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The Swain County board has four commissioner seats and one chairman. All five seats are up for election every four years. A party primary in May will narrow down the field of candidates on the ticket to four Democrats and four Republicans for commissioner, and one from each party for chairman.
There will be at least two new faces on the Swain County Board of Commissioners following the 2010 elections.
Chairman Glenn Jones and Commissioner Genevieve Lindsay will not run again after each served eight years on the board.
“We need some good people to step up and fill that void,” said Commissioner Steve Moon, who will run for re-election.
Commissioner Philip Carson will run for chairman instead of commissioner this election, but that will merely leave his commissioner seat wide open along with Lindsay’s — still resulting in at least two new faces on the board.
Lindsay consistently ranked first or second in vote totals in past elections. But she said the last four years have “been very stressful to say the least.”
The Swain County board has been dogged by persistent critics on several issues. A handful of activists have served in a watchdog role that at times has been quite zealous. They tape county commission meetings, make frequent public records requests and regularly speak out during the public comment period at commissioner meetings.
“It is really hard to do things for the county and concentrate like you would like to when there is always opposition regardless of what decision you make,” Lindsay said. “So I felt like it was time to hang it up.”
Lindsay said, however, that she is very concerned about the needs of the county and wishes the next board well.
Jones chose not to run again because that was always his plan.
“I always said I was going to run for two terms and would step down after that regardless and give the ball to someone else,” Jones said.
As chairman Jones has advanced several projects in the county, including a new jail, expanded recreation facilities, a new senior center, and buying property for a new middle school. He is poised to accomplish one of the biggest goals of his tenure just in time: a cash settlement for the North Shore Road, which incidentally was the biggest source of contention among the critics.
Carson said he is running for chairman to help the county maintain continuity during a critical economic time.
“For a brand new person, it would take several months to bring them up to date on exactly what has been going on,” Carson said.
In Swain County, the elected chairman takes an active role in running county operations alongside the county manager, far more than in most counties.
“I had the time to do it. I am by there every day. I am not in every meeting, but I at least know what is going on,” Jones said.
While Carson could parlay his past four years as a commissioner into the greater responsibilities that come with chairman, it’s not to say he will be without challengers. There are a few rumors running through the mill, but none confirmed as of press time.
Commissioner David Monteith said he is running again but did not specify what seat on the board he will run for.
One candidate who performed very well four years ago, missing election by just a few votes, is Ben Bushyhead, a Swain resident and member of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians. Bushyhead will not be running again this time, however. He is now retired and enjoys the flexibility to pay frequent visits to grandchildren out of state.
Carson is looking forward to the next four years being better than the last.
“A lot of the projects we wanted to see done had to be put on back burner until the economy improves,” Carson said. “This past year has been sort of difficult.”