Missing GA Man Vehicle Found in Haywood County

On May 14, Haywood County Sheriff’s deputies received a call in reference to a suspicious unoccupied vehicle on the side of a road in the Fines Creek area. Deputies checked the vehicle and found it was registered to a man listed as missing from Cherokee County, Georgia.

Search and rescue personnel were dispatched and continue to search the area for the missing man, Douglas Michael Shockley. He was last seen at 9 a.m. leaving the Bridgemill area in Georgia wearing blue jeans and a blue-green shirt. He left driving a white 2015 Nissan Frontier pickup.

Shockley is described as a Caucasian male, 46 years of age, approximately 5 feet 8 inches tall, 235 pounds with a muscular build, blue eyes and reddish-blond hair.

Anyone who has any information as to his whereabouts is asked to contact either the Haywood County Communications center at 452-6666 or the Cherokee County, Georgia, Sheriff’s Office at (678) 493-4080.

If you have any information please call 678-493-4080.

Anyone with any information as to his whereabouts is asked to call the Haywood Communications Center at (828) 452-6666.

NC Urges Vigilance to Prevent Rabies

As warmer weather approaches, the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services’ Division of Public Health (DPH) encourages North Carolinians to be aware of their surroundings and take precautions while enjoying the North Carolina outdoors with family, friends and pets, to prevent the spread of rabies.

Rabies is a deadly viral disease that attacks the central nervous system of warm-blooded animals, particularly mammals. In North Carolina, raccoons and bats serve as the source for most rabies viruses. These species may infect other animals such as skunks, red and gray foxes, coyotes, groundhogs and beavers. Any animal infected with rabies poses a human health risk. In 2014, there were more than 350 cases of animal rabies in North Carolina.

“Rabies is a preventable disease,” said State Public Health Veterinarian Carl Williams. “To protect your loved ones, including your pets, make sure you take basic precautions when enjoying time outside this spring and summer.”

Steps you can take to protect yourself, loved ones and pets include:

Vaccinate your pets against rabies and keep the vaccinations current. North Carolina rabies law requires that all owned dogs, cats and ferrets must be vaccinated against rabies by four months of age.
Supervise pets outdoors, and keep all pets on a leash.
Do not feed pets outdoors. Pet food attracts wildlife.
Do not feed wildlife, feral cats or feral dogs.
Secure garbage cans with wildlife-proof lids.
Leave young wildlife alone. If you find a juvenile animal that appears to need help, it is best to leave it alone and call a wildlife professional.
In the United States, human fatalities associated with rabies occur in people who fail to seek medical assistance, usually because they were unaware of their exposure. In most cases, fatality from rabies in infected humans can be prevented by prompt medical attention and vaccination.

If you are bitten or scratched by any animal that could possibly have rabies:
Clean the wound well with soap and running water for 15 minutes and contact your doctor. The doctor will determine if a series of rabies vaccinations will be needed.
Note the location and a description of the animal to provide to animal control.
Do not try to catch any wild animal that bites or scratches you. Call animal control immediately to capture the animal for rabies testing.
If the animal is someone’s pet, get the owner’s name and address and provide them to the animal control officer. Any mammal can transmit rabies. The animal that bit you, depending on the species and circumstances, must be evaluated or tested for rabies.
For more information, including facts and figures on rabies, visit: http://epi.publichealth.nc.gov/cd/rabies/figures.html

For recommendations regarding the public and interacting with wildlife, including feeding or rescuing wildlife, visit: www.ncwildlife.org/Portals/0/WildlifeProblems/documents/Feeding-Wildlife-Hazards.pdf

School lock down in Haywood County

Waynesville Middle School has implemented a minimum lockdown for precautionary purposes on Wednesday.
A vague and non-specific written threat was discovered on campus. After conferring with local law enforcement, school administrators implemented a minimum lockdown to follow up on investigative leads in a secure setting.

There was no apparent danger to students, staff or property. Additional information will follow as the investigation proceeds.

Haywood County Car Chase Ends in Arrests

A car chase that ended in a single-vehicle wreck in a pond on the Junaluska Golf Course this morning led to several felony charges for the vehicle’s occupants.

Haywood County Communications received a call shortly after 5:30 a.m. reporting two Duke Energy trucks had been stolen from the plant at the Waterville Dam in northern Haywood County. One truck had been abandoned in the nearby construction zone on Interstate 40, but the other was still missing.

A Haywood County deputy spotted a Duke Energy truck matching the stolen truck’s description near Lake Junaluska around 7:30 a.m. and attempted to stop the vehicle. Instead of stopping, the Quad-cab F250 increased speed and drove at high rates of speed on U.S. 19/23/74, Jones Cove Road and Interstate 40, driving the wrong way into on-coming traffic on at least two occasions.

Due to the recklessness and endangerment to which the driver had subjected the public, a deputy used his shotgun in an attempt to disable the vehicle near the Clyde exit. The truck sustained damage to the left rear tire and exited the interstate. The damaged truck continued down U.S. 19/23/74 and proceeded toward Lake Junaluska. The truck then drove out onto the Junaluska Golf Course and into a pond.

There were no injuries.

Deputies arrested 30-year-old Matthew Neal McCullough and 25-year-old Tiffany Marie Brainard; both of Travelers Rest, SC. Each was charged with two counts of felony breaking and entering a motor vehicle, felony breaking and entering, felony larceny of a motor vehicle, felony possession of a motor vehicle, and felony flee to elude arrest. Each was jailed in lieu of $15,000 secured bond.

Their court date has been set for May 28. The case remains under investigation.

Couple Sought In Stolen Equipment Case

Deputies are asking for the public’s help in locating two people they believe are stealing and trading heavy equipment in Haywood County and in surrounding states.

The Haywood County Sheriff’s Office has drawn warrants against 44-year-old Robert Eugene Woodward, of Gastonia, and 19-year-old Madison Brooke Hall, of Anderson County, South Carolina on charges of feloniously obtaining property by false pretense and felonious larceny and possession of a motor vehicle.

Detectives believe the pair rented a small excavator from an equipment rental business in Columbia, South Carolina, and then instead of returning it, traded it for a motorhome in Haywood County. The 2005 Trail Light motorhome is still missing.

The couple is wanted elsewhere in North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee, and Virginia in reference to similar crimes.

Equipment rental companies in the area are advised to be vigilant and watchful concerning rentals at this time.

Anyone with any information regarding Woodward or Hall SHOULD NOT APPROACH them, but instead consider them potentially dangerous and contact Haywood County Communications at (828) 452-6666 or their local law enforcement agency immediately.

Haywood County Man Killed in Lawn Mower Accident

At approximately 9 p.m. Sunday, Haywood Communications Center received a 911 call in reference to an accident with injuries on Pot Leg Road in the Jonathan Creek community. First Responders, Emergency Medical Services and Haywood County Sheriff’s Office deputies responded.
Upon arrival, responders attended 64-year-old Ronald Ray Brown, who sustained injuries when the lawn mower on which he had been riding slid off a bank and rolled over on him. He was pronounced dead at the scene. No other persons were involved.

Man Arrested For Holding Teen at Knifepoint

t600-mugA man accused of holding a teen at knifepoint, in her car in Waynesville, has been arrested.

Bradley Scott Reece is charged with 2nd degree kidnapping and breaking & entering into a vehicle.

Reece allegedly followed the 18-year-old to a parking lot, got into her backseat and demanded she drive him to a location a mile away.

According to the Haywood County Detention Center, Reece is being held under a $35,000 bond.

His next court date is scheduled for June 10th at 8:30am.

WCU has $511 million impact on WNC economy, statewide study of education says

Western Carolina University was responsible for injecting an estimated $511.3 million into the Western North Carolina economy during the 2012-13 fiscal year through the combined impact of payroll, operational, construction and research expenditures by the university and the spending habits of its students, visitors and alumni.

That is among the findings of a comprehensive study conducted by Economic Modeling Specialists International to examine the impact of higher education on North Carolina. The EMSI study examined the combined impact of the University of North Carolina system, North Carolina Community College system and private institutions, and also assessed the impact of individual UNC campuses, private colleges and community colleges on their local economies.

Western Carolina’s estimated impact of $511.3 million represents approximately 2.7 percent of the total gross regional product for the 10 counties examined in the WCU regional study – Buncombe, Cherokee, Clay, Graham, Haywood, Henderson, Jackson, Macon, Swain and Transylvania. The added regional income created by WCU is equivalent to creating 10,475 new jobs, the study indicates.

In addition, the study calculates the return on investment in WCU for students, society and taxpayers, finding that for every dollar students invest in their educations, they will receive $2.90 in higher future income. From a statewide societal perspective, for each dollar that society spent on education at WCU in the year analyzed, North Carolina will receive a cumulative value of $10.60 in benefits such as savings related to reduced crime, lower unemployment and increased health and well-being across the state.

For every dollar invested by state and local taxpayers to support the operations of WCU in the 2012-13 fiscal year, those taxpayers gained $5.40 in added tax revenues collected and public sector savings, the EMSI researchers said. Specifically, taxpayers contributed $85 million toward WCU that year, while the added tax revenue stemming from students’ higher lifetime incomes and increased output of businesses totaled $358.6 million, with another $103.6 million in benefits because of reduced demand for government-funded services, the study revealed.

“It has been no secret that Western Carolina University and our UNC system, community college and private institution partners in higher education are engines of economic and community development for the communities and regions we serve,” WCU Chancellor David O. Belcher said.

“It is heartening to read the results of this study, which clearly demonstrates the incredible value that WCU and other institutions bring to the state and to the region. I trust that elected officials, taxpayers, students, parents, alumni, donors, and the business community will appreciate the exceptional return on investment our state and region receive when they invest in higher education, whether through appropriations, tax dollars, tuition and fees, or charitable contributions,” Belcher said.

Other findings from the EMSI report about the impact of WCU on the regional economy in the year of the study:

* Research at WCU generated $849,700 in added regional income, which is equivalent to creating 15 new jobs.

* Construction spending by WCU was $2.3 million, equivalent to 79 new jobs.

* About 67 percent of the undergraduate and graduate students at WCU originated from outside the 10-county region. Spending by those students who relocated to the region added approximately $39.9 million to the regional economy, equivalent to 895 new jobs.

* Out-of-region visitors attracted to WNC because of activities at WCU spent about $34.8 million at hotels, restaurants, gas stations and other regional businesses, equivalent to creating 897 new jobs.

* The accumulated contribution of WCU alumni who are employed in the 10-county region amounted to $266.7 million in added regional income, equivalent to creating 5,643 new jobs.

Leaders from WCU, UNC Asheville and Asheville Buncombe Technical Community College gathered Friday, Feb. 20, at the Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce to discuss the impacts of their respective institutions – and of Blue Ridge, Haywood, Southwestern and Tri-County community colleges – on the communities that that they serve.

Belcher, UNC Asheville Chancellor Mary K. Grant and A-B Tech President Dennis F. King announced that public higher education institutions in WNC were responsible for injecting at least $2 billion into the state and regional economy during the 2012-13 fiscal year through their institutional expenditures and the spending habits of their students, visitors and alumni. Of that $2 billion, roughly 75 percent ($1.52 billion) stays in the 11 counties of WNC (Buncombe, Cherokee, Clay, Graham, Haywood, Henderson, Jackson, Macon, Madison, Swain and Transylvania), they said.

“I am a proud product of North Carolina’s public higher education system, as are my wife and my children, so I know first-hand of the value that the UNC system and the North Carolina Community College system bring to the people of North Carolina,” said N.C. Sen. Tom Apodaca, a 1980 graduate of WCU.

“From laid-off factory workers seeking retraining at their local community colleges so they can re-enter the workforce of the 21st century to first-generation college students finding a welcoming environment at our regional universities, the people of our communities benefit tremendously from public higher education,” Apodaca said. “The results of this economic impact study also show the impact that these institutions are having on our state and regional businesses and on society as a whole.”

The meeting of regional leaders of public higher education followed on the heels of a Feb. 18 announcement of the statewide impact of the UNC and community college systems and private institutions. That statewide study reported the UNC system alone, including campuses and affiliated medical institutions, created $27.9 billion in added state income, which is equal to approximately 6.4 percent of the total Gross State Product of North Carolina and is equivalent to creating 426,052 new jobs.

Looking at the statewide picture, WCU created $901.8 million in additional income in North Carolina during the 2012-13 fiscal year, an economic impact equivalent to creating 15,381 new jobs.

The EMSI researchers say that initial spending by colleges and universities on payroll, operations or goods and services creates a multiplier effect across other businesses throughout the state and regional economy. Data and methods used in the study are based on several sources, including the 2012-13 academic and financial reports from the campuses, industry and employment data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics and U.S. Census Bureau, and a variety of studies and surveys relating education to social behavior.

Researchers say the study applies a conservative methodology and follows standard practice using only the most recognized indicators of investment effect and economic impact.

For a copy of the full report, including a description of the data and methods used, visit the University of North Carolina website at www.northcarolina.edu/economic-impact-2015.

For more information about WCU’s regional economic impact, a printable PDF is available at www.wcu.edu/WebFiles/PDFs/15-123-Economic-Impact-Report-Western-Version.pdf.

Crimes Targeting Elderly in Jackson County

The Jackson County Sheriff’s Office is seeking information on individuals who are targeting the elderly possible posing as telephone workers or potentially state workers. Suspects lure victims outside, and usually behind their home while another suspect enters the home. The suspect that is with the victim behind the house then receives a phone call and says he has to leave. (This is possibly the other suspect calling to let him know he has gained the cash he was looking for).

Suspects described as two white males; both in their 50’s; one with a grey beard; operating a tan or light colored pickup truck, maybe 2005 model GMC Canyon, with a ladder and black plastic in the bed of the truck.

The Jackson County incident took place on May 3, 2015 around 530pm in the Glenville Community. Investigators are in contact with Habersham County, Georgia who also may have similar incidents.

If anyone has further information or may have been a target of these suspects, please contact Jackson County Sheriff’s Office Detective Andi Green at 828-586-1392.

Faced With A Shifting Shoreline, North Carolina’s Ferry System Charts A New Course

The people who live on the Outer Banks don’t need anyone to tell them Hatteras Inlet’s width is growing. Old timers here will tell you the distance between Hatteras and Ocracoke Islands used to be the length of a good tee shot. Now, the inlet separating the two coastal enclaves is nearly two miles wide. Hurricane Isabel seemed to kickstart the process in 2003. Hurricane Irene in 2011 made it worse.

For the North Carolina Department of Transportation’s Ferry System, the widening inlet created shoaling that clogged the channel its car ferries traditionally used to carry hundreds of thousands people and vehicles between the two islands every year. Despite repeated attempts by the Army Corps of Engineers to keep the channel open, its dredging efforts weren’t enough. In December 2013, the Ferry Division determined the route was no longer safe, and switched to a longer, more stable route that extended further into Pamlico Sound.

Despite its safety and stability, the new route led to new problems. Significantly higher fuel costs. Fewer scheduled departures in the busy summer season. Longer lines. Frustrated residents and visitors.

“Right now, we have a major congestion problem at Hatteras,” says North Carolina Ferry Division Director Ed Goodwin. “Day trippers are turning around rather than waiting for hours to board a ferry. Because of that, fewer people are visiting Ocracoke. We have to do something.”

That “something” could come in the form of the M/V Provincetown III, which arrived on the Outer Banks May 1 and was opened to the public for tours May 4-5. The ship, a 149-passenger catamaran-type ferry, is making several test runs between the islands, in what could be a prelude to supplementing the current fleet of car ferries with passenger-only ferry service between Hatteras and Ocracoke’s Silver Lake Harbor, right in the heart of Ocracoke Village. “The idea is that passengers would be taken straight into the village, where they wouldn’t necessarily need their cars,” says Ferry Division Assistant Director Jed Dixon. “If we could bring more people to Ocracoke in fewer vehicles, it would be a win-win for the Ferry System and for the people and businesses of Ocracoke.”

The visit from the Provincetown III, which is on the way from its winter home in the Caribbean to its summer job ferrying passengers between Boston and Provincetown, Massachusetts, is part of a feasibility study on passenger ferry service and other alternatives to alleviate the Hatteras congestion. The North Carolina Department of Transportation contracted with transportation consulting firm Volkert to conduct the study, which is set to be completed by the end of 2015.

“We’ll be asking all the tough questions,” says Will Letchworth, a transportation engineer and Volkert’s project manager. “Will day trippers be willing to part with their cars? Where can they park in Hatteras? How many passenger ferries would we need and what size should they be? Would there need to be transit options in Ocracoke? What kind of docks would need to be built? Would continuous dredging in Hatteras Inlet be feasible? There are a lot of differing opinions out there, and we will be listening to all of them.”

One thing everyone agrees on is that something needs to be done soon. Visitation to Ocracoke, accessible only by boat or private plane, dropped by 20 percent after the ferries started using the longer route. “Ocracoke’s economy can’t take any more hits,” says Hyde County Manager Bill Rich. “Tourists are the lifeblood of this island, and ferries are the only way we have to get them here. One way or another, we need to get our visitors back.”

For now, the Ferry Division is strongly encouraging this summer’s travelers to take their Ocracoke trips in off-peak hours, hoping to move the needle enough to alleviate the longest wait times. But everyone knows it’s only a temporary fix.

And like the land that used to bridge the distance between Hatteras and Ocracoke Islands, the time for a more permanent solution is quickly disappearing.

4 Arrested in Haywood County Stabbing

Four women have been arrested and another is being sought in the stabbing of a Haywood County woman Sunday.
Haywood County investigators are asking for the public’s assistance in locating Jamie Marie Long Sutton, 36, of Bryson City in connection with the assault. Sutton is described as American Indian, between 5 ‘3” and 5’6” tall, weighing about 180 pounds, with brown hair and brown eyes.
Haywood County deputies were dispatched emergency to 61 Fisher Lane in the Balsam community shortly after 2 p.m. in response to a 911 call reporting a woman had been stabbed. Officers arriving on the scene discovered a female victim who had sustained injury consistent with wounds from a bladed weapon. The victim was taken to Haywood Regional Medical Center for treatment.
Investigation later led to the arrest of four suspects:
Brooke Lynn Bushyhead, 34, of Clyde;
Ashley Jean Godbee, 22, of Waynesville;
Justice Rochelle Godbee, 20, of Waynesville; and,
Christina Setzer, 34, of Waynesville.
The women were each charged with felonious assault with a deadly weapon inflicting serious injury. Each was jailed in lieu of $30,000 secured bond. They are scheduled to appear in court May 13.
The investigation is continuing.
Anyone with any information regarding the whereabouts of Jamie Sutton should not approach her, but instead immediately contact Haywood County Communications at (828) 452-6666 or their local law enforcement and speak with an officer.

US Forest Service and US Air Force Join Forces to Fight Wildfires

During the week of May 4, 2015, crew and pilots will train and prepare for the 2015 wildfire season in Greenville, SC with practice water drops on several local national forests. Since the 1970’s, the US Air Force and US Forest Service have modified C-130 air tankers with specialized equipment to fight wildfires. During this year’s training, up to 15 practice flights per day will be conducted; in which military C-130s will drop water on 4 target sites identified on the Nantahala National Forest, Pisgah National Forest, Sumter National Forest, and Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest. Training includes both classroom and flight training for military flight crews, civilian lead plane pilots, and support personnel. The communities of Greenville and Spartanburg should expect to see an increase in C-130 aircraft traffic all week.

The Modular Airborne Firefighting System, or MAFFS for short, was developed to provide precise water or retardant drops in support of wildfire suppression operations. This system has become an important part of the agencies tactics used to reduce the spread of wildfire and protect fire fighters. The Department of Defense provides the C-130 H and J model aircraft, flight crews, and maintenance and support personnel to fly the missions. The US Forest Service provides the MAFFS equipment, ground crews and supplies the retardant.

There are a total of eight MAFFS ready for operational use this year, and each one is installed into an air tanker at the beginning of the season. The Air National Guard units who provide assistance are the 153rd Airlift Wing from Cheyenne, Wyoming; the 145th Airlift Wing in Charlotte, North Carolina; the 146th Airlift Wing from Port Hueneme, California; and the 302nd Airlift Wing, Air Force Reserve from Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado. The training in Greenville involves the 145th Airlift Wing from Charlotte and the 153rd Airlift Wing from Cheyenne. More than 150 personnel assist in the exercise during the week-long training

Jackson County Planning Director Resigns

Jackson County’s Planning Director Gerald Green has submitted his letter of resignation. Read his words below:

Good Day,
I have submitted my resignation as Planning Director for Jackson County to pursue opportunities that will allow me to better use my talents and abilities. My last day of work will be Friday, May 15, 2015. I appreciate all the time, support, and assistance you have provided as we have worked to make Jackson County a better place for all. Some of the things we have achieved in the past four and a half years include:
· Revision of the Jackson County Subdivision Ordinance to incorporate development standards that allow development while protecting our fragile natural resources.
· Drafting and adoption of an award winning water recharge ordinance that, if properly implemented, will help protect the County’s groundwater supplies.
· Obtaining $435,000 in grant funding for the construction of Jackson County’s first greenway and the management of the construction of the greenway trail.
· Preparation and adoption of a the Village of Cashiers Transportation Plan, which will aid in obtaining funding for the projects deemed important by the Village.
· Management of the transition of the County’s Community Development Block Grant program from one that cost the County substantial funds to one that cost no local funds while continuing to help provide Jackson County’s most needy residents, especially the elderly, with decent housing.
· Drafting of a new cellular telecommunications ordinance that balances the need to protect Jackson County’s natural resources with the need to provide communications service throughout the County.
· Initiation of efforts to turn the former Drexel manufacturing factory from a liability into an asset for the Whittier community and the County.
· Preparation of the Cashiers Creek hydrologic study, which is the first step in addressing the flooding of Frank Allen Road and surrounding properties by Cashiers Creek.
· Designation of three properties, the Hooper House, Webster Methodist Church, and the Mordecai Zachary House, as local historic properties in an effort to recognize the importance of these properties and the people associated with them in the history of Jackson County.
· Development of a Well@Work program that both helps manage health insurance rates for Jackson County employees and provides employees with opportunities to improve their health.
· Revision of the US 441 Corridor Development Ordinance to manage development along the corridor while better reflecting the character of the corridor and the goals of the community.
· Drafting of the Cullowhee Development Standards and zoning designation map, which, if adopted, will manage the development and growth of Cullowhee and provide a safer environment for property investments.
· Revisions and updates to the Cashiers Development Ordinance to guide the development of this unique community.
· Updates and revisions to the Sylva and Dillsboro zoning ordinances to prepare these communities for continued growth and development.
· Participating as a member of the WCU Master Plan steering committee, helping to create a plan to guide the growth of this great institution.
· Obtaining funding for and designing a trail that connect the sidewalks in Mark Watson Park to Savannah Drive, providing a view of the wetlands and interpretive signage to educate the public of the importance of wetlands in our ecosystem.
· Designation of downtown Sylva as a historic district on the National Register of Historic Places, providing the ability for property owners to obtain tax credits for property improvements while imposing no restrictions, and recognizing the history of the downtown.
· Continued revisions to the Mountain and Hillside Development Ordinance to assure the provisions of the ordinance can be enforced objectively and fairly while protecting the people and natural resources of Jackson County.
· Creation of a professional planning department that treats everyone fairly and objectively while enforcing standards and regulations uniformly and as intended by those who worked for their adoption..

Addressing the opportunities and challenges that face Jackson County will require leadership, vision, and tough decisions on the part of the Jackson County Board of Commissioners and others. I urge you to provide them support and input as you all continue to work to make Jackson County an even greater place.

New park deputy superintendent announced

Great Smoky Mountains National Park Superintendent Cassius Cash announced that Clayton F. Jordan has been selected as the next New park deputy superintendent announced.

He replaces Patty Wissinger who passed away in June 2014. Clay is currently the Resource and Visitor Protection Division Chief where he has served since 2010. He also recently served as the Smokies Acting Superintendent from September 2014 through January 2015 and Acting Deputy Superintendent from May 2014 through August 2014.

Clay steps into this permanent role with a tremendous amount of knowledge regarding ongoing issues and park operations along with park partner and community relationships.

“Clay has developed strong leadership knowledge of the overall operations at the Smokies through his service as Acting Superintendent and Deputy Superintendent over the last 8 months,” said Park Superintendent Cassius Cash. “Clay has been nationally recognized for his strong leadership within the resource and visitor protection leadership ranks as well as with our local partners and the employees here at the Great Smoky Mountains. I look forward to having Clay as my leadership partner as the National Park Service moves into its second century of service!”

Clay has 29 years of service in park resource and visitor protection operations. Prior to coming to the Smokies as Chief Ranger in 2010, Clay served in several supervisory park ranger positions, including Chief Ranger at Gulf Islands National Seashore and Deputy Chief Ranger at Shenandoah National Park. Prior field assignments included positions at Fire Island National Seashore, Olympic National Park, Cape Cod National Seashore, and Mount Rainier National Park.

Clay’s career also includes two notable temporary details where he provided leadership beyond park boundaries. Clay served as the Acting Regional Chief Ranger for the thirteen-state Northeast Region for eight months in 2005 and also as a Deputy Incident Commander within the Unified Command, tasked with directing the Mississippi Canyon Oil Spill Response along the Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida Panhandle coast.

“I am honored to have the opportunity to fill a new role within the team while continuing to work with such an outstanding cadre of staff, volunteers, and partners who are each dedicated to providing great stewardship of this tremendous park,” said Deputy Superintendent Clay Jordan.

A native of New York, Clay possesses a Bachelor of Science degree in Outdoor Recreation and Park Administration from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. He and his wife, Ann, reside in Seymour with their two children, Skylar and Hannah.

A Picture Is Worth A Thousand Words

North Carolina House committee voted unanimously Wednesday to ban “revenge porn” and online impersonation. North Carolina lawmakers want to make it illegal for someone to post graphic sexual pictures online to intentionally embarrass or hurt another.

House Bill 792 would make it a felony to distribute nude or sexual photos obtained “within the context of a personal relationship.” That targets the growing trend of “revenge porn,” in which someone posts nude photos online after a romantic relationship ends.

The crime would be a low-level felony that could give a judge the option of sentencing the offender to jail. The victim also could sue for civil damages.

Announcing the Winners of the Youth Talent Contest at Greening Up The Mountains Festival

The 18th Heritage Alive! Mountain Youth Talent Contest was held at the Greening Up the Mountains Festival in Sylva, NC on Saturday, April 25th. This contest provides an opportunity to discover, develop, and encourage talent in the youth of Western North Carolina and to provide an opportunity for local youth to perform on stage before an audience. In hopes of encouraging a continuing “sense of place” for our young musical mountain youth, Jackson County 4-H and Catch the Spirit of Appalachia (CSA) co-produce this contest that was held on the Signature Brew sponsored stage. Many thanks to our Judges: Julianna Warner, Ron Smith, and Judy Rhodes!

Congratulations to this year’s winners:

Youth: Mandolin
1s: Caleb Turpin, Robbinsville, NC (10)
2nd: Emma Budden, Cullowhee, NC (12)

Youth: Fiddle
1st: Haven Bryant, Sylva, NC (9)
2nd: Sayumi DeSilva, Sylva, NC (9)
3rd: Abby Sparks, Whittier, NC (9)
4th: Aspen Budden, Cullowhee, NC (10)

Youth: Guitar
1st: Caleb Turpin, Robbinsville, NC (10)

Youth (age 5-9): Vocal
1st: Ella Ledford, Sylva, NC (9)
2nd: Kadence Simpson, Easley, SC (7)

Youth (age 10+): Vocal
1st: Lindley Wyatt, Whittier, NC (10)
2nd: Emily Franklin, Bryson City, NC (12)
3rd: Caleb Turpin, Robbinsville, NC (10)

Teen: Vocal
1st: Iris Deyman, Pisgah Forest, NC (14)

Teen: Banjo
1st: Sean Crowe, Cleveland, SC (13)

Teen: Mandolin
1st: Cole Rogers, Central, SC (13)
2nd: Trey Pate, Cullowhee, NC (14)

Teen: Fiddle
1st: Jenna Eyler, Sylva, NC (14)

Teen: Group
1st: “Saluda Flavor,” Sean Crowe (13) & Cole Rogers (13), SC

Best of Show:
1st Place: Ella Ledford (9)
2nd Place: “Saluda Flavor,” Sean Crowe (13) & Cole Rogers (13)
3rd Place: Caleb Turpin (10)

The first place Best of Show winner will get the chance to perform on stage at the Mountain Heritage Day held at Western Carolina University on September 26th in Cullowhee. At this larger venue, with it’s broader audience, it will be terrific to watch the young people from the Talent Contests serve as ambassadors of traditional Appalachian music and heritage.

WNC entrepreneurs win $7,000 in prize money at WCU innovation conference

Entrepreneurs and owners of existing small businesses from Asheville, Sylva and Hickory shared $7,000 in prize money to help launch or grow their companies during the inaugural LEAD:Innovation conference Wednesday, April 22, at Western Carolina University.

Billed as kinder, gentler versions of the hit TV show “Shark Tank,” competitions included the “Bright Ideas Rocket Pitches” event, a series of fast-paced proposals from entrepreneurs and inventors aimed at potential investors, and the “Promising Business Acceleration” contest, in which owners of promising existing businesses make proposals for additional capital to accelerate growth.

Paul Hedgecock of Asheville won first prize of $2,500 in the “Bright Ideas Rocket Pitch” competition for his pitch for Ugo Tour, a travel and tourism smartphone app for Western North Carolina points of interest.

Second place and $1,000 went to Emily Edmonds of Sylva for her concept for WNC Brewhub, a proposal to establish a shared beer production and distribution facility for breweries across the region.

In the “Promising Business Acceleration” competition, Ted and Flori Pate of Asheville claimed first prize and $2,500 to build their business Local Flavor, which provides a free app for smartphones that promotes only local, non-franchise businesses.

Steward and Tammy Cook of Hickory took second prize and $1,000 for Cook Consulting App Garden University, a virtual training tool that provides training for substitute teachers customized for individual school districts.

The LEAD:Innovation conference included nine “Bright Ideas Rocket Pitches” and six “Promising Business Acceleration” presentations, said Ed Wright, WCU associate professor of global management and strategy and among the event organizers.

“The subjects of the pitches were quite varied, ranging from an online physicians’ tele-health start-up to new products for stroke rehabilitation,” Wright said. “Overall, the quality of the pitches was excellent, and we look forward to doing this event on a larger scale next year.”

About 100 entrepreneurs, prospective entrepreneurs, investors and others interested in the economic development of Western North Carolina attended the entrepreneurship and small business summit.

The conference was part of a series of scheduled “spin-off events” from November’s LEAD:WNC, a one-day summit convened by WCU to discuss solutions leading to sustainable economic and community development.

New Bridge Planned For Dillsboro

vcsPRAsset_2559318_71914_a97405db-4343-4f0d-9c02-75946d9badeb_0The N.C. Department of Transportation is holding a public information session Thursday, April 30, for a new bridge on U.S. 23 Business just east of downtown Dillsboro.

The current bridge, spanning Scott Creek and the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad, was built in 1939 and is considered structurally deficient and functionally obsolete. That means while it remains safe, it is in deteriorating condition and has weight limits restricting the kinds of vehicles able to use it. The new bridge will be built to current design standards and will not have the weight restrictions of the current bridge. The project is part of NCDOT’s overall bridge program to improve the condition of the state’s bridges.

NCDOT representatives will be available from 4 to 7 p.m. at Jarrett Memorial Baptist Church at 18 Church Street in Dillsboro to share information on the project, and get feedback from drivers and residents. Interested parties can stop by any time during the session as there will not be a formal presentation.

Maps and proposals under review are available at the NCDOT public meetings website. Click on the listing for “Replacement of Bridge #27 along U.S. 23 Business over Scott Creek and Great Smoky Mountain Railroad”.

NCDOT will provide auxiliary aids and services under the Americans with Disabilities Act for disabled persons who wish to participate. Anyone requiring special services should contact Ms. Diane Wilson at (919) 707-6073 or by email at pdwilson1@ncdot.gov as early as possible so that arrangements can be made.

Health Advocates Speak Out against Longer Abortion Waiting Period

Among the backlog of bills in the North Carolina General Assembly this session, one that is making progress would triple the wait time for a woman seeking an abortion to three days. The legislation (HB 465) passed the House last week and is expected to move on to the State Senate.

Alison Kiser with Planned Parenthood says while her organization supports women making informed and thoughtful decisions about a tough life choice, she believes the arbitrary time constraint is unfair, “We all want women to have the information and support they need to make a carefully considered decision about a pregnancy. This delay is really about shaming women and blocking their access to a safe, legal medical procedure.”

A woman now has to wait 24 hours to have an abortion in North Carolina, a law that was passed in 2011. If the legislation passes, North Carolina would become the fourth state to require a three-day waiting period. Supporters of the bill say the waiting period is necessary to ensure that women understand the impact of their decision.

Kiser also says it’s worth noting the speed at which the bill passed in the House Health Committee last week, “The leaders of the committee willfully ignored opponents of the bill who had lined up to speak. Only one opponent of the bill was heard, whereas more than a half-dozen supporters of the bill were allowed to make public comment in the course of a 50-minute debate.”

While campaigning for governor, Governor Pat McCrory said he would place no additional restrictions on abortion. Kiser and others are calling for him to keep that promise

Tourism to Great Smoky Mountains National Park creates $806 Million in Economic Benefit

Great Smoky Mountains National Park – A new National Park Service (NPS) report shows that 10,099,276 visitors to Great Smoky Mountains National Park in 2014 spent $806,719,900 in communities near the park. That spending supported 12,759 jobs in the local area.

“After a record setting year in 2014, we are pleased Great Smoky Mountains National Park continues to provide not only an incredible resource for visitors to explore and enjoy, but also serves as a driving economic force in the local community,” said Superintendent Cassius Cash. “As the National Park Service moves into its second century, we hope visitors will continue to find their park here in the Smokies.”

The peer-reviewed visitor spending analysis was conducted by U.S. Geological Survey economists Catherine Cullinane Thomas and Christopher Huber and National Park Service economist Lynne Koontz. The report shows $15.7 billion of direct spending by 292.8 million park visitors in communities within 60 miles of a national park. This spending supported 277,000 jobs nationally; 235,600 of those jobs are found in these gateway communities. The cumulative benefit to the U.S. economy was $29.7 billion.

According to the 2014 report, most park visitor spending was for lodging (30.6 percent) followed by food and beverages (20.3 percent), gas and oil (11.9 percent), admissions and fees (10.2 percent) and souvenirs and other expenses (9.9 percent).