Brittney Lofthouse – Contributing Writer
North Carolina Municipal elections kick off this month, with early voting scheduled to begin Thursday, Oct. 14. Voters have until Oct. 8 to register to vote in order to be eligible for the November municipal election. One stop voting — also known as early voting, will run from Oct. 14 until Oct. 30, at the Macon County Community building in Franklin, and the Highlands Civic Center in Highlands. Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 2. On Election Day, Franklin voters will cast their ballots at Town Hall; in Highlands at the Civic Center. Hours are 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.
The November election will be for municipalities only, meaning voters who live within the Town of Franklin city limits can vote in that election and voters who live within the town of Highlands city limits can vote in that election.
In Franklin, the office of the mayor and three council members will appear on the ballot. In Highlands, the office of the mayor and two commissioners will be up for election.
In Franklin, the seats up for election include the mayor’s seat — currently held by Mayor Bob Scott; and town council seats held by David Culpepper, Dinah Mashburn, and the seat left vacant after the death of Barbara McRae.
Neither Scott nor Mashburn are seeking re-election.
Incumbent David Culpepper filed for a second term and will face challengers JimBo Ledford, Rita Salain, Frances Seay, and Stacy Guffey. With three seats on the Franklin town council up for re-election, the top three vote getters will claim a seat this November.
Current town council vice-mayor and former Macon County Manager Jack Horton filed for mayor and without any challengers, has all but secured his seat as the next mayor of Franklin. Because Horton will be leaving his town council seat prior to the end of his term to take over as mayor, it will be up to the Town Council to appoint someone to fill his seat.
The seats up for election in Highlands this November are the mayor’s seat currently held by Pat Taylor, and two commissioner seats held by Amy Patterson and Donnie Calloway.
Calloway is not seeking re-election.
Taylor will see a challenger in Marc Hehn who officially filed for the mayoral seat just before deadline. Hehn currently serves on the town board and if elected as mayor, his seat would then be filled by appointment. Taylor has served three, four-year terms in his official capacity in Highlands since first being elected in 2013. If re-elected this year, Taylor will begin his 4th term as mayor.
Patterson filed for re-election and will face challengers. Patterson and Calloway both ran unopposed in the 2017 election.
Challengers this election include Eric Pierson, who has previously served on the town board, Thomas Craig, Pat Allen, Nicolaus McCall, and Mary Alice Bynum. With two open seats on the Highlands board up for election, the top two vote getters will be elected.
The municipal elections will be decided in November — a month before filing opens for several countywide offices. Although filing for the Macon County Sheriff’s race doesn’t officially open until December, after Sheriff Robert Holland announced his retirement, several candidates have already come forward expressing their interest, suggesting the field for Macon County’s next sheriff will be a crowded one.
Current Sheriff’s Office employees Dereck Jones, Brent Holbrooks, and Clay Bryson have all been actively campaigning for the vacant Sheriff position — along with retired law enforcement officer from Florida Robert Cook and former sheriff’s office employee Chris Browning. Browning, who was one of the first individuals to announce his bid for Sheriff, announced via Facebook last week that because he does not live in Macon County, he will no longer be running for the position. According to Browning’s post on social media, while part of his property, such as his mailbox, is within Macon County, his home is located in Clay County, which is where he pays taxes, making him ineligible to run for office in Macon County.
In addition to the position as Sheriff, the position of Macon County Clerk of Court will also open for filing in December — with three individuals, Magistrate Justin Stamey, former Macon County Sheriff’s Officer Mike Trammell, and 21-year veteran of the clerk’s office Shawna Lamb, expressing interest in running for the seat which was left vacant with the retirement of Vic Perry.
Three seats on the Macon County Board of Commissioner will also open for filing in December. The seats, currently held by Gary Shields, Ronnie Beale, and Jim Tate, will be up for grabs and have garnered interest from several candidates. Incumbent Gary Shields has announced he plans to seek re-election, while neither Beale or Tate have made a statement. In addition to Shields, several people have spoken at local events or posted on social media expressing their interest in running — including local business owner Danny Antoine, Macon native Danny Reitmeier, and former Macon County Tax Administrator Richard Lightner.
“Today I am formally announcing my candidacy for County Commissioner in the upcoming election,” Reitmeier said this week. “A few months ago, when I chose to not run for mayor, I stated that I intended to stay involved and looked forward to serving our community in the future and that future is now. I have had a strong desire to serve our community for quite some time and I am ready for the challenges that will come with this position. I am running for Macon County Commissioner because I want to see our county grow and prosper while maintaining our ‘small town’ atmosphere and charm. I want to lead our county into the future and develop a long term plan for the betterment of our children and grandchildren. I want to be a strong, true voice for the people and look forward to the opportunity to serve our county.”
To date, no Democrats have filed to run for any of the open seats in any office, with all individuals expressing interest for Sheriff, Clerk of Court, and County Commissioner being Republican. Filing officially opens in December.