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News Commissioners from across of the state tour Macon County

Two charter buses rolled up town hill last Thursday, carrying county commissioners from across the state. As part of the North Carolina Association of County Commissioners (NCACC) Annual Conference being held in Asheville, commissioners from all across the Old North State ventured to Macon County, many of which did so for the very first time.

The NCACC's newest president, Macon County Commissioner Ronnie Beale spearheaded the event.

“The visit to Macon County by dozens of county commissioners, along with their families, was important for several reasons,” said Beale. “The first being almost all of the visiting commissioners were from eastern North Carolina and had never been to Macon County. This visit gives them a new perspective about some of the issues that I have discussed over the years that are unique to the mountains, such as transportation and the importance of recognizing that even though we live 350 miles from Raleigh, we are still part of North Carolina. It also shows why we feel that our voices are sometimes not heard.”

“The visit to Macon County by dozens of county commissioners, along with their families, was important for several reasons,” said Beale. “The first being almost all of the visiting commissioners were from eastern North Carolina and had never been to Macon County. This visit gives them a new perspective about some of the issues that I have discussed over the years that are unique to the mountains, such as transportation and the importance of recognizing that even though we live 350 miles from Raleigh, we are still part of North Carolina. It also shows why we feel that our voices are sometimes not heard.”

Macon County Commissioners Ronnie Beale and Jim Tate travelled with members of the North Carolina Association of County Commissioners to places of interest in the county including the Town of Highlands. Pictured above (L-R) are Town of Highlands board member John Dotson, Beale, Mayor Pat Taylor, NCACC outgoing president Ray Jeffers, Tate, Eric Pierson, and Donnie Calloway. Dozens of commissioners and their family, a group of nearly 100 in all, filled Main Street in Franklin on Thursday. They had the opportunity to tour the Gem and Mineral Museum, the Scottish Tartan Museum, and the Macon County Historical Society Museum as well as do a little shopping at local businesses.

Throughout the trip, commissioners and their families continuously commented on the sights in and around the county. “First off you can't escape the beauty,” said Pitt County commissioner and NCACC’s 1st President-elect Glen Webb. “Mother Nature puts on a show in every direction. Despite the difference in landscape – very flat in Pitt County – Macon County reminded me of home. The people I met there treated me like I was an old friend. The barbecue is a little different, but still very good.”

Like many others, the day trip with the association was Webb’s first visit to Macon County, but he pledged that it would not be his last. "The folks in Macon County have a lot to be proud of and I can't wait to get back for another visit,” said Webb.

Retired Superior Court Judge James (Judd) Downs swears in Beale as the incoming president of the NCACC.After touring Main Street, the group loaded back onto the charter buses and travelled to the Macon County Veteran’s Memorial Park to meet with local veterans before being treated to some western North Carolina barbecue, courtesy of Fat Buddies.

“We are so happy to have all of you here in Macon County and are excited to show you this little place that we call home,” said Macon County Manager Derek Roland. “If God created anywhere more beautiful than Macon County, he must have kept it to himself.”

Beale and Roland presented outgoing NCACC President Ray Jeffers with a flag of Macon County. Franklin Town Manager Summer Woodard, along with Aldermen Verlin Curtis and Barbara McRae, presented Jeffers and the commission a key to the town.

With the intent of showing the visiting commissioners that although on a map Highlands is only 15 miles from Franklin, after lunch the charter buses were loaded again and headed up the gorge. With the assistance of local law enforcement agencies to ensure safety, the group made the drive to Highlands.

“I was happy to be in Macon County for the third time but never with as much detail and information,” said Tony Cozart, Granville County commissioner. “It was good to see so much of another part of God's beautiful creation. The ride to Highlands was scary and amazing at the same time.”

According to Beale, the ride was so memorable, the commissioners continued to talk throughout the remainder of the conference.

County Manager Derek Roland gives visiting commissioners the walking tour of Franklin’s downtown before ushering them to the Scottish Tartan Museum. Once their time was wrapped up in Franklin they rode up the gorge between Franklin and the Town of Highlands where they were met by Highlands officials and Highlands resident and county commissioner, Jim Tate.“Everyone on the trip had a wonderful time,” said Beale. “Several spoke to the entire conference about the hospitality that was shown to them. Of course, many had never been on Highway 64 from Franklin to Highlands. They really enjoyed the beautiful scenery and the falls. I do think some of our special guests were glad to arrive in Highlands.”

Before rolling into the Town of Highlands to be greeted by Commissioner Jim Tate and the Highlands Town Commission, the group stopped at Bridal Veil Falls and Dry Falls to take in the scenery.

Once in Highlands, Mayor Patrick Taylor greeted the group and presented the association with local artwork depicting the mountains of Macon County. After finishing up the tour of Macon County, the group was bused back to Asheville to continue the business of the conference, which included the swearing in of Commissioner Beale as the president of the NCACC on Saturday night.

“It is an honor and privilege to represent Macon County as president of The North Carolina Association of County Commissioners,” said Beale. “It was a very special evening to be sworn in as president. Retired Superior Court Judge James (Judd) Downs was kind enough to swear me in and to have in attendance my immediate and extended family also very special guests and commissioners [Kevin] Corbin and Tate.”

As president of the association, Beale plans to have his main focus be to shed light on the state of mental health in North Carolina.

“My main initiative will be to continue to work on the broken mental health system in our county and state,” said Beale. “I have appointed Commissioner Leon Inman of Stokes County to chair a statewide mental health task force. This task force will be based on the Macon County health task force that was formed several years ago. This statewide task force will consist of stake holders from across our state including the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services providers, and many others who see the need to work on this very important issue. For much too long the concentration has been on the process and not on the people who need the services. Not only is it a financial drain to our county but the system as it now operates is not designed to put the clients in a position to receive the long term care that is needed to treat this ever growing illness.”

Beale works locally with mental health divisions to decrease wait times and to get patients the treatment they need and deserve. “The only motivation that all of us should need is that with no other illness will you be brought to an emergency department and remain there for 40, 50, even up to 300 hours without treatment. This is unacceptable and we can and will do better,” said Beale. “It is my commitment to the citizens of Macon County to advocate for Macon County in every way possible knowing that without the support of Maconians, I would not have this opportunity. I thank them very much.”





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