County commission candidates Q&A

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Note from editor: Smoky Mountain Times made an error and failed to include Danny Burns' response in the print version of this story. We apologize and have reprinted the correct version including his responses here. 

 

The 2018 General Election is sure to shake up the membership of the Swain County Board of County Commissioners. 

For chairman, Ben Bushyhead, who has served one term as a county commissioner, beat current board chairman Phil Carson in the primary election and is running as a Democratic seat for the position. Mitchell Jenkins is running as a write-in candidates. Smoky Mountain Times did not receive response questions from Bushyhead. 

Swain County Commission Chairman candidates responded to the following questions.

1. What do you think sets the seat of commission chairman apart? What would you do differently?  

2. Swain County finally receiving the North Shore settlement fund was big news. How do you support the board utilizing this new revenue source? 

3. As a commissioner how would you support addressing the challenges drugs present in and what programs do you support to improve access to treatment and harm reduction? 

4. Do you support tobacco free parks and recreation facilities in Swain County? 

 

Mitchell Jenkins

Community: Bryson City

Occupation: Retired

1. This chair is recognized as chief executive officer of the county. I would push for more economic development to create more jobs. I would listen to concerns of the people in our county.

2. By paying off debts, possibly use interest for grants. 

3. By reviewing how the current programs are working at the present time. 

4. I support designated areas to be assigned for this purpose. 

Next, there are four candidates running for two open seats on the board including Democratic incumbent Danny Burns, who has served one term. John Parton, Democrat and Republicans Kevin Seagle and Holly Bowick are also contending for a seat.

In addition, Democratic candidate Roger Parsons, incumbent, is running for the unexpired term ending in 2020 and is being challenged by Republican Carolyn Bair.

They were asked to respond to the following questions.

Swain County Board of Commissioners

1. What makes you a good commission candidate? 

2. Swain County finally received the North Shore settlement fund. How do you support the board utilizing this new revenue source? 

3. As a commissioner how would you support addressing the challenges drugs present in Swain County and what programs do you support to improve access to treatment and harm reduction? 

4. Do you support tobacco free parks and recreation facilities in Swain County? 

5. Do you feel there is a need for animal control and a shelter in Swain County and if so how would you support funding for that need?

 

John S. Parton

Community: Whittier

Occupation: Attorney

Family: My family has lived in Swain County for over 100 years. I was born in Whittier. All of my family attended Swain County High School. Verna Burns Parton and Woodrow were my parents. I have four siblings, Buck, Jimmy (d), Mikey and Walter (d). I have one daughter, Julie.

Education: Swain County High School; BS Degree in Business Administration, Berea College; Master’s Degree in Urban/Regional Planning Virginia Tech; Law Degree University of Kentucky

1. My education in business, urban planning and law would all be relevant to the duties of a county commissioner. I have also worked in the North Carolina Governor’s Office for three years and the South Carolina Governor’s Office for six year, wherin I administered a multi-million dollar budget to local communities. I have practiced law in North Carolina, California, Oregon, Hawaii and American Samoa.

2. I would use some of the money, generated from the interest of the North Shore Settlement Fund to develop a long-range plan for the growth and development of Swain County. This plan would identify the needs of the county and set priorities for the funding of them.

3. The drug problem in Swain County must be addressed in coordination with Cherokee and the surrounding counties. The Swain County Coalition for a Safe and Drug Free County, working with the Swain County Health Department and other county agencies must access state and federal funds to develop programs of prevention and treatment of drug abuse. Cherokee, which has a budget 40 times larger than Swain, is developing a treatment system that may be available to us. We should explore ways to participate and learn from our surrounding communities.

4. I do support tobacco free parks.

5. I do support reasonable animal control in Swain. A shelter is needed and should be addressed in the long-range master plan as to its priority and funding.

 

Kevin Seagle

Community: Robinson Gap

Occupation: Part-time Swain County Building Inspections, business owner, minister

Family: Four children, married to Kela Seagle

Education: Graduate Robbinsville High School, US Navy, began work after

1. I believe I will make a good commissioner because of #1 my relationship with the people that we are representing. I know the land, the homes and families! I’ve personally traveled pretty much every road in our county. # 2 because I know how government works as I have worked for the county for the past 13 years, I’ve been through budgets been through good times and bad. I’m for us! We are all in this together, and the more we work together we will see things come together for the good of all. 

2. I believe the money should be used for citizens. I went to a children’s home a few weeks ago in Asheville with my daughter on a school trip to an awesome place with corn maze, climbing and bouncing features that our kids could have right here. I believe we owe it to those that the promise was made that lost their land to make sure we invest this money back into this generation and the generations to come. I believe we take care of our people by using some of the interest to for our seniors and youth. Matching grants? What are we matching and what is the effect down the road we can’t just build a building and not count the cost to maintaining and staffing and keeping it.

3. I believe in more drug awareness it’s better to be pro-active and preventative than reactive with more than just a say no to drugs campaign. Having access to treatment facilities that have a good success rate. Being in ministry I’m connected with two great recovery centers with great success. The needle exchange is good for the health of the drug user and spreading of deceases but it’s not the cure. We must work together as communities and family if we are to see the drug epidemic decrees in our county. Support of our law enforcement.  

4. Yes, I support it I think it’s a good thing anything to support Health in our community is a plus, but who and how to enforce it would be a big question, just because you have an ordinance it’s no good without enforcement. The schools already have it, restaurants have it.

5. Animal control, is it a need or a want? We got to look at cost building, staffing maintenance, rules. You’ve got to feed them, vet them. Where would you put it? I’m for it if we need it. The town has a leash law. Maybe we start small and finish big? Again, enforceable rules. 

 

and the generations to come. I believe we take care of our people by using some of the interest to for our seniors and youth. Matching grants? What are we matching and what is the effect down the road we can’t just build a building and not count the cost to maintaining and staffing and keeping it.

3. I believe in more drug awareness it’s better to be pro-active and preventative than reactive with more than just a say no to drugs campaign. Having access to treatment facilities that have a good success rate. Being in ministry, I’m connected with two great recovery centers with great success. The needle exchange is good for the health of the drug user and preventing the spread of diseases, but it’s not the cure. We must work together as communities and family if we are to see the drug epidemic decreases in our county. Support of our law enforcement.  

4. Yes, I support it I think it’s a good thing anything to support Health in our community is a plus, but who and how to enforce it would be a big question, just because you have an ordinance it’s no good without enforcement. The schools already have it and restaurants have it.

5. Animal control, is it a need or a want? We got to look at cost building, staffing maintenance, rules. You’ve got to feed them, vet them. Where would you put it? I’m for it if we need it. The town has a leash law. Maybe we start small and finish big? Again, enforceable rules. 

 

Holly Bowick

Community: Bryson City

Occupation: Investigator/ District Attorney’s Office 30th Judicial District

Family: Married /1 Daughter 

Education: Western, Culinary Arts Degree

1. I have lived in Bryson City for almost 30 years. My commitment to this county has and will always be to give back. When I first started getting involved it was through our daughter, I was involved in everything she was involved with, and my passion and commitment only grew stronger. 

My career with Swain/Qualla SAFE, gave me an opportunity to work with many organizations and programs in our county. law enforcement, DSS, HUD housing, our schools, transportation and our court system. I was able to see and work with each agency diligently and find solutions for some challenging situations. I served on several boards in our county and again was always able to work and find solutions that we as a small county can be faced with. I was then offered a job with the District Attorney’s office which allowed me to work with these same agencies, I continued to see challenges. 

I simply want to be a part of a solution to all of the issues our county is faced with. I am committed to making a difference. I will always put the integrity of our county first and listen to what our communities are asking for. 

2. The North Shore money is huge! Controlled growth is essential as well as controlled spending it’s a lot like running your own budget, you have to make every dime count and make sure you are meeting needs and not wants. We have adopted the upcoming budget 15.2 million for this fiscal year; we need to make sure that money is allocated where it needs to go.  I have said throughout my campaign, a new set of eyes and ears. Most important that money needs to serve our county and the needs of each community. 

3. The drug crisis that we are seeing affects so many families. It has many tentacles, we have seen a rise in domestic violence, child abuse, and crime and we have seen death. I have always said there are drug dealers and addicts, our county and law enforcement have sent a clear message of NO TOLERANCE, however we are still faced with the impact of treatment options. It’s bigger than we are. I don’t have all the answers, but what I have seen is the commitment from so many organizations in our community that are willing and ready to push their sleeves up and work. We need to look into partnerships with other counties, put our resources together. This impacts our county’s future. Our Children are the most important asset we have! They are our future, and it is our obligation to find answers with solutions. I will use a quote from a neighboring county; We have to have BUCKS, BUDDIES AND BEDS! 

4. I recently received this question in an email, my answer is simple, not popular, and we have to listen to our communities and our children. I have said throughout my campaign I would listen to our communities, and it is clear through much research, a high percentage of the survey’s taken our children and communities are asking for Parks and Recreation to be tobacco free. As I can appreciate one’s choice, I also responded with, I am not in favor of all County facilities to be tobacco free. I would look at where are the designated smoking areas? Maybe we could relocate them to a different location; it seems these areas are always in the front. I want to be respectful of all people’s choices. The questions I don’t have the answer to, is who will implement this change and who will oversee this change, and where are these resources going to come from?

5. I have said in other interviews you will never hear me say we don’t need an animal shelter. Is this the first priority on the list? This will take resources, there are regulations for these projects, and we are challenged now with a tight budget. I have said, we have to find a way to increase ALL county employees’ wages. As I am sympathetic to the needs of an animal shelter we have to take care of our community members, and that starts with a livable wage. What I could support is research. What does is cost to fund an animal shelter, what are the cost vs. benefits to our county, location, where does this fit into our already tight budget. 

Danny Burns

Community: Bryson Branch Community

Occupation: Retired

Family: Married to Mellie 38 years. We have two daughters, Anna and Maggie.

Education: Swain High School graduate

Incumbent: Served 4 years

 

  1. My willingness to serve our community with honesty and integrity along with the experience I’ve gained over the past four years as a county commissioner.
  2. Moving forward, the board needs to develop a five or 10-year plan to identify and prioritize the county’s needs then use interest gained from the settlement fund accordingly.
  3. As a commissioner, I will work actively with the programs that we already have in place, such as the health department drug coalition, DSS, and other community outreach groups that are willing to work together toward eliminating drug abuse in Swain County.
  4. Yes. I think it is vital for the health of our community to have tobacco free areas.
  5. Yes. I do feel there is a need for animal control and a shelter in Swain County. In terms of funding, I feel this project could potentially benefit from the future planning and use of the settlement money.

Roger Parsons

Community: Bennett Hill Bryson City

Occupation: Retired for 2 ½ years from UPS after 37 years employment

Family: married to Ginger Lambert Parsons EBCI tribal member, five children, and 8 grandchildren

Incumbent served 1 ½

1. I believe in gathering the facts and information to hear and listen to all sides of an issue and only then make an informed decision that benefits Swain County and Swain County citizens. I also believe civility is important with working with others. I believe I have a calm and steady nature; I also believe cohesiveness is important while working together on the board.

2. I believe there are several ways to use the interest off the settlement money. One way is to help pay off our debts that have the highest interest rate for example the jail has a high interest rate; I’d like to see it get paid down. Another way is when it works to the county’s advantage we can buy or pay for things outright instead of having to finance them. Paying for an ambulance is one example. Another way is possibly start a capital reserve fund for those unexpected expenditures we all face and county faces occasionally. I also believe in adding some of the interest to our general fund to help us keep our property taxes to a minimum.

3. Drug abuse is an issue. It’s sad to hear the stories of how drugs have impacted families, individuals in our communities. I believe it’s an education problem, a mental health problem a health problem, and a law enforcement problem. As a commissioner, I will support any way I can to partner with public and private agencies to help treat and combat drugs in our county. a county our size has to deal with funding issues so we must work with state federal and private agencies to help us monetarily address these issues plaguing our communities

4. Yes, I do. For years now, our schools have been tobacco free because we have all grown to understand what a health risk tobacco products are and how our youth can be influenced by tobacco products. In our recent recreation improvement survey, over 90% of those taking the survey said they were for a tobacco free rec park. So, I believe we should make our parks and rec facilities smoke and tobacco free areas. I’ve reached this decision to protect and for the benefit of children, especially at sporting events held at the Swain County parks. 

5. Yes, I do; something needs to be done. This is a hot topic with a lot of passion on both sides for and against. The board of commissioners looked into this issue before I got on the board. I would like for us to revisit this issue and develop a plan moving forward and possibly develop animal control ordinances and possibly then build a shelter. This is a strongly debated issue and whatever we do as commissioners I think we should address the concerns of all sides in the planning process. Part of the planning process would contain funding ideas and ways of supporting this. This will be a tough and difficult process. 

 

Carolyn Bair

Current community: Ela

Occupation: retired

Family: 3 children, 6 grandchildren, 4 great grandchildren

Education: Coosa High School, Rome, GA

 1. I want to be a people person, my phone number will be made public to where the people of Swain County can contact me. I want to be your voice in our county.

 2. I think it should stay where it is and only use the interest. That with what we have for our county is plenty. And if for some reason we need more of it, it will be there. Just don’t blow it on anything and everything we don’t need.

3. Yes, I want to help with the support of addressing the drug situation in our county. I am proud to be a part of the Renew Bryson City effort to inform people and get drugs out of our county.

4. Yes, and no vapes either. I would not want a child or grandchild exposed to any form of tobacco use.

 5. Yes, we need animal control in town and where there is a lot of housing and apartments, especially where there are a lot of children around. In the county is different especially where homes aren’t not as close. But don’t chain and leave out all the time. As far as a shelter, yes we need one. The PAWS shelter just can’t handle the problem we are faced with. I would like for part of the interest we receive to go to finding an appropriate place with at least 2 acres and build one that is county maintained.

Smoky Mountain Times

Mailing Address:
PO Box 730
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Bryson City, NC 28713 
Phone: 828-488-2189
Fax: 828-488-0315