Two open seats on the Macon County Board of Commissioners…

…will appear on the March 15 primary ballot, where voters will select which Republican candidate will face a Democratic challenger in November.

District II and District III seats are both up for grabs. The District II seat will see an entirely new candidate since Kevin Corbin, who currently holds the seat, will not be seeking re-election as he is running for the North Carolina House of Representatives.

Republicans Karl Gillespie and Ron Haven both filed for the open seat, putting it on the March primary ballot. The winner on March 15 will face off against Democratic challenger Charlie Leatherman in November.

Gillespie, a fifth generation Maconian started National Communications, Inc. (NCI) in 1999 with one technician, and has since grown the business to become a regional company providing installation and maintenance of all types of low voltage services, including phone systems, security, camera, fiber optic and IT services.
“I am actively involved in our community as a member of the Macon County Planning Board, Southwestern Community College Board of Trustees and Macon County Farm Bureau Board of Directors,” said Gillespie. “I am a member of First United Methodist Church. I am married to Janet Taylor Gillespie and have one son, Logan. We live a small farm and raise Angus cattle.”

While Gillespie has served on various community advisory boards, running for Macon County commissioner will be the first time he has sought an elected office.

“This is an opportunity for me to give back to the county that has been so good to me,” said Gillespie.

Ron Haven, who previously served Macon County as a commissioner from 2010-2014, is once again seeking office. Haven graduated from Franklin High School in 1975 before graduating from law enforcement from Haywood Tech.

“I feel I have always voted for everything we need but I fight to get the best price to save our tax dollar,” said Haven. “Being conservative is not doing without, It is getting the most for our money. I will stand against all odds to get the most for our tax dollars. I see Macon County following instead of leading as we did in the 1990s. I feel it is due to the leadership of our community not keeping up with the times. I see them serving a few but not everyone. To me, everyone is equal. Our county could be a shining community for everyone to see. It is going to take leaders who can think outside the box. Many communities within a 100-mile radius are doing great economically. Until we have leaders who see the problem and understand what to do, we are going to continue going down hill. I have been in business all my life and I know what it takes to be successful.”

Public education in Macon County

Gillespie: “Education is our future. The state has taken a hard look at its budget and in doing so they have made deep cuts into their funding of the K-12 schools. These cuts have created an extra burden on the local county budgets. At this point there is no indication that this will change. Fortunately we have had a group of county commissioners and a county manager that supports our K-12 schools as well as a school board and superintendent that has taken appropriate steps such as reducing our per-pupil cost over the past five years from $9,475 to $9,020 and reducing the number of employees from 609 to 507. While we face different challenges today than when my great grandmother was a teacher in a two-room school house here in Macon County, we met those challenges and I am confident that we will continue to do so.”

Haven: “I am for all the education we can provide. I see Macon County has the doors locked for students after they finish high school and MEC. The lack of jobs is a result of this. At thousands in tax dollars paid out annually to educate our children it is like we are paying them to leave. We are losing our future leaders and our work force. It is sad when the majority of jobs with a future in Macon County are tax paid. We need leadership to advance all of our kids and offer opportunity. I want to be a part of that.”

County finances and a nearly $50 million budget:

Gillespie: “Every dollar must be spent wisely, We must constantly work to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of government. This can be done while providing the citizens of Macon County all the services they are accustomed to, while keeping taxes as low as possible. We currently have the fourth lowest tax rate in North Carolina. This was done through sound financial decisions. As an owner of a local business since 1999 I have always tried to make sound financial decisions and would do the same as a county commissioner.”

Haven: “I am glad to see that some of the county’s financial debt is being reduced and I am more than happy to hear that some of the other commissioners are wanting to pay it down even more. If some funds were used to upgrade and catch up where we are lagging behind I would support that as well. However, it is plain to see that having a current fund balance of 42 percent doesn’t reflect good stewardship. To me this represents that the commissioners have set our tax rates extremely high and they could easily be lowered. If the public allows the commissioners to have such a huge fund balance surplus on hand, rest assured, they will find a way to spend it. That is where I would stand as a firewall to insure that your property taxes are as low as possible and your tax dollars are spent wisely. Sadly, the current surplus cannot be given back to the taxpayers. Instead, it must be spent. I will make sure it is spent wisely. If a commissioner or candidate says; ‘we can’t lower the property tax rate’ – beware because this is a person after his or her own interest and your tax money will no doubt be spent to finance special pet projects used for their own personal political gain. The citizens of Macon County have no doubt that I fully support lowering property taxes and tight-fisted spending.”

Economic development and moving Macon County forward:

Gillespie: “We should promote an economic climate in Macon County that attracts new business and encourages our present business to expand and grow. We must be as aggressive as possible in competing for new businesses. Sustainable employment co-exists with economic development, jobs and opportunities expand when the economy expands. We should work towards the development of good and decent jobs that allow citizens to grow and better themselves. Our economy is heavily dependent on tourism and construction. For this to change, economic development should be a collaborative process that takes into consideration our strong points to attract business and encourage expansion coupled with a strong educational backbone that can provide skilled employees.”

Haven: “I feel that our economic director should travel to potential companies with offers to explore our county. We should show these potential companies just what Macon County has to offer. We need to improve and build our economy so that our younger citizens can find great opportunities right here at home in Macon County. We have the teachers that can emphasize business, professional careers, and leadership as we come together as unified community to move Macon County forward for the benefit of all.”

Brittney Raby – Staff Writer