local elections matter 2022

By Dave Russell


As of press time 10 people had expressed an interest in running for nine local seats opening in Jackson County.

The filing period for the 2022 elections opens at noon Monday and closes at noon Friday, Dec. 17 for the March 8 primary.

That’s if the primary takes place in March. Multiple lawsuits have been filed challenging Congressional redistricting maps. It’s possible the primary could be delayed as the suits work their way through the courts.

Those 10 candidates have begun their campaigns and informed the Board of Elections of their intent to run, Board of Elections Director Lisa Lovedahl said.



All three incumbents on the Jackson County Board of Commissioners – Board Chair Brian McMahan, Boyce Deitz in District 2 and Gayle Woody in District 1 – have announced they will file. The trio are all Democrats. Republican challenger Todd Bryson has informed the board he intends to file for District 1.


Board of Education

Members of the Jackson County Board of Education are elected on primary day, instead of in November. Three seats on the nonpartisan board will be on the ballot the District 2 seat of Abigail Clayton, District 4 seat of Board Chair Ali Laird-Large and District 5 seat of Margaret McRae. As of presstime, no candidates had registered.


Clerk of Court

Albert Reagan and Kim Poteet have registered to run for Jackson County Clerk of Superior Court.


Register of Deeds

Jackson County Democratic Party leaders voted Deputy Register of Deeds Shandra Sims to fill the post when long-time Register of Deeds Joe Hamilton resigned. Sims has informed the Board of Elections she intends to run in 2022, Lovedahl said.


Jackson County Sheriff

Three candidates for Jackson County sheriff – former Sheriff Jimmy Ashe, Robin Gunnells and Rick Buchanan – have informed the Board of Elections they intend to run.


Officials to be sworn in

Only four candidates in the November municipal elections faced opposition and had to actively campaign and nervously watch the State Board of Elections website to see if they would gain or retain office. All four ran for Sylva Town Board – incumbents Mary Gelbaugh and Barbara Hamilton and challengers Natalie Newman and Carrie McBane.

After the polls closed on Nov. 2, Newman joins and Gelbaugh returns to the five-member board.

Swearing-in for Gelbaugh and Newman is set for the 5:30 p.m. Dec. 9 Sylva Town Board meeting at Town Hall, with Superior Court Judge Brad Letts presiding.

As a newcomer, Newman plans to keep her head down and observe for a bit.

“I know I have a lot to learn,” she said. “I want to learn what I need to know first and help where I can. I definitely have a lot of things I am passionate about, that I know the community is passionate about.”

A licensed Realtor, Newman knows the realities of Sylva’s housing shortage.

“I’m really, really hoping to do some work on housing,” she said. “I think we need a variety of housing. I think that’s the solution for our community as a whole.” 

Newman fields calls from people searching for all kinds of housing.

“I know for a fact people have left this area because they cannot find affordable housing, which means we are losing valuable people in the workforce,” she said. 

Newman said she has enjoyed great support from the community. 

“I just can’t thank everyone enough,” she said. “I’m looking forward to serving.”


Other municipalities

In Forest Hills, incumbents Mayor Jim Wallace and town council members Ron Yount and newcomer Daniel Shields will be sworn in at the board’s 7 p.m. Dec. 7 meeting.

Incumbents David Gates, Beauford Riddle, Tim Parris and Tim Hall and former board member Jim Cochran ran unopposed for the Dillsboro town board. David Jones drops “interim” from his title and is now Mayor David Jones.

Swearing-in is set for the 5:30 p.m. Dec. 13 board meeting. Immediately following, there will be an organizational meeting when board members will elect a vice-mayor, Dillsboro Town Clerk Debbie Coffey said.

In Webster, Mayor Tracy Rodes had no opposition and only two candidates filed with three seats open on the town council. Incumbents Leigh Anne Young, who is vice-mayor, and Danell Moses return. Dale Collins, owner of the Tuckaseegee Fly Shop in Sylva, received 14 out of 21 write-in votes. Collins joined the Webster Planning Board in 2020.

Swearing-in was set for 5:15 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 1.