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A parade of community leaders, doctors, nurses and hospital supporters voiced overwhelming support for the sale of Haywood Regional Medical Center to Duke LifePoint during a public hearing on Nov. 12. 
When a “for sale” sign went up on the hospitals in Haywood, Jackson and Swain counties earlier this year, it was chalked up as inevitable, a sad but unavoidable trajectory faced by small, independent hospitals everywhere. SEE ALSO: HRMC votes ‘yes’…
The trio of MedWest hospitals in Haywood, Jackson and Swain counties could be sold by next spring to Duke LifePoint Healthcare, joining a network of 60 community hospitals nationwide. The aggressive timeline is contingent on due diligence by both sides…
The MedWest system forged by the hospitals in Haywood, Jackson and Swain County three-and-a-years ago will dissolve, ending a short-lived partnership that was rocky almost from the start.
The sale of the hospitals in Haywood, Jackson and Swain counties to Duke LifePoint Healthcare next year will bring an unexpected windfall for local coffers come tax time.
When Janie Sinacore-Jaberg walked the halls of Haywood Regional Medical Center Friday morning, the congratulations were flowing and the balloons flying. “Our staff is incredibly excited. There are just smiles everywhere. You could feel it. It was palpable when you…
Wednesday, 16 July 2014 13:11

Duke LifePoint sale to finalize by July 31

The sale of the MedWest hospital trio in Haywood, Jackson and Swain counties will be finalized by the end of July. Duke LifePoint HealthCare, a national for-profit hospital network, will take over Aug. 1, ending a long legacy of local,…
Haywood County’s hospital was in trouble. The average number of patients staying overnight had dropped precipitously, causing severe problems to the hospital’s cash flow. The relationship between the administration and most of the physicians was fractured. Many of those doctors…
Wednesday, 02 October 2013 16:09

Wide-open race for district attorney in 2014

District Attorney Mike Bonfoey publicly announced plans to retire next year when his current term of office expires. Bonfoey has been the lead prosecutor for the seven western counties for 10 years, directing a team of 10 assistant district attorneys.
Assistant District Attorney Ashley Welch, a Republican from Macon County, announced this week she will be running for district attorney next year. 
The clock is ticking for the fundraising foundations of Haywood Regional Medical Center and Harris Regional Hospital to spend earmarked money in their coffers to benefit the hospitals.
Wednesday, 19 February 2014 14:32

Jackson sheriff’s race shapes up

With campaign season barely off the ground, the Jackson County sheriff’s race has already drawn a hefty list of candidates — and of issues.
Wednesday, 15 January 2014 14:47

Hipps brings work ethic to race

When Jane Hipps began toying with the idea of running for state Senate as a Democratic challenger, a wave of excitement crept through party circles.
Ron Robinson thinks a state senator should represent all of his constituents. 
The North Carolina Senate seat for the seven western counties could be one of the few swing races in the General Assembly this year as Democrats vie to make a dent in Republican dominance in Raleigh.
Wednesday, 05 March 2014 02:04

County races: Haywood

Haywood County Haywood Commissioners  What’s up for election? Three out of five seats on the county board.  About the race: The current Haywood commissioners have enjoyed a stable tenure, consistently winning their seats when they come up for reelection. They…
Wednesday, 19 March 2014 13:08

County races: Jackson

Jackson County  Jackson Sheriff  About the race:  This promises to be one of the most hotly contested elections in the region this year. Current Sheriff Jimmy Ashe will step down and that has thrown the floodgates wide open for contenders…
Wednesday, 19 March 2014 13:08

County races: Macon

Macon County Macon Commissioners What’s up for election: One seat in the Highlands district and two seats in the Franklin district. About the race: There are three commissioner seats up for election in Macon County: one seat for the district…
Wednesday, 19 March 2014 13:08

County races: Swain

Swain County Swain Commissioners What’s up for election? All five seats on the county board are up for election, including four commissioner seats and commissioner chairman. Both Republican commissioner candidates here automatically advance. About the race: As usual, there’s a…
Wednesday, 05 March 2014 02:01

Statewide races

U.S. Congress About the race: This used to be a toss-up district, but clever redrawing of voting boundaries by the Republican-led legislature in Raleigh two years ago tipped the scales to the right. The liberal stronghold of Asheville was carved…
Wednesday, 12 February 2014 16:48

2014 election filing season opens

The 2014 election season officially got underway this week. Candidates could begin signing up to run for office on Monday. The candidate sign-up period runs for two weeks, closing on Feb. 28.
A fifth attorney has added his name to the list of possible nominees for an open District Court judge position in the seven western counties.
Wednesday, 16 April 2014 17:18

Snap shot of US House race in WNC

About the race: This used to be a toss-up district, but clever redrawing of voting boundaries by the Republican-led legislature in Raleigh two years ago tipped the scales to the right. The liberal stronghold of Asheville was carved out and…
A trio of Republican candidates have lined up to challenge N.C. Rep. Joe Sam Queen, D-Waynesville, for his District 119 House seat. One is barely old enough to drink, one campaigned for Barry Goldwater and one features Second Amendment-chest thumping…
North Carolina’s District 50 senator represents the state’s seven western counties. In 2010, Sen. Jim Davis (R-Franklin) narrowly wrested the seat from incumbent John Snow but then beat Snow by a much-wider margin in 2012. 
Meet the candidates, pick one Three seats are up for grabs on the Macon County Board of Commissioners this year, but only one has a primary contest: two Republicans vying for one seat in the Highlands district. Any Republican or…
N.C. House of Representatives, seat 118 Is this my state rep? Yes, if you live in Madison and Yancey counties and part of Haywood — namely Canton, Clyde, Bethel, Cruso, Maggie Valley, Jonathan Creek and Crabtree areas. Is there a…
Three of the five seats on the Haywood County board of commissioners are up for election this year. A field of five Democratic candidates — the three incumbents and two challengers —  will be narrowed down to three in the…
Wednesday, 16 April 2014 17:28

Jackson sheriff's race: meet the candidates

The May 6 primary will narrow down the contenders for the Jackson County sheriff. The field of six Democrats and three Republicans will be whittled down to one candidate per party for the November ballot.   Glen Biller, D, 50…
Wednesday, 30 April 2014 00:00

Parsing out a position in party primaries

Next week is decision time for voters who disagree with the new conservative tack of North Carolina’s policy makers and want to reverse the emergent Republican majority now at the state’s helm.
Wednesday, 03 September 2014 13:59

District Attorney race: No rest for the weary

Few put as much thought into their to-go morning coffee as Jim Moore. Most of us grab whatever’s on the way, whatever’s cheapest, or whatever brew we like the best.
Wednesday, 01 October 2014 17:54

2014 District Attorney election primer

Do I vote in this race? Yes, if you live anywhere in the seven western counties.
Wednesday, 01 October 2014 17:56

Election 2014: Legislative races, a primer

N.C. House of Representatives, seat 118 Is this my state rep? Yes, if you live in Madison and Yancey counties and part of Haywood — namely Canton, Clyde, Bethel, Cruso, Maggie Valley, Jonathan Creek and Crabtree areas.
About the race: This used to be a toss-up district, but clever redrawing of voting boundaries by the Republican-led legislature in Raleigh two years ago tipped the scales to the right. The liberal stronghold of Asheville was carved out and…
Wednesday, 08 October 2014 19:31

Swain Commissioner snapshot

Commissioner Democratic candidates • David Monteith is the longest serving county commissioner with 16 years on the board. Retired Ingle’s market manager and a school bus driver. • Steve Moon has served for 8 years and is on the board…
Wednesday, 08 October 2014 19:32

Macon Commissioner snapshot

Highlands district, one seat Republican  • Jim Tate is seeking reelection because he wants to “ensure that Macon County will continue to be a great place to live and call home through low taxes, great schools, safe communities and efficient…
Wednesday, 08 October 2014 19:32

Macon Commissioner snapshot

Highlands district, one seat Republican  • Jim Tate is seeking reelection because he wants to “ensure that Macon County will continue to be a great place to live and call home through low taxes, great schools, safe communities and efficient…
Wednesday, 08 October 2014 19:34

Jackson commissioner snapshots

Jackson commissioner chairman • Jack Debnam, the current commissioner chairman and a Realtor. As an unaffiliated candidate, he belongs to neither party.  • Brian McMahan, a Democrat, previously served as commissioner chairman but lost to Debnam in 2010. The 39-year-old…
Wednesday, 08 October 2014 19:36

Haywood commissioner snapshots

Democrats • Kirk Kirkpatrick, a lawyer, has been on the board since 2002 and has been a supporter of recreation. • Michael Sorrells has been a commissioner for four years and previously served six years on the school board. He…
Wednesday, 08 October 2014 19:40

Jackson sheriff snapshots

Chip Hall, D, 46 Qualifications: Chief deputy at Jackson County Sheriff’s Department. Twenty-five years at Jackson County Sheriff’s Department in a variety of positions.   Reason to run: “I want to reach out to be active in everything that goes…
Wednesday, 08 October 2014 19:41

Tipping the scales

The past four years have been the first in recent memory that Democrats haven’t held a majority on the Jackson County board. But likewise, Republicans haven’t had the majority either — a point Chairman Jack Debnam is quick to point…
Wednesday, 22 October 2014 13:35

Meet the candidates for district attorney

Two candidates are competing for the job of top legal prosecutor in the seven western counties. The seat came up for grabs when District Attorney Mike Bonfoey announced his retirement after 11 years in the role. Two assistant prosecutors who…
Wednesday, 22 October 2014 13:21

House 118th seat showdown

Hicks: Getting off the sidelines Dean Hicks is still a coach at heart.  “I’m an old coach, I don’t want to be average,” Hicks said. “No coach could settle for average, and I don’t think North Carolina should either.”
Editor’s note: The Smoky Mountain News spent a day on the campaign trail with Sen. Jim Davis, R-Franklin, as he tries to retain his seat in the N.C. General Assembly representing the seven western counties. It’s almost dark and North…
Editor’s note: The Smoky Mountain News spent a day with Jane Hipps, a Democratic challenger running for the state Senate seat spanning the seven western counties. 8:40 A.M. Jane Hipps was getting a later-than-normal start on the campaign trail, unless…
Wednesday, 22 October 2014 13:10

Queen, Clampitt battle it out again

Election season is winding down to the finish line and both candidates in the N.C. House’s 119th District race are eyeing Raleigh. Challenger Mike Clampitt and incumbent Rep. Joe Sam Queen, D-Waynesville, have been here before. They went up against…
Tax reform was one of the top issues tackled by the new Republican majority in Raleigh last year, but voters hitting the polls this election season don’t yet know whether they’ve come out ahead or behind, since the changes don’t…
North Carolina has rarely seen an election where the candidates matter so little, but who wins matters so much. This year it’s not about the names on the ballot. Those are mere window dressing. Their alma matter, their church, their…
While national pundits predict Republican challengers will steal seats from Democrats in Washington come November, Congressman Heath Shuler likely has little to worry about, based on a recent poll of registered voters in Jackson County. Shuler, D-Waynesville, has a general…
By Christopher A. Cooper and H. Gibbs Knotts Beginning in 2009 with a series of protests focusing on what participants viewed as excessive government taxation, the TEA Party movement has grown into one of the most prominent political stories of…
By Christopher A. Cooper and H. Gibbs Knotts A creature once roamed the American South that many now presume to be endangered if not extinct — the conservative Democrat. For nearly a century following the Civil War, almost all white…
By Michael Morris • Guest ColumnistThe sale of alcohol has become a hot topic in Western North Carolina. In 2010, voters in Burnsville and Weaverville passed ballot measures approving alcohol sales, and last August voters in Clay County approved countywide…
By Christopher Cooper and Gibbs Knotts Confidence in politics, politicians and government is low. President Obama’s approval rating hovers around 50 percent as he deals with two wars and what may turn out to be the worst environmental disaster in…
Though many Jackson County residents shy away from publicly airing their views on alcohol, a recent poll shows that a comfortable majority of voters support alcohol sales countywide. Whether you’re a college student in Cullowhee or socialite in Cashiers, stocking…
A year ago, Scott Cummings would never have pictured himself standing on the sidewalk pumping a homemade sign in the air for passing motorists to see. But last week, he found himself front and center in a 200-strong crowd at…
Government approval ratings are low all over the country. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that they’re also low in Jackson County. “The state of the economy is the strongest predictor of trust in government that I know of,” said…
Tuesday, 06 July 2010 19:27

Jackson County Poll Results

1. Do you have a favorable or unfavorable opinion of Jackson County government? Favorable 33% Unfavorable 46% Not Sure 20% 2. Do you have a favorable or unfavorable opinion of the federal government? Favorable 29% Unfavorable 62% Not Sure 9%…
A new polling project developed by Western Carolina University’s Public Policy Institute and The Smoky Mountain News aims to get data that is the meat and bread of political scientists into the hands of the voting public. “As academics, we’re…
A large crowd turned out at the Swain County commissioners meeting this week to voice support for the beleaguered Department of Social Services Board. Supporters said local board members tasked with overseeing the agency have been unfairly criticized following the…
Wednesday, 16 March 2011 19:00

Cherokee trust shaken in Swain DSS

Tribal members and leaders alike vented their discontent with Swain County’s handling of child welfare for Cherokee children at this month’s tribal council meeting. The Eastern Band no longer wants to rely on Swain County’s Department of Social Services but…
Swain County social workers and supervisors named in a State Bureau of Investigation probe are no longer welcome to work child welfare cases on tribal land. The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians asked the Swain County Department of Social Services…
The State Bureau of Investigation raided Swain County Department of Social Services Tuesday, hauling off computers and records in an investigation allegedly tied to the death of Aubrey Littlejohn, a 15-month-old baby who died Jan. 10. Littlejohn was brought to…
The Swain County Department of Social Services falsified records relating to the abuse and neglect of a 15-month-old baby who later died, according to an investigation by the Swain County Sheriff’s Office and the State Bureau of Investigation. The specific…
Wednesday, 02 March 2011 20:21

Child’s death hits Cherokee hard

The mood is grim. Few people in this tight community want to talk to an outsider about the death of 15-month-old Aubrey Littlejohn. Here on the Cherokee Indian Reservation, kinship ties are strong and families are extended and extensive. It…
Relatives say they warned social workers repeatedly over the course of several months that Aubrey Littlejohn was being neglected and abused. Called by her middle name by family, 15-month-old Kina-Marie died on a mattress on the floor of a singlewide…
By Quintin Ellison and Colby Dunn • Staff writers The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians is forced to rely on state social workers when it comes to protecting the tribe’s children from abuse and neglect. That might change in the…
The state could step in to run the Swain County Department of Social Services if the top leaders are among those put on leave during a probe into an alleged cover-up. Swain DSS falsified records relating to the abuse and…
Wednesday, 29 June 2011 19:50

Swain DSS director fired, lodges appeal

Tammy Cagle, once the leader of the Swain County Department of Social Services, has been given the ax by the department’s board of directors. Cagle, however, is fighting the decision. She’s appealed to the board, who handed down the decision…
Swain County social workers in charge of protecting children are paid less and handle more cases than those elsewhere in the state and region, factors that likely contribute to a higher-than-average turnover. Swain’s Department of Social Services has been plagued…
The former head of Swain County’s Department of Social Services won’t be getting her job back, members of the county’s DSS board decided in a called meeting on Monday. The board had dismissed Cagle following a hearing last month, but…
A county commissioner got financial aid from the Swain County Department of Services last year while his niece was serving as the DSS director, prompting the development of a new conflict of interest policy. The new policy prohibits the DSS…
An interim director is now at the helm of the Swain County Department of Social Services, bringing to the table an impressive resume with a focus on child welfare. “That was real important to us,” said Georgianna Carson, a newly…
The director of Swain County Department of Social Services has been put on leave with pay following a nearly clean sweep of the DSS board. A newly constituted DSS board placed Director Tammy Cagle on “nondisciplinary investigative status to investigate…
Wednesday, 27 April 2011 19:48

Social safety net failed Cherokee baby

Additional evidence has surfaced indicating Swain County social workers failed to act on reports of alleged abuse and neglect of a Cherokee baby who later died. Court papers reveal that Swain County social workers had reports of physical abuse of…
New Congressional districts crafted by state GOP leaders that appear to position the party for political domination in North Carolina for the next decade drew sharp criticism late last week during a state hearing in Cullowhee. Asheville and parts of…
Democrats are crying foul over new Congressional district lines that with seemingly surgical precision slice the City of Asheville, a liberal stronghold, out of the 11th Congressional District. The maps, drawn by state Republican leaders in the the GOP-dominated General…
Wednesday, 22 June 2011 12:42

Building districts by the numbers

This year, the math of moving districts will give virtually every western block a shift. Sen. Jim Davis’s, R-Franklin, Senate District 50, which now claims seven counties — Cherokee, Clay, Graham, Macon, Swain, Jackson and Transylvania — plus part of…
Wednesday, 22 June 2011 12:40

Redistricting to grow mountain districts

In legislatures around the nation, it’s that time of decade again — time to break out the old redistricting maps and rehash the legislative lines. Every 10 years, following the decennial census, lawmakers are constitutionally obliged to rearrange their districts…
Urban areas grew at a torrid pace over the past decade — so get ready, legislators in the mountains and on the coast, because your already large districts are about to expand. Why? Because, as Christopher Cooper, a political science…

kayak paradeA cacophony of voices and cheers echoed across Bryson City as a sea of humanity overtook the small town, a wall-to-wall crowd churning and pressing their way through downtown with excitement radiating from each face.

kayak mainA destination for paddlers around the world, the Nantahala River is known for its complexity of rapids and consistent waters levels, ensuring a level of competition that can’t be found anywhere else in the United States. The world’s top paddlers will descend on the river for a week of competition, camaraderie and cold water during the 2013 International Canoe Federation’s (ICF) Freestyle World Championships Sept. 2-8. 

kayak competitorsPeter Csonka

Age: 28

Country: Slovakia

Awards: 2012 World Cup Champion

Day job: Kayak retailer

I was 12 when I started paddling. We had a group of kids doing canoe sports, traveling around and doing competitions. It was really nice to have those trips together. At that time, we all were just starting to race and do rafting, doing small competitions, sometimes winning, sometimes losing.

kayak whatisfreestyleCombining an array of difficult tricks, precision paddling and finely tuned choreography, freestyle kayaking can be described as aquatic gymnastics.

folkmoot languageStanding in the back of The Stompin’ Ground in Maggie Valley last week, several languages could be heard in every direction. To the right, Spanish and Estonian. To the left, French and Cherokee. All present for the “Opening Gala” of Folkmoot USA, all versed in the universal language of performance.

folkmoot improvThere’s a secret ingredient behind the bright lights, splashy costumes and glossy programs of Folkmoot: for every two parts planning, there’s one part improv.

folkmoot preservingEach year international groups from all over the world travel abroad to share their traditional folk dances and songs with other cultures. 

They spend hundreds of hours researching, learning and rehearsing these songs and dances. They spend a lot of money on authentic costumes to accurately represent their heritage and they spend even more to go one tour and share their work with others.

folkmoot buildingWith just days until the 32nd annual Folkmoot USA international dance and music festival is set to kick off, the Folkmoot Friendship Center in Hazelwood is a frenzy of activity. Construction projects are finishing up, fresh paint is drying on the walls, beds are being prepared for the performers and new Executive Director Angie Schwab is squelching fires left and right.

folkmoot directorQ&A with new Folkmoot Executive Director Angie Schwab, who took the reins in March from former director Karen Babcock.

As Harrah’s Cherokee Casino closes on the final year of a massive $633 million expansion, the hum of construction that’s been a backdrop to life in Cherokee will give way to a luxury resort positioning the Eastern Band of Cherokee…
Wednesday, 07 September 2011 12:57

Hello Bellagio, meet Cherokee

The Mirage has a volcano. There’s the Fountains of Bellagio, and the pyramid-shaped Luxor. Cherokee will have the Rotunda, the crown jewel of the $633 million expansion to be unveiled next year and serve as the new casino entrance. “With…
Wednesday, 07 September 2011 13:05

No limits

A chandelier over a high-limit gaming table at Harrah’s Cherokee Casino costs $150,000, more than the median selling price of homes in Western North Carolina last year. Like all the luxury touches found in the casino, it was custom designed.…
To hear many Cherokee leaders on the eve of last week’s tribal elections, the tribe is incredibly close to striking an agreement with Gov. Beverly Perdue that would allow live dealers at the casino, perhaps within weeks. Two letters from…
When a new federal law in the 1990s opened the door for Indian tribes to build casinos, it set the stage for economically-depressed reservations to become masters of their own destiny, to create wealth where none existed before and improve…
Wednesday, 14 September 2011 13:32

A masterful game of musical chairs

When all is said and expanded at Harrah’s, there will be 2,000 seats at the various restaurants scattered across the property. That’s enough for every employee at Harrah’s to sit down for a meal together, albeit at different restaurants. It…
Wednesday, 14 September 2011 13:32

Dishwasher extraordinaire

Jeremiah Chatham is the kind of person who looks far too gregarious to be wearing a suit. He has an open face, an easy laugh and is prone to a quizzical, smiling expression that’s at once friendly and disarming.  …
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