The Macon County News traditionally provides our readers with profiles of candidates running for office in the weeks prior to the election. This week the focus is on the candidates for the 11th Congressional District; the candidates for the 50th District seat in the N.C. Senate; and the candidates for the District III seat on the Macon County Board of Education.
11th Congressional District Seat
Mark Meadows, 53, is the Jackson County Republican candidate vying for the 11th Congressional District Seat, currently occupied by Congressman Heath Shuler. Meadows is facing Democratic nominee, Hayden Rogers.
Born at the 42nd Army Field Hospital in Verdun, France, Meadows attended the University of South Florida, where he graduated in 1981 with a Business Management degree. Once a resident of Macon County, Meadows owned Aunt D's restaurant in Highlands for two decades before selling it and becoming a real estate investor. He is currently the owner of Highlands Properties, which specializes in construction and land development.
Although Meadows' decision to run for Congress is his first national election, he is no stranger to politics. His first position was as the Macon County Republican Party chairman. Meadows has also served on the Republican Party Executive Committee as well as a delegate to both the North Carolina and National Republican Conventions. He has also served on the N.C. Board for Economic Development in Western North Carolina.
Meadows currently lives in Jackson County with his wife, Debbie. The couple have two college-aged children, Blake and Haley.
When Meadows originally announced he would be running for Congress, he thought he would be facing veteran Congressman Heath Shuler. After Shuler announced his retirement, Meadows had to beat out a sea of candidates to secure the Republican nomination. Instead of facing Shuler in November, Meadows has had to change his strategy for the new Democrat nominee, Shuler's Chief of Staff, Hayden Rogers.
Despite being pitted against a different candidate for the election, Meadows said his reason for running remains focused on moving the country forward. “I have a deep concern for our country and the direction in which it is headed. I have a number of friends who have lost homes, jobs and even more important, they’ve lost all hope,” said Meadows. “I felt like we needed a business person to make tough decisions and get our economy moving again. I also saw the attacks that are taking place on our freedoms, our Constitution and our military and felt like there needed to be a strong voice to defend all of those.”
Throughout the election process, Meadows said his desire to seek office has been justified time and time again. “The reason I am running for office has been confirmed over and over again by people, regardless of party,” said Meadows. “They have seen how the America that we all love is being changed by executive order, by special interests and by an unwillingness of those in Congress to represent the will of the people in their districts. There has been an encouragement for us to spend less time in face to face meetings, and one-on-one situations, which we have resisted strongly over the last year and two months [of campaigning].”
According to Meadows, his focus in both Macon and Jackson counties is on job creation. “Obviously the greatest issue in both these counties is jobs,” he said. “Because we rely so heavily on construction in Macon and Jackson counties, as well as tourism and to a lesser degree, manufacturing, working to reduce regulations and free up capital to be loaned by banks for new housing starts and projects and refinancing is key. We’ve had numerous meetings with people in the financial services industry and mortgage bankers to address their concerns and figure out how we can best get construction moving again.”
Meadows noted that the greatest difference between him and his opponent is that unlike Rogers, Meadows has not spent any time in Washington. “I have spent my career as a small businessman and I know what makes businesses thrive and what chokes their growth,” said Meadows. “I have not spent any time in Washington, DC learning how to answer questions with non-answers. I have a strong energy background and I know in order to get gas prices down, we must drill and tap our oil and natural gas resources or we will always be a prisoner of the Middle East.”
In the event that Meadows is not elected to office in November, he plans to take the knowledge he has gained on the campaign trail and apply it to his personal life. “During the last 14 months, we have been able to meet so many new friends and people across the district,” said Meadows. “I have been energized by their willingness to sacrifice on behalf of their country. Although I will return to the private sector and work to create a new company, I see my volunteer efforts being increased to work with law enforcement agencies, first responders, non-profits and so many others that are committed to making our daily lives a safer and better place to live.”
Hayden Rogers is the Democratic candidate running for the 11th Congressional District seat currently occupied by Congressman Heath Shuler. Rogers is facing Republican nominee, Mark Meadows.
Rogers has focused on serving the people of Western North Carolina through his work in the local business community and the public sector. Rogers was born and raised in Western North Carolina. After graduating from Princeton University, Rogers returned home and began his successful small business career. In 2005, Rogers managed Heath Shuler’s first campaign to a landslide upset victory and went on to become the Congressman’s long-time Chief of Staff. Rogers is an avid sportsman and serves on the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission. He lives in Brasstown, NC with his wife, Dr. Donna Tipton-Rogers, and their two daughters.
After spending time in Washington serving the people of Western North Carolina, Rogers saw first hand the trials and tribulations of the people of the 11th District and decided to run for office to continue working on their behalf. “For five years, I have had the privilege and honor of serving the people of Western North Carolina as Congressman Shuler’s Chief of Staff,” said Rogers. “During that time period I saw the positive impact a member of Congress can have on both individual lives and an entire region. While Congressman Shuler decided to retire, I still have a strong desire to continue helping and serving the region where I was born and raised. I believe in the power of good public service and believe that Western North Carolina needs to have a strong, independent, solutions-driven leader in Congress who can get to work on day one fighting for the people of Western North Carolina.”
Although the political process sometimes requires the adoption of new strategies to beat out the competitor, Rogers said his reason for running for office and the method he has used to get him there have remained unchanged. “My reason for running has remained the same – I want to continue serving the people of Western North Carolina in Congress,” he said. “My strategy has always been to get our common sense message out to as many voters as possible.”
If elected to office, Rogers plans to hit the ground running working on creating jobs throughout the district. “I believe unemployment is the greatest issue facing Macon and Jackson counties and the rest of Western North Carolina,” said Rogers. “The best way we can create jobs and get our economy going again is by ending unfair trade agreements that ship our jobs overseas and creating new trade policies that put American workers on a level playing field in the global economy. We must reward companies that keep and create jobs here. We must also end burdensome federal regulations that stifle economic growth and make substantial investments in our infrastructure, our education system, and job training programs.”
In addition to job creation, Rogers hopes to have the opportunity to work across party lines to ensure that public education is fully funded to protect future generations. “I will continue fighting for the reauthorization and funding of the Secure Rural Schools Act to help the local school systems in Macon and other 11th District counties,” said Rogers. “In counties with such a high percentage of federally owned land, this program is vital to the fiscal stability of our schools. We must ensure it is reauthorized so that our children have the same chance of success as kids from less rural areas.”
According to Rogers, the most prominent distinguishing factor between him and Meadows is the fact that Rogers was born and raised in Western North Carolina, while Meadows was not. “I am the only candidate in this race who is from Western North Carolina and the only candidate with any experience representing Western North Carolina,” said Rogers. “I believe I better represent the views of most people in these mountains because I am one of the people. This is where I was born, where I was raised, where my family is from, and where I’m raising my family.”
In addition to his upbringing, Rogers noted that he differs from his challenger when it comes to working across party lines for the betterment of the people in Western North Carolina. “My opponent is an extreme partisan ideologue from Florida who moved up here to a gated community in Cashiers,” said Rogers. “We might agree on some things, like our support of the Second Amendment, and we might have similar experiences as small businessmen, but my opponent doesn’t know the real problems of mountain people because he is out of touch. He represents the extreme end of his own political party and has exhibited unwillingness to compromise and work across party lines. I believe we must take a pragmatic, bipartisan approach to governing. This is a major area where my opponent and I differ.”
Although both candidates have put job creation in their focal points if elected to Congress, Rogers said that the methods they would use vary. “My opponent believes the way to create jobs is more “free trade” agreements,” said Rogers. “I believe we must end so-called “free trade” agreements like NAFTA and start creating policies that put the American worker first. My opponent supports a voucher system for Medicare, which would increase seniors’ health care costs by hundreds of thousands of dollars. I am adamantly opposed to any plan that would turn Medicare into a voucher system. My opponent believes we must abolish the U.S Department of Education, which would eliminate millions of dollars in funding for rural schools like those in Macon and Jackson counties. I believe we must strengthen educational opportunity for all students. Every child in America, whether they grow up in a rural or an urban area, should have the same shot at success.”
Since he first announced he would be running for office, Rogers has kept his focus on serving the people in Western North Carolina. When asked what he would do in the event that he does not win in November, he said, “I have been completely focused on the November election since I entered the race in February,” said Rogers. “My plan is to be elected to Congress.”
N.C. Senate 50th District
Jim Davis, 65, is the incumbent Republican candidate vying for the 50th District seat in the North Carolina Senate. He is facing Democratic challenger John Snow.
Born in Lynchburg, Va., after graduating high school in 1965, Davis attended Southern Adventist University where he graduated in 1969 with a Bachelor of Arts in Biology and a minor in Chemistry. Davis went on to teach general science, biology and chemistry at Highland View Academy in 1970 before attending Loma Linda University School of Dentistry. Davis first opened his family dentistry practice in Franklin in 1974, and took a short break to receive his Master of Science in Orthodontics in 1989. Since receiving his Master's degree, Davis has maintained his practice in Franklin.
Davis married Judith N. Salyers in 1972, and has two sons, Joshua Ryan Davis, 35, and Jeffrey Clark Davis, 36. Davis attends Franklin Seventh-day Adventist where he has held offices such as deacon, elder, class teacher and board member.
Davis has served his community as a former member of Franklin Jaycees; as a member of the Chamber of Commerce, receiving member of the year in 1978; as a member of Franklin Lion's Club, where he served as first vice-president; and as a member of the Macon County Board of Health.
In 1996, Davis was elected to the Macon County Board of Commissioners, where he served two full, four-year terms. In 2008, Davis ran unopposed and remained on the board for two years until he ran against then Senator John Snow in 2010 and won.
While serving on the Board of Commissioners, Davis began to see more and more responsibilities being passed down to the local level. After seeing that firsthand, he decided to run for the N.C. Senate. “As a Macon County commissioner for 10 years, I saw that an increasing financial burden was being deferred to local governments and its citizens by our state without the accompanying authority to self-regulate,” said Davis. “I believe that local government is the best government that should not be saddled with unfunded liabilities. It was also apparent that North Carolina’s fiscal health was in jeopardy due to excessive spending and underfunded liabilities in the form of unrealistic promises. We cannot continue to transfer our financial obligations to future generations.”
After being in the Senate for two years, Davis said his reason for running for office has not changed, but he has had to alter his strategy in hopes of being re-elected. “The reason has not changed but the strategy to get elected is far different from running for county commissioner,” said Davis. “The cost of mailers and media advertising is excessive. In addition, outside entities distribute information on a candidate’s behalf without the candidate’s approval. My preference would be to have comprehensive debates, accurately covered by local media within each county throughout the district and abandon advertising altogether. There is no substitute for attending community functions, speaking directly to citizens, answering their questions, and learning of their concerns.”
Looking to the future, Davis has already begun working toward problems plaguing the 50th District. “The three issues of most concern to citizens are the economy, jobs, and education, in that order,” said Davis. “We do not have a state government unless we have thriving businesses to support our government with revenue. The most important things we can do to start and expand business are to have a tax and regulatory environment that is attractive. We are not only competing with neighboring states but a world economy. The state should be responsible for providing the infrastructure necessary for healthy business and a properly educated workforce.”
According to Davis, the main difference between him and his challenger is their differing experience in the work force. “I have spent my whole working life in the private sector, most of it as a small business owner with the accompanying responsibilities essential to ultimate success,” said Davis. “Customer service is not a nice slogan in private enterprise but critical for attracting and keeping consumers. Meeting a payroll is not elective and is not achieved solely by charging consumers more but also by keeping expenses under control. My opponent has spent his adult life working for government where the default answer to meet expenses is to keep raising revenue with increased taxes. If the tax revenue is not sufficient then our government borrows money. We cannot continue mortgaging the future of our children and grandchildren with excessive government and oppressive debt.”
If not elected to continue serving the people of Western North Carolina, Davis plans to find other ways to serve his community. “If not elected I plan to spend more time with my family, continue to work in my orthodontic practice, travel, get back to a regular exercise regimen, and find opportunities for public service other than elected office,” said Davis.
John Snow is the Democratic candidate vying for the 50th District seat in the Senate. Snow, who served as Senator from 2005-2010, is facing Republican incumbent Jim Davis.
Snow, a product of the Cherokee County public school system, graduated high school in 1963 and then went on to Wake Forest College where he received his bachelor's degree. He went on to further his education by getting his Doctor of Law Degree from Wake Forest University in 1970.
After college, Snow married Sheila Gossett, who worked as a high school math teacher for 33 years before she retired. The couple has four children, Paige Snow Brinke, Melissa Snow Reid, Nancy Snow Carr and John J. Snow III. Snow and his family attend Murphy First United Methodist, where he is a choir member and a Lay Leader.
Snow served as the 1st Lieutenant in the United States Army, ROTC Commission before joining the work force as an Assistant District Attorney from 1972-1976. Snow continued his career in public service when he was appointed as District Court Judge for the 30th Judicial District, where he served from 1976 until 2004, when he began his successful run for Senate.
With five years of experience in office, Snow decided to run for re-election because he believes that the current lawmakers are not working for the people of Western North Carolina. “I believe that lawmakers in Raleigh have chosen to spend their time pushing divisive social issues and a partisan political agenda taking our state in the wrong direction,” said Snow. “My priorities will be protecting education and creating jobs. I will put ‘People before Politics’ and provide quality constituent service in Senate District 50. Since 2010, unemployment in WNC has went higher; access to need-based grants were limited while tuition costs have gone higher; state fees for things like driver’s licenses have increased; and the number of educators in unemployment lines has risen. We can work to balance the budget, but not on the backs of working North Carolinians and students.”
After narrowly losing the race in 2010, Snow said that his reason for wanting to serve the people of the 50th District remains the same, and his intention of running a positive campaign despite being bombarded with negative attacks from his challenger continues to be a focal point. “My reason for running has not changed,” said Snow. “We are again faced with a deluge of outside money being spent on negative mailers and TV ads to try to again buy the Senate seat in District 50. I am physically campaigning in the district and relying on small campaign contributions from people in the District to inform, fight back and show in a positive way why I would again like to have the honor of representing the people of Senate District 50 in Raleigh.”
With the understanding that children are the future of this country, if elected, Snow intends to focus on fully funding education in order to instill a promise of success in future generations. “The greatest issues facing all of Senate District 50 are education and jobs,” said Snow. “This legislature has decided to do everything but focus on jobs. They’ve instead chosen to attack public education and cut education at every level. The cuts to education, raising tuition at community colleges and universities and slashing need-based student aid has severely hampered our workforce here in NC. In our Pre-K programs More at Four was cut $32 million and 4,000 at risk children were denied services.
“Education is the key to WNC’s future and the key to economic success for our mountain counties and this state. This year's budget cuts to education, including cuts for student aid, have been harmful. These cuts have limited access to our education system and stifled our economic recovery now and in the future.”
Snow believes that the greatest difference between him and his opponent is their perception of the purpose of serving Western North Carolina.
“My service to the people of Senate District 50 has been exactly that: Service that provides a safe living environment for families, great educational opportunities for children and students of all ages and legislation that creates good jobs and economic prosperity,” said Snow. “My opponent's legislative involvement has ‘put narrow ideologies ahead of practical results.’ He and his counterparts have concentrated on pushing divisive social issues and a highly partisan political agenda, ignoring and doing harm to our educational system, job creation and economic recovery. It is important that we legislate in a bipartisan fashion. No party has a monopoly on good ideas and we must avoid the gridlock of extremism. I want to go to Raleigh not to champion a particular political party or ideology but to best represent the needs of the working people of Senate District 50 and the people of N.C. The people of WNC are sensible, they know we do best when we're working together. We understand that we may not agree on everything, but the problem arises when we put politics over progress.”
Macon County Board of Education: District III
Tommy Baldwin is the incumbent candidate running for the District III seat on the Macon County Board of Education. Baldwin is facing challenger Melissa Evans.
Baldwin grew up in Nantahala, where he attended grades 1-12 at Nantahala School. After high school, Baldwin went on to take classes at Tri-County Community College and Western Carolina Unversity. He earned his welding certificate from Tri-County and has worked in Carrollton, Ga. building a powerhouse for a Georgia Power Company. “I also worked in Columbus, Miss., building a plant for Warhorse Corporation,” said Baldwin. “I came back home to start a family and be able to spend more time at home with my wife and kids.”
After returning to the Nantahala community, Baldwin began farming, which he did for 15 years. “I farmed tomatoes, tobacco, cabbage, potatoes and corn,” he said. “I started milking cows at age six, operated a dozer at 12, and I bought a backhoe at 18 and did contract work ditching septic tanks. I worked for NCDOT for 28 years. I currently serve as a deacon at Aquone Baptist Church.”
When Baldwin first decided to run for school board, it was for the best interest of the children in Macon County, a goal he wants to continue working toward, for at least one last term. “Children are the greatest asset for our future, our county, and our nation. They must have the best education we can give them,” said Baldwin. “ I am running for School Board to continue my work ensuring students in Macon County are well educated. I believe in hiring local. We should allow our local people a chance to work in their school system, creating a sense of ownership and morale in our communities. When I first ran for school board, I wanted to help increase learning in Macon County and especially in Nantahala.
Teachers needed help; there was a lot of sending teachers from school to school, sending them to Nantahala or to Highlands.”
Baldwin said his focus was on schools in the smaller areas of Macon County. “Nantahala and Highlands were sent a lot of weak teachers – teachers that didn’t want to be at Nantahala or at Highlands. So education at Nantahala and Highlands was suffering,” said Baldwin. “We needed to be above the regional averages in testing. Today, Macon County students are above the state averages. This means our students are well prepared for college and the work place. I want to be a servant to the people and students of Macon County in order to ensure students get the best possible education. “
According to Baldwin, his reason for running today is the same as it was on day one, which was 28 years ago. “My reason in running for office has not changed in 28 years – to ensure our students have the best possible education and be well prepared for college upon graduation,” said Baldwin. “I have worked diligently and proudly for the children of Macon County schools. When it comes to decision making on issues and people, I ask for God’s help. I pray very hard because I want to do the best that I can. We currently have a vacancy in the superintendent position and as a school board member, I see that it is imperative we choose a leader that has the education of Macon County students and our teachers in the forefront of his/her vision for Macon County schools.”
Having served on the board through the toughest financial state of the school board, Baldwin says moving forward his focus would continue to be on the school's finances. “One of my major goals for Macon County is to work on getting the state and federal government to pay their part in the educational endeavors of our students,” said Baldwin. “Secondly, I am opposed to merit pay for teachers. I would like to see the proposed merit pay scale for teachers abolished and reinstate the bonus pay for teachers and support staff as it was before the ‘No Child Left Behind’ legislation. Kids are my heart and as a school board member, my goal is to continue to work diligently to make sure each child in Macon County has the educational opportunity to reach their full potential.”
As a veteran board member, Baldwin has seen firsthand the change in the education system and believes that experience will help him to move Macon County forward. “The education our students receive needs to be suitable for a world being transformed by scientific and technological advances,” he said. “The challenges facing education today is more varied than in the past. It encompasses a rapidly increasing diversity of the nation’s population, the growing internationalization of commerce and culture, the explosive development of information technologies, and other great technical and social transformations. There is no simple, universal prescription for success. But a focus on high standards for all, coupled with recognition of the need for versatility in the face of change, can help prepare all students for the demands of the 21st century.”
Baldwin noted that his experience and knowledge of the education system is what sets him apart from his challenger. “I’ve been on the Macon County Board of Education for 28 years. I have also served as Chairman of the Board of Education and Chairman of the Macon County Fruit and Vegetables Growers Co-op,” said Baldwin. “I have worked with budgets, accounts receivable, labor disputes, and purchasing. I have been PTO Chairman, Midget and Mite basketball president, and I have coached Midget and Mite Basketball as well as coached the Lady Hawks High School Basketball team for a combined 35 years. I have given half my life to serving Macon County schools, students, teachers, parents and been available to help them at any time I was needed. It is my goal to be sure everyone has a fair chance in all areas of their careers, to maintain high ethics and honesty. I pray about my decisions because I want to do what is right. It comes from the heart.”
Melissa Evans is running for the open seat on the Macon County Board of Education in District 3 currently held by Tommy Baldwin.
Born and raised in Nantahala, Evans married her high school sweetheart, Ray Evans, in 1982. “We have two daughters, Amanda and Megan, who are both married with a boy and girl each,” said Evans. “Dillon who is nine and Daphne who is seven are now enrolled in Nantahala School. Cole and Delaney will start next year in kindergarten.”
Evans has worked at United Community Bank for the last 14 years and before that, worked at Coats North America for 11 years. “I am active in my church where I am the pianist, I love to read and I also paint. I have been able to sell several of my paintings over the last few years,” said Evans. “Education has always been important to me. My grandmother was an avid reader and had the bookmobile stop by her house every couple of weeks and she would check out books for the community. She had her own little library and she instilled in me a love for books. I feel that that early encouragement to read helped me a lot in school.”
According to Evans, because of the love of learning and importance of education her grandmother instilled in her early on, she decided to run for school board to ensure that her grandchildren have the same opportunity she did. “Education is so important to me; I made the mistake of not going on to college, but I encouraged my daughters to further their educations,” said Evans. “I actually wanted to be a teacher when I was in high school. So when I was approached by several members of the Nantahala community asking me to consider running, I decided that I did have something to offer. As I have said before, I want what 99.9 percent of the parents in Macon County want, a quality education for my grandkids, in a safe and healthy environment. I also want the teachers to have the tools they need to deliver that quality education.”
Throughout the political process, Evans noted that she still wants to be on the school board in order to ensure her grandchildren are afforded a quality education, she has had to mix up her approach. “ I think that my reasons for running have stayed the same but the strategy had to change,” said Evans. “I am not a politician by no means and I did not realize what was involved in running for an office. I have to say that some of the process has been a little overwhelming but I have adapted okay. I have had a tremendous amount of support and I have also got to meet a lot of wonderful people. There are a lot of people that are concerned about our education system in Macon County and that is a good thing because when it comes from the heart, people tend to work harder to meet goals.”
If elected, Evans plans to get started right away by taking a closer look at the budget for next year. “I feel that with my financial background I might have some ideas that can further stretch the dollar,” said Evans. “I have a limited amount of knowledge as to what the board has done so far but am trying to educate myself by going to the board meetings, talking with the board members and reading the school board handbook. I also know from talking to teachers that they are always short on the supplies they need for the classrooms, most of them dipping into their own pockets to purchase some of the items. I would like to see the school improvement committees taken further by encouraging the principals to take the lead and get teachers, parents and community involved. I love the old saying that ‘it takes a village to raise a child.’ We need as many people involved in our children's education as we can get. There are a lot of people that would be more involved with a little encouragement. And I have to say that I am very impressed with the Linda Mood-Bell program because I have seen such great results with my grandchildren.”
If not elected, Evans said through running for school board, she has realized the need for community involvement in the school system. “I have to say that this has opened my eyes to the needs of our education system and I am not going to let that knowledge go to waste,” said Evans. “I am very interested in the school improvement teams and would like to become active in that at Nantahala School. I have always supported the school. A few years ago, I realized that my company was giving a $500 scholarship to a Andrews High School graduate each year so I pushed to get one for a Nantahala student also and won. We have been giving one out each graduation for several years now. I also go to the schools in Andrews and teach a class about banking several times a year. This is by invitation from the school, and I would love to go to Nantahala also if there is a teacher that would like for me to do this.”
Evans has said that she believes that Baldwin has done a great job while in office, but that it is time for a fresh face on the board. “One of the things that sets me apart from my challenger is the fact that he has been on the board for 28 years,” said Evans. “After 28 years, there needs to be a fresh face with new ideas. He has done his job and now it is time to let someone else step in. I think that my financial background is also something new that I can bring to the table that my opponent does not have. I am also very used to dealing with the public and working through problems to find the best possible solution for my customers and I can bring this asset to the board also. There is a lot to be gained with good public relations. I have had several years of training in marketing and sales which can be helpful in dealing with the issues that education is facing today.”
“I love children and I want for Macon County to be at the top in education,” said Evans. “It is exciting to be a part of this process and I am loving it.”