Haywood challenger emerges as top vote-getterWritten by Bibeka Shrestha
With the county budget on everyone’s mind, two Haywood commissioners received a vote of confidence on the job they’ve done despite a staggering recession.
Chairman Kirk Kirkpatrick and Commissioner Bill Upton both sailed through the Democratic primary with comfortable margins. Newcomer Michael Sorrells, a service station, convenience store and café owner in Jonathan Creek, will join the two incumbents on the Democratic ticket come fall.
Sorrells has served on the Haywood school board for six years and has emphasized his experience working with a large budget as well as his business acumen. Sorrells said he’d always been told he had a lot of support within the community, and the primary results verified that for him.
“I ended up in the mix, and I’m tickled to death,” said Sorrells.
Commissioner Kirkpatrick said the current board provides an open forum and a transparent government, which helped both incumbents win the primary.
Both Kirkpatrick and Sorrells said the budget and solid waste needs will prove to be major issues in the November election. Kirkpatrick said the commissioners have handled the budget well despite a major recession. Commissioners will continue to analyze all of the county’s expenditures to see where cuts can be made, however unpleasant it may be to cut certain services, said Kirkpatrick.
“You just have to cut it with a sharp knife, but it’s difficult,” said Kirkpatrick. “We’ve made most of the cuts that we can make.”
However, growing impatience with government spending hit home in Haywood County, where the conservative 9/12 movement persistently made itself felt at every commissioners’ meeting.
Fiscal conservatives in Haywood asserted that county leaders were spending freely while ordinary citizens were just scraping by.
At the center of the debate has been the estimated $12.5 million commissioners plan to drop on renovating an abandoned Wal-Mart in Clyde. The former megastore will house the county’s health and social services department.
“I just think we need to think before we get out our checkbook,” said Waynesville voter Chris Forga.
But the two department’s current facilities have been used for more than a half century, and commissioners argued that it would be far more expensive to renovate or buy new property than renovate the Wal-Mart store.
Last year’s 1.7 cent tax increase similarly inflamed citizens who were struggling to pay bills at home. Simultaneously, other citizens took commissioners to task for cutting all nonprofits from the county budget.
Nevertheless, commissioners claimed they have worked well under a tight budget and point out that tax rates in Haywood are currently 17th from the bottom in the 100-county state.
Haywood County commissioner
Democrat – top three advance
Michael T. Sorrells: 2,537
J.W. (Kirk) Kirkpatrick: 2,520
Bill L. Upton: 2,290
Rhonda Schandevel: 1,942
John C. McCracken: 1,556
Raymond L. Brooks: 1,451
Frank (Danny) James: 628
Republican – top three advance
Mic Denny King: 1,099
David Bradley: 986
Tom Freeman: 817
Jeanne Sturges Holbrook: 781
Michael (Hub) Scott: 560