2023 A Look Back: Micromanager(s) of the Year Award

Sometimes there are awards that call for two winners, like back in the day before the College Football Playoffs system when two schools would sometimes share a national championship. 

Candidates continue filing for 2024 election

North Carolina’s candidate filing period for the 2024 General Election began on Monday, Dec. 4, with candidates slowly making their way to area boards of elections to secure ballot spots in federal, state and local contests. 

As of noon on Dec. 5, first-term Rep. Chuck Edwards (R-Henderson) had filed for reelection. Edwards has had Primary opposition since April, in the form of Hayesville Republican Christian Reagan. A Buncombe County legislator, Democrat Caleb Rudow, announced his intent to run last week, but hasn’t yet filed.

Incumbent District 43 judges Justin Greene (D-Swain) and Kaleb Wingate (R-Haywood) have filed to retain their seats. Virginia Hornsby (R-Macon) has also filed. Four bench seats are up for grabs.

Sen. Kevin Corbin (R-Macon) and Sen. Ralph Hise (R-Mitchell) both filed for their seats, as have Rep. Mark Pless (R-Haywood) and Rep. Mike Clampitt (R-Swain). Rep. Karl Gillespie (R-Macon) couldn’t be reached for comment.

The only candidates to file for the two available seats on the Haywood County Board of Commissioners are incumbent Republicans — Chair Kevin Ensley and Vice Chair Brandon Rogers. Both filed shortly after the filing period opened.

Another pair of Republicans, Jenny Lynn Hooper and Michael Jennings, have filed for the Jackson County Board of Commissioners. Jennings is competing for the seat of Democrat Mark Jones, while Hooper will face Republican Tom Stribling in the Primary. 

Clint Irons, a Republican, and Wes Jamison, an independent, have both filed for seats on the Jackson County Board of Education in District 3.

In Macon County, Republican Barry Breeden filed for the County Commission District 3 seat currently held by fellow Republican Paul Higdon.

Swain County Republican Eric Watson has filed for a seat on the Swain County Commission.

Candidate filing continues through noon on Dec. 15. The 2024 Primary Election will be held on Tuesday, March 5. The deadline to register to vote in the 2024 Primary Election is Friday, Feb. 9.

For more information, visit ncsbe.gov.

Sewage plant claims heat up Waynesville election

Despite largely refusing to show up for forums or interviews, a slate of far-right candidates has tried multiple times to spread misinformation in the lead-up to Waynesville’s November election — both on the internet and in printed campaign materials — but their most recent attempt to do so, concerning waste water treatment plant funding, doesn’t appear to hold water either. 

New NC electoral maps just more of the same for the west

Newly empowered General Assembly Republicans aren’t even trying to hide the fact that the congressional and legislative maps they drew behind closed doors and without substantive public input will disenfranchise Democratic voters across the state — especially in Congress.

State budget commits substantial funding to critical needs in WNC

This year’s state budget process may have been one of the most discordant in recent memory, but Western North Carolina’s legislative delegation was able to secure record-setting funding for critical needs in a relatively poor region that sometimes feels overlooked when Raleigh gets to dishing out the dough. 

Madison elections go partisan, Haywood spared

Over the past two years, Rep. Mark Pless (R-Haywood) has made multiple attempts to bring partisan municipal elections to the two counties he represents, Haywood and Madison.

Partisan elections bill passes, with one major change

Just two hours after Senators failed to concur on a bill that would have forced Haywood and Madison counties to hold partisan municipal elections, a conference committee worked out a slightly different version of the bill, which passed shortly after 8 p.m.

Thanks for showing Pless’ spiteful actions

To the Editor:

Thanks to Scott McLeod for pointing out the inappropriate control Mark Pless wants to have in local affairs.

Pless continues to support some ‘bad stuff’

Rep. Mark Pless, to put it bluntly, is a piece of work.

As promised, Pless strips Maggie Valley of development powers

The Haywood County Town of Maggie Valley has lost significant authority to exercise development powers after a bill promoted by its Republican representative passed on the afternoon of July 12 — despite a last-ditch effort for compromise. 

A week ago,  Pless held a press conference  decrying Maggie Valley’s Mayor, Mike Eveland, and two aldermen — John Hinton and Jim Owens — calling them “depraved” in a written statement.

At issue was a 2021 moratorium enacted on new campgrounds, shortly after four RV parks were approved within town limits. The moratorium extended not only to RV parks but also to RV Planned Unit Developments and RV storage facilities.

Pless opposed the moratorium and last week went so far as to offer any property owners who feel that they’ve been unjustly affected by the town’s development decisions a nuclear option: de-annexation from the town.

If enough people took Pless up on his offer, it would impact the town’s bottom line to disastrous effect. Currently, Maggie Valley’s tax rate is 40 cents per $100 in assessed value, but the town has less than 1,700 residents. 

De-annexed parcels with existing sewer and water connections could continue to use them by paying slightly higher rates as out-of-town customers, but property owners would no longer pay both county and town property taxes — only county.

That philosophy carries over into another aspect of Pless’  HB 184 , which not only disallows Maggie Valley from adopting, extending or renewing any temporary moratoria on development approvals but also prohibits the town from enforcing its rights to its extra-territorial jurisdiction.

Extra-territorial jurisdiction refers to parcels of land outside of municipal boundaries where cities and towns can exercise certain powers like zoning. Residents of ETJs don’t get to vote in municipal elections, thus having no say in how they’re governed by those municipalities, but they’re not on the hook for municipal taxes, either.

Eveland, Hinton and Owens have vehemently opposed Pless’ effort to tie the town’s hands, but two other aldermen, Phillip Wight and his wife, Tammy, have allied themselves with Pless on the issue.

Together, the Wights own the Clarketon Motel, the site of Pless’ earlier press conference, and say the moratorium affects their business.

“I can rent a room to who I want for the rest of my life, but I can’t create a PUD and have a nice high-end RV park that sells timeshares,” Phillip Wight told The Smoky Mountain News at the press conference.   

The bill, however, didn’t exactly sail through its final test.

Pless made a motion for the House to concur with the Senate version of the bill; however, a Buncombe County Democrat, Rep. Eric Ager, rose to ask Pless a question but Pless declined to yield.

When Speaker Tim Moore (R-Cleveland) pressed Ager on what he wanted, Ager asked for a compromise.

“It seems like there’s an option here to have the community come together and figure out a solution as opposed to just pushing one way or the other,” Ager said. “It seems like we have a small-town dispute. There’s people on both sides, and I think we could do a much better job of mitigating that dispute.”

Ager also asked for a recorded vote, rather than a voice vote. Pless didn’t respond to any of it, but Moore postponed action on the bill for about 15 minutes until it was again brought for a vote. It passed by a margin of 61-40.

Eveland told The Smoky Mountain News shortly after the vote that he’d sent emails to legislators in Raleigh opposing the bill, and that Ager was one of several who responded favorably.

Now, Maggie Valley will move forward under the restrictions for at least the next four years, unless something changes.

“I guess tomorrow we’ll start to see exactly what this means for us and get with our lawyer to see what we can do,” Eveland said. “I think it’s a blow to the Town of Maggie Valley — the folks that work there and the taxpayers of Maggie Valley. We got voted into office based on what voters wanted done. Pless has made clear we’re being punished for something we did 18 months ago.”

Eveland said the town recently hired a lobbying firm to advocate for its interests in Raleigh.

“Now we have to spend taxpayer money to protect ourselves,” he said. “We’ll just continue to roll on.”

The bill sunsets on Jan. 1, 2028.

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