By Dave Russell


The Nov. 5 general election could bring two new mayors and seven new council members to three of the county’s four towns.

The filing period opens noon Friday, July 5, and closes two weeks later at noon Friday, July 19.

Mayoral positions are open in two of Jackson County’s incorporated towns. 

Forest Hills Mayor Kolleen Begley and Webster Mayor Tracy Rodes are up for election this year. 

All three municipalities have openings for seats on the town boards.

The seats of Sylva board members Harold Hensley, David Nestler and Greg McPherson are up for re-election. The mayor and board members serve four-year terms.

In Forest Hills, the terms of Niall Michelson and Jonathan Brooks are expiring. Board members serve four-year terms.

Webster town board members Billie Jo Bryson are Kelly Donaldson are up for re-election. Board members serve for four years.

Dillsboro doesn’t stagger its board terms, so none of the five board seats are up for election, including the mayor’s position. The board members serve four-year terms and are not due for an election until 2021.

Want to file?

Here are the necessary steps to become a candidate in the Tuesday, Nov. 5 municipal election:

The required paperwork must be on file no later than Friday, July 19, at the Jackson County Board of Elections office. The location is Skyland Services Center at 876 Skyland Drive. The filing fee is $5.

Who can vote:

Residents in each of Jackson County’s four towns make the decision about who serves. The races are nonpartisan, meaning party affiliation (in theory) is unimportant.

Here are the number of registered voters for each town: Forest Hills, 330; Sylva, 1,520; Webster, 276.

In other election news, the State Board of Elections has put the issue of approving new voting machines on its agenda at their meeting today (Thursday). 

“There is a very good chance we’ll be testing new voting equipment, the scanners, at the One Stop site at our office,” Jackson County Board of Elections Lisa Lovedahl said. 

Jackson County’s voting machines became obsolete when the N.C. General Assembly passed a 2013 edict requiring counties to upgrade to equipment that produce a paper ballot. Initially, the 33 counties affected faced a Jan. 1, 2018 deadline for the upgrade. The legislature later extended that deadline to Dec. 1, 2019.

Local governments are responsible for funding election costs, including staff salaries and voting equipment, in addition to machines. 

In 2006, the federal Help America Vote Act helped Jackson County pay for voting equipment. This time, there is no federal or state money to help offset the cost. 

Legislators decided to make the switch because, they said, paper ballots don’t malfunction. 

The General Assembly’s legislation defines a paper ballot as “an individual paper document that bears marks made by the voter by hand or through electronic means.”

“Funds have not been set aside for that yet, but we know that we’re going to have to do it,” county Finance Director Darlene Fox said earlier this year. 

She predicts the switch would cost between $750,000 and $1 million. 

“We’re waiting on the state,” she said. “They’ll have to test them before we can even buy them.”