Candidates for Highlands mayor identify priorities, issues for town

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Brittney Lofthouse – Contributing Writer

Early voting for municipal elections in North Carolina opened last week and will continue until Saturday, Oct. 30, at 3 p.m., with Election Day on Nov, 2. Voters in Highlands will be casting their ballots at the Highlands Civic Center and will be voting for mayor as well as two new Highlands commissioners. 

In the mayoral race, Incumbent Pat Taylor will face-off against challenger Marc Hehn, who currently serves on the Highlands Town Board. On the town board, two seats are up for election, the seat held by Amy Patterson and the seat held by Donnie Callaway. Patterson has filed for re-election while Calloway is not running. 

Marc Hehn

Marc Hehn says his family has been coming to Highlands since the 1930s. 

Mark & Betsy Hehn and Sugar

“I remember being a young man of 4 or 5 and standing by Mirror Lake watching my parents ice skate. And, I remember watching my mother spin on the ice and saying, ‘I did not know she could do that,’” Hehn said. “We have a photo of my grandfather in his Cornell Hockey uniform on Lake Sequoia. I have been told the story by a man who saved my grandmother when she fell through the ice on Mirror Lake. I remember going to the Central House Restaurant. And I remember seeing a rainbow the evening my mother passed at the Eckerd Living Center. This place is very special and my wife Betsy and I love living here.” 

Hehn holds a Master’s Degree in City and Regional planning, a Bachelor’s Degree in Public Administration and is a full member of the International City Managers Association. Hehn is also a Class A Potable Water Operator as well as a Class Z wastewater Treatment Operator. In addition to serving two years on the Highlands Town Board, Hehn says he has 45 years of work experience through droughts, hurricanes, tornadoes, building booms and busts, and violent crime.

“I recognize we have a pandemic, polarizing politics and misinformation,” said Hehn. “The mayor must be a uniter and educator. I am uniquely qualified to do this and I am available to talk to anyone.”

What do you view as being the greatest issue facing the Town?

“Health for Highlands – We have 40 open positions for full and part time first responder healthcare workers,” said Hehn. “If elected, my top priority will be to attract medical professionals to our area by using grant funds to help solve the worker housing problem. Ninety million dollars is available annually to address this need and we are doing nothing.”

What would be your top three priorities?

“I have six goals and here is how I propose to have a Healthier Highlands,” said Hehn. “#1. Rewrite our Zoning Regulations to address those short term rentals that are a continuous problem; #2 Honor our commitment to provide water and sewer service for future worker housing on the Highlands Cashiers Hospital Campus; #3 Expedite the broadband project; #4 Repair/ upgrade our crumbling infrastructure; #5 Install modern technology to improve pedestrian and traffic safety; #6 Transparent Financial and contractual information with full disclosure of all commitments and consumer fees.”

Pat Taylor

Pat Taylor has served as the mayor of Highlands for the last eight years and served on the Highlands Planning Board for six years. He has been married to his wife, Sallie, for 42 years, and together they have two children and two grandchildren.  Taylor was born and raised in Valdosta, Ga., but has lived in Highlands for 22 years. 

Taylor is a retired school teacher, university professor and administrator with more than 30 years experience in education. He holds the Ph.D. M.A.Ed and B.A. degrees. Taylor is also a retired North Carolina magistrate and currently owns and operates Taylor Pottery in Highlands.  He served three years in the U.S. Army where he was awarded the Vietnam Service and the Army Commendation medals.

“I want to continue to serve the people of Highlands as their mayor,” said Taylor. “I have built a record of collaboration in working with the town board, town staff, community organizations and citizens to improve the town of Highlands.  Our town needs steady and deliberate leadership, and I believe my record proves I do provide that kind of leadership.”

What do you view as being the greatest issue facing the Town?  

“The town has a constant challenge of balancing the preservation of its beauty,  environment and village quality with the need for economic development and progress,” said Taylor. “There will be many challenges for us all to navigate in the coming years. The new Highlands Community Plan will be a citizen guide in moving the community forward.”

What would be your top three priorities?

“#1 Oversee the implementation of the new fiber optic network that Hotwire will be operating in the town; #2 Continue to advocate for healthcare access for the Highlands Cashiers Plateau. I was awarded a Dogwood Award by the N.C. Attorney General for my healthcare advocacy during the sale of Mission to HCA in 2019; #3 Make sure the town’s strong fiscal position is maintained by not making unwise spending decisions that cause the build-up of debt.”

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