It started over a discussion about the merits of that sanitizing gel that is now so often found in restrooms, grocery stores, gyms and elsewhere, the stuff that’s supposed to kill germs and stem the spread of colds and other minor illnesses. After a huge bottle showed up in our workplace, one of my co-workers kind of snickered when we were discussing its merits. His comment went something like this: “God, people work too hard to try and protect themselves against everything. It’s like living life in fear.”

When Haywood County Manager Jack Horton was asked to resign or be fired last week, it was, potentially, a watershed political event for Haywood County. This upheaval probably won’t have a long-term impact on the prosperity of Haywood County, but it will help shape the political landscape in the near future.

By Lee Shelton

The town limits of Maggie Valley encompass only 1.8 square miles, and there is only one commercial strip, which also serves as the sole access road for many of the residents in the area. It is also a U.S. highway. Even with adding in the Extra Territorial Jurisdiction (ETJ) together with the incorporated limits, 83 percent of what is identified as Maggie Valley falls outside that area. Thus, there are a lot of folks affected by actions taking place in the very small incorporated area of Maggie Valley.

I’ve become hooked on Dr. Phil. Don’t ask me how it happened because I don’t know. He caught me unawares, I guess, creeping up on me during my fall break while I was innocently trying to feed my son, Jack, some mashed up fruit out of a tiny jar with a tiny spoon, desperately trying to find something to keep him distracted enough to sit still and actually eat his breakfast. I tried a couple of cartoons but quickly learned that Jack, at the age of nine months, would just as soon watch ESPN Sportscenter, The Price is Right, or The Discovery Channel as any cartoon. He’s pretty much OK with anything as long as there are images moving around on the screen and sound coming out of the television.

It’s not always about the money, at least not at first. That’s a point to keep in mind as the methane gas recovery project in Jackson County continues to move forward.

We in the newspaper business are supposed to be having the bejesus scared out of us because of the power of the Internet. And right now, as people are spending billions making Internet purchases for Christmas, this fact is hitting home. Soon, we who put out traditional newspapers will be forgotten, quaint relics from the past.

Bryson City leaders avoided the temptation to sell off their watershed land for development, instead opting to follow through with an earlier commitment to conserve the pristine property. It was the right decision and one that will pay a long-term benefit for town residents and all of Swain County.

It looks like the old adage “necessity is the mother of invention” may bear fruit (or gas) when it is applied to our current energy crisis. In fact, one “alternate energy” source is already generating considerable interest in Canada, North Dakota and North Carolina. “It could end our dependence on fossil fuel,” said Jack Herer, author of the book, The Emperor Has No Clothes. “It could be enough to run America virtually without oil.”

By Lee Shelton • Guest Columnist

There has been much discussion about attracting more motorcyclists and motorcycle rallies to the Maggie Valley area as part of the tourism efforts. I understand that the TDA recently committed funds to this endeavor. This comes against the backdrop of complaints by county residents about motorcycle rallies — primarily concerning the noise and congestion — and the rebuttal, by supporters, which are most often focused on asserting that “good people” ride motorcycles, and they raise money for charities.

I’m not sure where home is, but my children know. They’re first-generation mountaineers, which means, should they stay, they’ve got a lot riding on their shoulders. I hope they’re up to it.

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