A wide open race in Jackson

By Sarah Kucharski • Staff Writer

In what outgoing Jackson County commissioner Eddie Madden has called an “unusually quiet” election season, things are finally starting to heat up as the Feb. 13 start to the filing period approaches.

Madden, Cashiers’ representative, has already announced that he would not seek re-election for the coming term.

“It’s really just family-related,” Madden said. “My children are growing up quicker than I anticipated.”

Mark Jones, High Hampton general manager, was touted as a candidate for Madden’s seat at a public meeting in Cashiers two weeks ago, but he could not be reached for comment. School board member Nathan Moss also is considering a run for the seat.

“I’m still in the process of making up my mind,” Moss said on Tuesday.

Moss said he had been thinking about running for county commissioner for a couple years, but would have to resign from the school board in order to do it.

“I had made a commitment to that board that I wouldn’t leave them in a pinch,” Moss said.

Moss said that he believed he had found another person willing to run for his seat on the school board, freeing him up to run for commissioner.

“It looks like we’re good to go,” Moss said.

Board vice-chairwoman Roberta Crawford also has announced that she will not be seeking re-election, opening the door for Whittier-based farmer William Shelton.

“I’ve been interested in politics for a long time, and I just reached the time in my life that I decided if I ever was going to be proactive now’s the time,” Shelton said.

Shelton’s platform is focused on managing countywide development in a way that protects natural resources. While growth is inevitable, it can be controlled.

“I’d like to see us grow in a smart way,” Shelton said.

Sharing similar goals, Tom Massie, the western field representative for the Clean Water Management Trust Fund, has formally announced his candidacy for Conrad Burrell’s seat.

“Principally I’m interested in protecting the natural resources of Jackson County,” Massie said.

Protecting those resources will help create jobs and thereby a sustainable economy, Massie said.

Burrell, who was appointed to fill Brian McMahan’s unexpired term when he became board chairman, pulled out of the running during Monday night’s regular commissioners meeting.

“I have decided not to run,” Burrell said.

Burrell said that he planned to remain active in the community through his positions on the N.C. Department of Transportation and Southwestern Community College boards.

Tom McClure, former Economic Development Commission Chairman and Director of The Office of Regional Affairs at Western Carolina University, is debating running.

“I’ve just got to sit down here in a few days and get my mind clear and come to a bottom line and do some talking here at the university and see if it fits,” McClure said.

University policy strictly dictates how much time an employee may spend serving in public office and how much compensation they may receive. Election to a full-time public office requires resignation from university employment. However, part-time service with nominal compensation is not considered to represent a conflict of interest and an employee need not resign, policy states.

McClure resides in District II, which Burrell and chairman Brian McMahan currently represent. Running for a District II seat would pit him against Massie. If he ran for chairman he would face McMahan, who has already said he is running for the elected chairman’s position.

As of Monday night commissioner Joe Cowan announced that he would be seeking re-election, immediately drawing an opponent in fellow Webster resident Darrell Fox. Fox said that he was motivated to run by a desire to enact some land-use planning to help preserve the area’s natural environment.

“There’s so much growth going on and there’s doesn’t seem to be any planning,” Fox said.

There also has been talk of Jim Cruzan, former Jackson County sheriff, running for county commissioner; however, he has already begun advertising his campaign for sheriff on billboards near Sylva. Board of Elections policy dictates that a candidate cannot run for two positions at once, but the filing period has not yet opened and Cruzan has yet to file for any race. He could not be reached for comment as to his intentions.

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