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“The smartest countries tend to be those that have acted to make teaching more prestigious and selective; directed more resources to their neediest children; enrolled most children in high-quality preschools; helped schools establish cultures of constant improvement; and applied rigorous, consistent standards across all classrooms.”  

— “What America Can Learn About Smart Schools in Other Countries,” The New York Times

2016: A Year.

The tidal wave of negative political news in 2016 was staggering in its magnitude and emotionally overwhelming. Thankfully all that is behind us. But we can’t say adios to the year’s local news until our writers and editors sift through those events and mold them into our annual tongue-in-cheek spoof awards. With apologies in advance to those who can’t take a joke, here’s our tribute to the people and events that left an indelible mark on 2016.

Harry S. Truman’s Secretary of State Dean Acheson said upon his return to private life, “I will undoubtedly have to seek what is happily known as gainful employment, which I am glad to say does not describe holding public office.”

SEE ALSO:
To serve, Haywood Commissioners leave money on the table
Carrying commissioner duties a juggling act in Jackson
Macon commissioners not there for money
Swain commissioners give little thought to salary
Cherokee council makes more than state reps, less than congressmen

While holding public office in the United States isn’t usually all pain, it is usually no gain. American culture has long held disdain for those who enrich themselves by suckling at the public teat, and a Smoky Mountain News investigation proves that — at least locally — the salary and benefits offered to county commissioners in Haywood, Jackson, Macon and Swain counties aren’t making any of them rich.

“You know, I really can’t tell you what we get paid,” Swain County Commissioner David Monteith said when asked about his commissioner salary. “I’ve never done it for that purpose. To me, serving the people in the community is the main benefit of being commissioner.”

When the wildfires were threatening structures in Swain County a couple of weeks ago, first responders had to knock on more than 200 doors to alert residents that they needed to evacuate. 

The Swain County High School marching band was noticeably absent from the annual Bryson City Christmas Parade last weekend, but they had a good reason.

Swain Community Hospital has announced plans to change how it operates its Emergency Department, but administrators say the hospital will continue to provide the same level of 24-hour emergency care to patients.

Home to the Hancock family for generations, the hills and hollows along Silvermine Road are an ingrained identity for siblings Teresa Hancock, Christy Birchfield and Garry Hancock. But this year is the first in their decades of living that smoke has obscured the sky, ash has rained from the air, and flickers of flame have threatened the home that’s served as setting for memories across the seasons of life.

About 58 percent of voters in Swain County voted against increasing the sales tax from 6.75 percent to 7 percent.

Republican challenger Kenneth Parton was the top vote-getter in the Swain County Commissioners’ race and was able to unseat longtime Democratic incumbent Steve Moon. 

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