the United States many look at as “intellectual infrastructure” will need to be reassessed as well. 

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It didn’t take long for protests to spring up across the country, state and region as soon as President Trump fired Attorney General Jeff Sessions. 

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Mountain Mediation Services has been providing an invaluable service to Western North Carolina’s criminal justice system for more than 20 years. 

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Back before incessant war became a hallmark of American foreign policy, U.S. involvement in global affairs was but a shadow of what it is today. 

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A pair of legal actions filed in Haywood courts during the month of October suggest efforts to redevelop Maggie Valley’s Ghost Town amusement park may be in jeopardy. 

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A press release issued by Haywood Regional Medical Center on Oct. 26 touted renovations to an existing facility that will provide better building utilization and expansion of patient care services, but that’s not the part of the statement that’s got some local residents upset. 

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With the retirement of Democratic Commissioner Bill Upton, one commission seat was up for grabs, with two more being defended by their Democratic occupants, Commissioner Mike Sorrells and Commission Chairman Kirk Kirkpatrick.

Any notion of a red tide or blue wave ebbed quickly Nov. 6, as both Republicans and Democrats celebrated victories, mourned defeats, said goodbye to some incumbents, and hello to new ones.

Third quarter fundraising reports submitted by candidates to the State Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement last week show most Democratic challengers in Western North Carolina with substantial fundraising advantages over their Republican incumbent opponents.

Most years, voters head to the polls with a few candidates or a political party in mind, push some buttons, and go home. But this year’s ballot also contains six proposed amendments to the North Carolina Constitution.

The bad news is almost six million North Carolinians still hadn’t voted as of Monday, Oct. 29. The good news is more than a million had — 1.23 million, to be exact.

Asheville Republican Mark Meadows has now served three terms in the U.S. House of Representatives — the last two as a powerful figure in the majority party, the most recent under unified Republican control of the presidency, the Senate and the House. 

Since 2012, Western North Carolina’s 11th Congressional District has been represented by Asheville Republican Rep. Mark Meadows, a Florida native who moved to the region in 1986. Meanwhile, Meadows has enjoyed great electoral success and become the standard-bearer for what remains of the Tea Party wing of the Republican Party nationwide.

The crew at The Blue Rooster Southern Grill is known for some of the best fried chicken in the region, but for the past eight years they’ve also been serving it up with a side of kindness. 

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Business owners aren’t just retail or hospitality-based bricks and mortar shopkeeps; often overlooked are the sole proprietors selling a service or skill that comes from within, and many of those are members of the so-called “creative class” — artists, writers, performers and the like. 

Sitting at a low desk in a cozy nook of her mountaintop studio and gallery, Margaret Pennington Roberts, brush in hand, contemplates a canvas perched precariously on an easel.

Haywood County’s high-performing schools slipped a few notches in state rankings this year — from 11th the last two years to 14th this year, of 115 districts statewide — and although that’s not cause for alarm, school board members are focused on the challenge of returning to the top 10 percent again this year. 

More and more, Facebook is becoming a place not only to catch up with friends, read the news and look at pictures of cats, it’s also becoming a place where one can get into a lot of political trouble. 

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Haywood County’s board of commissioners consists of five members, three of whom are up for election Nov. 6. All three of those seats are currently held by Democratic commissioners. One of them, Bill Upton, isn’t seeking re-election. 

The only two seats that aren’t up for election on Haywood County’s five-member board of commissioners this November are both held by Republicans. The other three are currently held by Democrats, and have attracted two Democratic incumbents as well as a third Dem candidate seeking to maintain that majority. 

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there should be at least 31,614 women in Haywood County, but judging by this year’s commission race that number is actually zero. 

Incumbent Republican Tax Collector Mike Matthews is seeking re-election to an office many people don’t even think should be elected at all. In fact, Haywood County is home to the state’s only remaining elected tax collector. 

Folkmoot will say goodbye to one board president but welcome another after a late September meeting where new board members were vetted. 

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Worries last month over the potential defunding of local social service agency Mountain Projects’ Obamacare Navigator program became real when the organization wasn’t selected for funding, but a solution has now emerged thanks to one of North Carolina’s largest private trusts. 

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Franklin Republican Sen. Jim Davis is probably one of the most popular legislators in the state with his constituents, winning four straight elections and garnering support on the order of 75 percent in some counties. 

While not quite reaching the level of Hatfield and McCoy, Western North Carolina’s longest running feud — that of Mike Clampitt and Joe Sam Queen — is no less competitive; after losses in 2012 and 2014, the Bryson City Republican Clampitt finally defeated the Waynesville Democrat Queen in 2016, and will predictably face him again this year in the race for House district 119. 

Ask Canton native Rhonda Cole Schandevel why she’s running for House district 118 again after a disappointing yet decisive loss in 2016 and she’ll tell you, in not so many words. 

Heaters that won’t heat. Lights that won’t light. Pipes that won’t pipe.

The modern conveniences most people have taken for granted are just that — taken for granted — until something goes awry. And when the basement’s full of sewage, who ya gonna call?

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Election day is Tuesday, Nov. 6. Make sure you’re ready to vote by following the simple flowchart below. 

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One of 43 spread across the state, North Carolina’s 30th Judicial District covers Cherokee, Clay, Graham, Haywood, Jackson, Macon and Swain counties and is where many people have their first interaction with the court system. 

You’ve probably seen the billboards by now, if not for months. Or, you’ve seen the candidates out campaigning in person — incumbent Superior Court Judge Brad Letts and well-known Waynesville attorney Mark Melrose.

The fiscal year for Haywood County’s Tourism Development Authority ended June 30, and now that all the data are in, it looks like 2017-18 was another banner year for overnight stays around the county. 

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Waynesville attorney Gavin Brown pled guilty Sept. 18 to two felony counts stemming from an incident in which he forged a notary’s signature and seal on a deed in 2016. The charges were unrelated to his service as Waynesville’s mayor.

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Jan Plummer is the Obamacare Navigator program coordinator at Mountain Projects, but probably not for much longer.

Unsurprisingly, after a three-year cooperative agreement expired Sept. 12, Mountain Projects wasn’t selected for re-funding of the Navigator program, which helps people sign up for health care coverage. 

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It’s no secret homelessness across the region is a problem, but as in most parts of the country, it’s a bigger problem among veterans of the nation’s armed forces. 

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When Dr. Bill Nolte was promoted to superintendent of Haywood County Schools this past summer, one of the first things he said he’d do was begin the process of creating a long-term plan for the award-winning school district that recently slipped in academic rankings from 11th to 14th out of 115 districts across the state. 

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Imagine this — you’re atop a hundred-story building, and it’s on fire. As the flames and smoke close in, you really don’t want to jump, but there simply doesn’t seem to be any other way. 

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