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This one goes to the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, which, like the much-memed Hollywood actor, just seems to be in everything these days. 

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As Kenny Rogers famously sang, “You’ve got to know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ‘em, know when to walk away and know when to run.” Franklin’s long-time mayor Bob Scott knew it was time to fold ‘em and walk away from his late-in-life political career that he loved so much. He probably could have won another term in office but decided not to seek re-election and give someone else a turn at the helm. 

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This award goes to the members of the Waynesville Task Force on Homelessness who were hell bent on not doing anything to solve the problem of homelessness in Haywood County. 

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Rumble is a women’s newsletter started by the female staff members at The Smoky Mountain News. The tagline for Rumble is “Fearless, Curious, Generous” — all words used to describe Barbara McRae, who passed away in March after a long battle with cancer. 

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The Grinch Award goes to Swain County Sheriff Curtis Cochran, but not for the reasons you may think. We know the Grinch — and law enforcement — gets a bad rep, but we forget that the Grinch wasn’t all bad, and in the end, he came through for Whoville to make Christmas a magical time for all. 

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Maggie Valley Town Planner Kaitland Finkle has experience in her field, multiple master’s degrees and a clear, coherent way of sharing complex information. So why then do the Maggie Valley Planning Board and Maggie Valley Board of Alderman regularly ignore her zoning recommendations in favor of their own ideas?

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As the late, great rocker Tom Petty once opined, “The waiting is the hardest part,” and it sure seemed that way as Haywood County attempted to recover from disastrous floods this past August. 

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And what a year it was for Canton Mayor Zeb Smathers. 

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After 27 years of loyal service to the Main Street merchant community in Waynesville, Wall Street Books got booted. The building that the book store resides in has changed hands and unfortunately, a used bookstore isn’t in the plans for those new owners. This winter, bookstore owners are currently in limbo, on the hunt for a new home with an estimated 50,000 books in tow. 

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When legendary Drag Queen RuPaul kicks a queen off his reality tv show for up and coming drag queens, he sends them off into the sunset saying, “sashay away.” But if RuPaul had seen the action at Sylva’s inaugural pride parade this summer, he might have said “ooh, sashay my way!”

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The winner of this year’s “most likely to get my vote award,” goes to John Hinton. While other politicians seem to have drifted from the understanding of what voters really want, Hinton gets it. It’s money. 

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The first-ever award for mismanaging and destroying a longstanding community institution goes to … that longstanding community institution itself. 

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This year was a challenging year in so many ways, but that was especially true in Western North Carolina. 

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As if Henderson County native David Madison Cawthorn’s meteoric rise to fame wasn’t surprising enough, Cawthorn’s Nov. 11 announcement that he’d run for reelection not in the district that elected him but instead in a newly-drawn district that he doesn’t live in, has set a new bar for political opportunism in Western North Carolina. 

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All teachers everywhere are recipients of the Bullsh*t Award every year for what they have to put up with, whether they are recognized for it or not. But in the midst of their third pandemic school year, the award hits home a little harder. 

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Cullowhee Valley School stole the running for the Woke Citizens Award when it voted to retire its outdated Rebel mascot, personified by an old Confederate general. 

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Alley Cat Youth Racing will return to Cataloochee Ski Area in Maggie Valley this winter, with the first races scheduled for Jan. 4-5. 

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A new music video featuring Asheville-based band The Fates aims to raise awareness for an ongoing effort to make wildlife road crossings in the Smokies safer for both people and animals. 

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Despite widespread rains last week, the drought situation in North Carolina hasn’t changed much, according to a map published Dec. 16. 

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The Great Smoky Mountains National Park plans to build an annex to its existing headquarters building, and a comment period open through Jan. 9 will take input on the results of a study investigating the project’s likely impact to wetlands and floodplains.

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A $2.4 million rehabilitation is complete at the iconic Flat Top Manor, located at Moses H. Cone Memorial Park on the Blue Ridge Parkway near Blowing Rock. 

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A streambank stabilization project in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park will cause a three-month lane closure along the Townsend Entrance Road. 

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To the Editor:

Recently I decided to take a closer look at the new plaques added to “Sylva Sam,” Jackson County’s 1915 Confederate monument. The wording on the larger plaque is noticeably careful, almost tiptoeing around the elephant in the room.

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To the Editor:

Mark Meadows (former congressman from North Carolina and President Trump’s White House chief of staff) may very well have been the worst chief of staff ever and “an embarrassment to his former state and district” (SMN, Dec. 15, 2021), but that is not close to being enough to shame today’s Republican Party into doing the right things by the American people. It is my opinion, as a nearly life-long Republican, that the GOP of today has no shame and is beyond humiliation to the point of tolerating dishonor.

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To the Editor:

Recently, we lost a true mountain man. You may have known him as Jim Stevens or maybe just “Poss,” but for me it was “Mr.” Stevens. 

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Haywood Family Eye Care has been a fixture of eye care in Western North Carolina for nearly 70 years. 

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Haywood County Public Health has received notice of 120 new cases of COVID-19 in the last week compared to 156 the previous week. As of Dec. 20, the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services has recorded a total of 8,280 cases in Haywood County since the pandemic began. 

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Members from three Rotary Clubs in Haywood County delivered 651 Christmas dinner boxes Dec. 21 to local families. The Christmas box deliveries were made possible thanks to organizations, churches and individuals that donated funds toward the annual project. Donated photo

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By Bill Graham • Special to SMN | Poet T.S. Eliot wrote that there’s something about growing up beside a river that’s hard to communicate to people who didn’t.

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The Museum of the Cherokee Indian is expanding its leadership with the appointment of two new directors. 

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The Pisgah Center for Wildlife Education in Brevard won’t reopen following extensive damage from Tropical Storm Fred, the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission has announced. 

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Brent Laurenz, deputy director for the voting rights nonprofit Common Cause in North Carolina, will be the next leader of Friends of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail, the organization has announced. 

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UPDATE: Since this piece was originally published, the Wildlife Commission announced cancellation of the planned in-person hearings.

The Wildlife Resources Commission is proposing a slate of changes to agency regulations for seasons in 2022-2023. Public comment is open through Monday, Jan. 31, with both in-person and virtual public hearings planned over the coming month. 

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Nine grants totaling $326,348 will help environmental groups support area waterways in a variety of ways following the announcement of this year’s grant awards from the Pigeon River Fund of the Community Foundation of Western North Carolina. 

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To the Editor:

Every faith tradition has special occasions to honor God’s goodness and mankind’s desire for peace on earth. 

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To the Editor:

 I see where Michael Flynn, former President Trump’s National Security Advisor, is calling for us to have “one religion” in the U.S., presumably Christianity. As a retired Presbyterian minister, I would like for all to find what I have in the Christian faith. However, my family’s history makes me have qualms on having one “official” religion even if it is Christianity. 

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To the Editor:

The late, great Johnny Cash wrote: “Don’t take your guns to town, son.” In the song, Billy Joe repeats his mother’s warning as he lays dying. Shot down by a cowpoke who could draw faster than him.

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North Carolina created Operation Medicine Drop to help people safely dispose of medications and prescription drugs. A series of locations across the state have designated drop boxes for old and unused medications. 

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By Bill Graham • Special to SMN | For Ed Herron, childhood at Lake Junaluska in the 1960s was idyllic. He loved it. 

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River’s End Restaurant at Nantahala Outdoor Center is once more serving its legendary Sherpa rice dish after locals and visitors alike begged them to bring it back. 

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A freshwater mussel known as the Atlantic pigtoe has been added as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act following a process that began when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed the listing in October 2018. 

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A 1982 Piper Saratoga airplane flew into the Asheville Regional Airport Nov. 20 to deliver an endangered red wolf and take on a load of shelter dogs for adoption up north. 

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By Rob Schofield • Guest Columnist | It’s a bedrock principle of American law that average people can vindicate their legal and constitutional rights in courts of law and have those courts compel or prevent acts of other branches of government. 

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To the Editor:

By now most Americans (and people around the globe) will have learned that the United States (for the very first time) has been added to the list of “backsliding democracies” by the Stockholm-based International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance. 

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To the Editor:

This is in regards to Sen. Thom Tillis email of 3:10 a.m. Saturday morning, Dec 4, “Preventing $450,000 payments to illegal immigrants.”

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Eighth-grade students from Mountain Discovery Charter School in Bryson City went on a five-day and four-night backpacking up Hazel Creek. 

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Bryson City Council approved premium pay for 32 employees during a Dec. 6 board of aldermen meeting. 

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After enduring a series of unexpected, pandemic-related challenges, the latest group of Southwestern Community College graduates will celebrate their accomplishments with family and friends during the college’s first traditional, indoor commencement ceremonies in two years.

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