Brittney Lofthouse – Staff Writer
Several local races will appear on the ballot in November ranging from Macon County Register of Deeds to North Carolina Senate District 50. Candidates vying for election in all races were invited to a public forum at the Macon County Public Library last month for a meet and greet hosted by the Macon County News and Smoky Mountain News.
Candidates who did not face a primary opponent were all given the opportunity to address the crowd and speak to their qualifications and reason for running for office.
Register of Deeds
Incumbent: Todd Raby (D)
Challenger: Linda Herman (R)
Raby has served as Register of Deeds for Macon County since his first election in 2006. Raby is currently in his 12th year serving in his post.
“I am running on experience,” said Raby. “I feel like the experience I have running the office and the staff that we have is all that is required at this time to move forward. We have the technology to move forward, as the budget allows, and I want to let you know that I will be running on my experience.”
Raby explained that the Register of Deeds office is more than just an office to file papers, but rather a place for vital records such as property records, mortgages, marriage license, and more.
Herman said that she has been in and out of the Register of Deeds office every week for 15 years.
“The Franklin Press, God bless them, loves to print the real estate transactions every Friday in the newspaper and I have been doing that for them all this time,” said Herman. “I love the Register of Deeds Office.”
Herman said she has a full degree on Office Management and has experience running offices larger than the Register of Deeds office in her professional career.
“I just love the Register of Deeds, they are the custodian of all of our records,” said Herman. “And we are doing a good job. I just think I can— I want to be see if we are providing enough statistics to be able to help our county’s economy grow.”
North Carolina Senate District 50
Incumbent: Jim Davis (Republican)
Challenger: Bobby Kuppers (Democrat)
Davis did not attend the forum.
“I am running because it’s time,” said Bobby Kuppers. “It’s time that we start getting things done. If 25 years of driving submarines and another 15 years or so coaching football taught me anything, it taught me that working together will bring success and divisiveness will bring failure every time, and right now in a time when our country, our state, and even our county and town need unity more than it ever has, we don’t have it.”
Kuppers cited issues such as redistricting as being what current leaders are focusing on rather than important issues such as improving healthcare and public education, which he believes should be more of a priority.
Kuppers teaches economics at Franklin High School.
Macon County Commissioners District II
Incumbents: Ronnie Beale (Democrat)
Gary Shields (Republican)
Challengers: Betty Cloer Wallace (Democrat)
Ron Haven (Republican)
Beale has served as a member of the Macon County Board of Commissioners since first being elected in 2006.
“We have always had bipartisanship on our board and we have always had a majority on the board that want to move Macon County forward, and we are doing that today,” said Beale. “But there are some things that we have to work on.”
Beale cited Macon County’s growing economy, Macon being one of 30 counties in
the state projected to grow between 10 and 20 percent in the next 10 years, as a focal point to move the county forward.
Beale said he wanted to examine county services such as the senior center and senior services as the 65 years and older category is expected to see the biggest growth. He also said focusing on the need of a workforce and making sure the technical trades have the workers needed to fill job vacancies is something the county has to be mindful of.
Shields is a Vietnam veteran who served 18 months in Vietnam before finishing his service and attending college. After college, Shields received two master degrees in education. He has served Macon County for three decades in public education, serving as the principal of Franklin High School as well as a former member of the Board of Education.
Wallace said she has lived in Macon County “forever” and has a professional background in public education administration and her most recent venture, tree farming.
“I have discovered in the last 5 or 10 years following the local politics and government in Macon County that I have become more and more dismayed that the socioeconomics of our county have spiraled downward and we have reached a level of Tier 1 this year for the fourth year in a row according to the North Carolina Economic Department of Commerce. I decided it was time to get even more involved and take some action,” Wallace said of her reason for running.
Wallace said initially she went out and tried to find some very good people she thought would be excellent county commissioners to run, but was unable to find a single person to run, so moments before the filing deadline, Wallace signed herself up.
Wallace said she would like to see more transparency and better communication in local government.
Ron Haven, who has previously served as a commissioner in Macon County said he was running because, “I think Macon County deserves to have the best that we can have,” said Haven. “I want to see this place set back on fire economically, and I think we can do it.”
Macon County Sheriff
Incumbent: Robert Holland (Republican)
Challengers: Eric Giles (Democrat)
Bryan Carpenter (Unaffiliated)
Robert Holland was elected as sheriff of Macon County 16 years ago after working for the department for 11 years. In 2002, he was elected to sheriff after Sheriff Homer Holbrooks retired.
“I started out with the department as a volunteer, and then I went on to be a detention officer,” Holland said of his experience in law enforcement. “I was a deputy sheriff, a juvenile officer, a juvenile supervisor, a detective, basically in my 27 years, I have worked my way up through the ranks in the Sheriff’s Office.”
Holland said that the only promise he will give voters this election cycle is the same one he gave in 2002, “From my very first day in office until my very last day in office, you will only get the very best of me,” he said.
Giles started his career at Haywood Community College and at the end of 2011 was hired with the Macon County Sheriff’s Department as a Detention officer in the jail. Giles said that after three years as a Detention Officer, he left Macon County to take a road position at another agency. According to Macon County personnel records, Giles was hired with the MCSO as a part-item detention officer in January of 2011 and was hired full-time in April 2012. He resigned in April 2013 to take a position in Graham County.
According to Josh Litchfield, Chief Deputy with the Clay County’s Sheriff’s Department, Giles started part time at the department in August 2014 and went full time a year later. He left Clay County in December 2017.
“I have slowly worked my way up the ranks,” said Giles. “I have been an investigator, I have been a supervisor, I am a certified death investigator now. I have had numerous classes in narcotics. I have been the witness victim coordinator for Clay County [Sheriff’s Department], I was also their domestic violence advocate. Domestic violence is one of my pet peeves and I work very hard to stop that every day. I am also on the narcotics task force for Cherokee County [Sheriff’s Department] now. That is one of the big things we work toward everyday is stopping narcotics coming into our counties. We have a lot of drugs coming in and out of Macon County constantly and I think it’s time for some fresh eyes and fresh ideas instead of just doing the same things we have always done.”
According to Cherokee County Sheriff Eric Palmer, Giles was hired on with the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Department two and a half months ago and currently serves as a patrol officer. Sheriff Palmer said that Giles doesn’t currently and has never served on the department’s drug task force.
Bryan Carpenter first ran for sheriff four years ago and since the last election has gone from having no experience in law enforcement to being a K9 officer for the Graham County Sheriff’s Department.
“Over the last four years, I have done a lot of things,” said Carpenter. “Four years ago I didn’t have any law enforcement experience whatsoever, but so far to date, I have been to Haywood Community College and went through their BLET program and their Criminal Justice program and got my Associates Degree and numerous certificates.
Because Carpenter is running on the November ballot as an unaffiliated candidate, he had to secure signatures from four percent, or 1,018 registered voters in Macon County to be able to appear on the ballot. As of Tuesday at noon, Carpenter had received more than 1,200 signatures. The Board of Elections will now complete verifying the signatures and will have the official results by election canvass day on May 18.