Holly Kays

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Following the conclusion of candidate filing for the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians' 2019 election season, below is the list of people who will be running for tribal office this year: 

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A Blue Ridge Parkway district ranger was arrested in Tennessee last year following a traffic accident in which he was under the influence of alcohol and in possession of drugs, according to public records. However, charges stemming from the incident were later dismissed. 

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John W. Bardo, who served as chancellor of Western Carolina University from 1995 to 2011, passed away Tuesday, March 12, at Wesley Medical Center in Wichita, Kansas.

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After decades roving the backcountry of some of the largest parks in the Western United States, Lisa Hendy is returning to her home state of Tennessee to serve as the Great Smoky Mountains National Park’s first female chief ranger. 

At least, that’s the headline picked up by news outlets across the country, and it’s true. Hendy will start her new job April 8, and it will be the first time a woman has served that role in the Smokies. But to Hendy, it’s not about gender. It’s about her ability to do the job, and do it well. 

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Despite a government shutdown that lasted most of the month, visitation in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park was markedly higher this January than in the same month last year. 

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As the Tuckaseigee Water and Sewer Authority prepares for a $9.5 million sewer expansion project in Cashiers, another big change is under discussion for the plateau — the potential of offering a public water utility. 

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With the deadline to register getting nearer, the list of people running for tribal office in this year’s elections is getting longer. As of press time Tuesday, 29 people were signed up to run for 14 offices, with an additional four people signed up to run for three school board seats. 

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The second go-around in the search for the next chancellor of Western Carolina University is nearing completion with the Board of Trustees’ unanimous vote March 1 to approve a list of three names for consideration. 

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The Land and Water Conservation Fund was permanently reauthorized today following President Donald Trump’s signature on a law that received overwhelming bipartisan in both the House and the Senate.

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Summit Charter School in Cashiers has chosen a new director to take over from interim director Billy Leonard, who has served since July 2018.

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With nearly than a week left to go in the filing period for this year’s tribal elections, five people have already put their names forward to run for principal chief.

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A recently released draft report bodes well for the possibility of removing the dilapidated Cullowhee Dam without compromising the water supply it was designed to protect — but Western Carolina University and the Tuckaseigee Water and Sewer Authority need additional questions answered before agreeing to pursue removal. 

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Congress voted to permanently reauthorize the Land and Water Conservation Fund following a 363-62 vote of the U.S. House of Representatives Feb. 26. 

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For the past 79 years, Ella Wachacha Bird has lived a life defined by seasons and relationships rather than months and days.

Bird, the daughter of Rily Wachacha and Ancy Walkingstick, was born in a log cabin in the remote West Buffalo area of Graham County’s Snowbird community in 1939. She was delivered by her grandmother Maggie Wachacha, a midwife at the time who would later become a clerk to Tribal Council and, like Ella, a Beloved Woman in the tribe. 

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The Great Smoky Mountains National Park will have its first female chief ranger following the hire of Lisa Hendy, who currently serves as chief ranger at Big Bend National Park in Texas.

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Two days after announcing a midterm retirement from the bench, Superior Court Judge Bradley Letts reversed his decision in a statement sent two minutes before the close of business on what was to be his last day in office. 

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The Sylva Board of Commissioners recognized longtime public works director Dan Shaeffer for his nearly 20 years of service to the town during its regular meeting today. The board presented Shaeffer with a resolution honoring his contribution to the town as well as the jokingly named "Order of the Short Leaf Pine Award," a title that plays on the governor-awarded Order of the Long Leaf Pine.

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Of all the local governments in The Smoky Mountain News’ coverage area, Jackson County has some of the most complete closed session minutes and arguably the easiest system for obtaining them. 

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Of the nine closed-session discussions Sylva commissioners held last year, only three — all attorney-client privilege conversations related to an ongoing court case — are still sealed. 

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Amid widespread speculation about plans to run for principal chief of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, Superior Court Judge Bradley Letts has announced plans to retire from his position — but not to run for tribal office. Letts said he has ruled out that possibility. 

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Jackson County is facing a plethora of capital projects over the next several years, and a new animal shelter will be one of them following a consensus that emerged from a four-hour budget planning meeting Feb. 21.

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Congress has voted to permanently reauthorize the Land and Water Conservation Fund following a 363-62 vote of the U.S. House of Representatives yesterday.

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The Great Smoky Mountains National Park set a new visitation record for 2018, welcoming 11.4 million visitors to its 816 square miles last year.

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Valley View Worms has an origin story that’s about as unusual as the vermiculture business itself, with plotlines hinging on a Facebook post, a felony conviction and 60 pounds of red wiggler composting worms. 

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Last week Jackson County commissioners got their first look at what a re-imagined Green Energy Park campus might cost, with the engineers at WithersRavenel offering a plan that would total $12 million over three phases. 

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A proposal to build a new cell tower off of Skyland Drive in Sylva will go before the Jackson County commissioners for approval during a quasi-judicial hearing at 1 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 26, in room A201 of the Jackson County Justice and Administration Building. 

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Cherokee voters will have the chance to give their nation a long-awaited constitution if Tribal Council approves a referendum question proposed for the September ballot. 

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A new extravaganza will prance into the Maggie Valley Festival Grounds this year — the Smoky Mountain Elk Fest, an event years in the making designed to offer education and celebration of all things elk and of the outdoors in general. 

“It’s actually been talked about for at least four years, and there have been several meetings where all the state agencies and regional agencies have come together and talked about it,” said Lynn Collins, executive director of the Haywood County Tourism Development Authority. “It was just a situation where there wasn’t anybody that would step up and spearhead it.”

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An effort to conserve 912 acres along the Plott Balsam ridge in Jackson County cleared the final hurdle of a five-year-long race last week when the Cherokee Tribal Council narrowly voted to contribute $1 million to the project. 

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After taking input from the more than 100 people who attended a Jan. 14 public forum and carefully combing their suggestions for the upcoming N.C. 107 makeover in Sylva, the Asheville Design Center generated a respectably long list of design alternatives to investigate. 

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While unanswered questions remain in the recent death of 49-year-old Franklin resident Melissa Middleton Rice, which occurred on Jan. 18 while in custody of the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office, public records reveal new information about the hours leading up to her ultimately fatal collapse.

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A Sylva man has been charged with assault after Jackson County deputies responded to a Feb. 7 call and found a man with a cut to the right side of his neck along Allens Branch Road in Sylva.

Robert Dylan Thomas, 21, was charged with assault with serious bodily injury and held on a $15,000 secure bond, with victim Jacobe Matthew Conner, 32, also of Sylva, transported to Harris Regional Hospital and later transferred to Mission Hospital in Asheville, according to a press release from the Jackson County Sheriff's Office.

The incident stemmed from a 6 p.m. call reporting an intoxicated male in the roadway yelling at a passerby. The call was quickly followed by an update to the dispatch center that a male had been stabbed at about the same address, the press release said.

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Zac Guy grew up on the back of a tractor. 

His father worked in sales and his mother was a postal carrier, but Guy’s grandfather Louie Reece was a commercial beef farmer, raising cattle as well as the hay and corn silage they needed to thrive on his farm in Bethel. 

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Young Cherokee tribal members could soon be able to use their gaming allocations to pay for housing following a unanimous vote from Tribal Council last month. 

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An autopsy recently completed on a man who died in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park last September determined that 30-year-old William Lee Hill Jr., of Louisville, Tennessee, died from an accidental methamphetamine overdose — not from a bear attack. 

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After 35 days of furlough, National Park Service staff are back to work at the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the Blue Ridge Parkway and more than 400 other National Park Service units nationwide. 

“On behalf of the employees of Great Smoky Mountains National Park, I want to express our heartfelt gratitude to our partners and communities for their unwavering support over the last five weeks,” said Smokies Superintendent Cassius Cash in a press release. “In addition to the monetary support offered by our partners to provide basic visitor services, we were moved by the number of people and organizations who stepped up to organize litter pickups and the outpouring of generosity expressed to our employees through meals and gift cards.”

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Following a series of closed session discussions, Jackson County has opted to cancel its $500,000 contract to buy a 5.61-acre tract in Whittier containing the old Pepsi-Cola plant, but it could still pursue the purchase at some point in the future. 

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The recent death of a Jackson County Detention Center inmate has spurred a probe from the N.C. State Bureau of Investigation. 

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Jackson County got its first glimpse at what a reinvigorated Green Energy Park campus might look like when a preliminary master plan was presented during a county commission meeting Tuesday, Jan. 22. 

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A meeting to discuss possible solutions to the N.C. 107 issue in Sylva scheduled for today was postponed due to winter weather.

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Normal operations at the Great Smoky Mountains National Park resumed for the first time since Dec. 22 on Saturday, Jan. 26, but due to inclement weather park facilities are closed once more.

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Following a series of closed session discussions, Jackson County has opted to cancel its $500,000 contract to purchase a 5.61-acre tract in Whittier containing the old Pepsi-Cola plant.

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Jeanine Davis has spent more than two decades researching new and emerging crops in North Carolina, but she’s never experienced anything like the hype surrounding hemp. 

“I’ve always gotten a disproportionately large number of inquiries just because there aren’t a large number of people across the country that work with the crops I work with,” said Davis. “Taking on hemp has taken it to a whole new level.”

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As states across the nation loosen restrictions on cannabis products, the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians is launching a study into the feasibility of legalizing such industries on the Qualla Boundary. 

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With the one-year anniversary of Jackson County’s decision to consolidate its health and social services departments looming, commissioners are now talking about returning to the way things were before 2018. 

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Despite the ongoing government shutdown, two visitor centers in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park will be open over Martin Luther King, Jr. weekend thanks to a donation from Friends of the Smokies. Appropriations from federal recreation fees are also keeping a third visitor center, as well as a variety of restroom facilities, open during the shutdown.

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On Sept. 30, 2018, a program that’s been pouring money into land conservation for more than 50 years expired. And despite bipartisan support, efforts to reauthorize the Land and Water Conservation Fund have so far failed. 

“A program like LWCF should not be subject to these crazy swings in politics and funding,” said Jay Leutze, vice president of the Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy Board and a spokesperson for the Land and Water Conservation Fund Coalition. “This just creates chaos.

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In a search that is now entering its second year, Western Carolina University’s Chancellor Search Committee is preparing to interview the top candidates applying for the job left vacant by the late Chancellor David O. Belcher. 

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The ongoing federal government shutdown is having a negative effect on the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, and last week the tribe’s Tribal Council voted unanimously to send Rep. Mark Meadows, R-Asheville, a letter to tell him so. 

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More than 100 people filled the Jackson County Public Library’s Community Room Jan. 14 to help kick off the Asheville Design Center’s quest to develop an alternative, less disruptive vision for N.C. 107 in Sylva. Attendees included business owners, community members, elected leaders and N.C. Department of Transportation representatives. 

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