Local politics in Western North Carolina have long been dominated by the good ole boys. But like they say about winter in “The Game of Thrones,” change is coming.
I’ve spent much of my career as a journalist — the past 25 years — covering the towns and counties west of Buncombe County, watching as local civic leaders made decisions that have had lasting effects on the region. Aside from Sylva — which has a long tradition of female leaders in politics and business — it’s been a game dominated by old white guys.
Aproposed policy to make the Swain County Recreation Center a tobacco-free property may not be a slam dunk with all of the county commissioners.
We were pretty full of ourselves, I guess. Barely 19, barely finished with our freshman year in college, having left our provincial little town behind for the urban chaos and the infinite possibilities of university life just over a year ago. Now here we were again, back in town for the summer. We knew we were going back to school soon enough, so we wanted to cram every bit of experience and drunken camaraderie into those last few weeks together before packing up our junk, moving back into the dorm, settling on a major, and getting serious about the future after a few false starts and narrow escapes during our freshman year.
As North Carolina’s candidate sign-up period approaches its midway point, preliminary indications in Haywood County point toward some big changes, especially in Canton.
Now that it’s 2017, I can’t bear the thought of continuing to fixate on politics and its atmosphere of pomposity and negativity that paints a picture of this country far different from what I encounter in my everyday life. It’s part of my job to cover this stuff, but our lives are about so much more than politics.
During the holiday season I was fortunate to spend quite a bit of time with a lot of young adults — my kids and their friends are all ages 18 to 24, and nephews and nieces were around who are as old as 28. And here’s what I heard from them: they aren’t buying into the vision of a country that is crumbling. Instead, I would argue that it’s the fresh optimism of the young — their belief that they can fix problems others have ignored or caused — that helps fuel this country’s ongoing prosperity.
When I was 16 years old — going on 17 — I had a poster of Stevie Nicks, the mystical, utterly bewitching lead singer of Fleetwood Mac, on my bedroom wall. I sometimes tell people that she was my first schoolboy crush, but that is not entirely true.
The air on the Cataloochee Divide Trail is heavy with humidity and the promise of an afternoon storm, but the pervading mood is contrastingly buoyant as a group of 27 teens and their leaders sets out on a sunny Thursday morning.
It’s a tone that Cassius Cash, superintendent of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, had set before anybody left the trailhead.
A little more than a year ago it was nothing more than an open grassy field surrounded by forest, but by next month it will be an impressive, state-of-the-art YMCA summer camp.
Young people growing up in a small town usually have one main goal — to get out.
Somewhere at this very moment, a political science major is writing a dissertation on why young people these days are so apathetic with regard to politics and the issues. In the 2014 election, for example, slightly less than 20 percent of people between the ages of 18 to 29 cast a ballot. According to The Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning and Engagement, that is the “lowest youth turnout rate ever recorded in a federal election.”