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Candidate Profiles: Macon County Board of Education

We are just a few short weeks away from the 2022 election, with the early voting period set to begin Thursday, October 20, 2022, and ends at 3 p.m. on Saturday, November 5, 2022. Registered voters or eligible individuals in North Carolina may cast an absentee ballot in person during this time. This period is sometimes called “one-stop early voting.” 

This November, voters will have the chance to vote for Sheriff, Clerk of Superior Court, Register of Deeds, and Soil and Water Conservation District Supervisor as well, although those races are all uncontested and feature just one candidate, with the exception of Clerk of Superior Court. While Dinah Roper Mashburn’s name will be included on the ballot for the Democratic Party, she has recently announced that she is suspending her campaign and is putting her support behind the Republican candidate and current interim Clerk of Superior Court, Shawna Thun Lamb. 

Macon County residents will first cast their vote for the Macon County Board of Commissioner District 1 seat — which represents the Highlands, Elijay, Flats, and Sugarfork area of the county. Voters will pick between either Highlands Resident and unaffiliated candidate Jerry Moore, or Ellijay resident and Republican candidate John Shearl. Both Moore and Shearl are considered newcomers in the race as the incumbent for the seat, Jim Tate, announced his retirement from the board earlier this year. 

On the back side of the ballot, voters will then be asked to cast their votes for TWO candidates under the Board of Commissioner District 2 seat — which represents Iotla, Millshoal, North Franklin, east Franklin, South Franklin, Union, and Smithbridge.  There are TWO seats up for election, meaning every voter can select TWO out of the four names that appear on the ballot. Incumbents Ronnie Beale (Democrat) and Gary Shields (Republican) are running for re-election and will be facing challengers Betty Cloer Wallace (Democrat) and Danny Antoine (Republican). 

In total, Macon County voters will be selecting THREE commissioners — and because November is a general election, not a primary election, any voter can vote for any candidate, regardless of political affiliation. All candidates will appear on the same ballot. 

The Macon County Board of Education election is a nonpartisan election and will feature two board seats. For the Board of Education District 2 seat, which covers the Franklin-area the ballot will feature Incumbent Tommy Cabe, Billy Handley, Stephanie Hyder Laseter, and Danny Reitmeier. While Cabe’s name will appear on the ballot, he passed away in August.

For the Board of Education District 4 seat, which serves at the board’s “at-large” seat covering the entire county, the ballot will include incumbent Carol Arnold and challenger Diedre Kaye Breeden. 

As we inch closer to Election Day, we will be doing candidate profiles for all elections. To begin the series of local candidate profiles, we interviewed all candidates for Macon County Board of Education. 

Macon County Board of Education—District 4

Carol Arnold

Carol Arnold is a product of Macon County Schools. She attended Iotla School and graduated from Franklin High School in 1973. Arnold continued her education at Western Carolina University where she majored in Early Childhood Education. In 1974, she married Jerry Arnold and they have been married for 47 years.  Together they have 71 total years working experience in the North Carolina public school system, most of those serving the children and community of Macon County. The Arnold’s have one son, Jason Arnold, who is currently Chief Assistant District Attorney for the 43rd Prosecutorial District. 

Arnold has dedicated her life to public education and holds a Bachelor of Arts in Education, a Master of Arts in Education, Six Year Educational Degree, and holds the following Educational licenses:  Early Childhood, Middle Grade, Mentor, Curriculum Specialist, Principal and Superintendent Licenses (All Current).

Arnold has served as a teacher in both Swain and Macon County — receiving Macon County Teacher of the Year in 1984. She worked as the Exceptional Children Director for Macon County as well as in the Central Office Executive Program at the University of Chapel Hill. Arnold was an Ed/Consultant for the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction serving Region 8 as well as an Education Mediator for Region 8. Arnold has worked to help the future of education serving as an Adjunct Professor at Western Carolina University. Arnold worked as the Associate Superintendent for Clay County Schools and finished out her educational career serving as a Contract Consultant for Macon County Schools advising the district on Federal Educational Programs. 

Arnold was appointed to the Macon County Board of Education in 2020 after board member Fred Goldsmith resigned from his seat. 

“Franklin High School is deteriorating. Fred Goldsmith left me a responsibility to see a new high school completed,” Arnold said when asked why she was seeking election to the Macon County Board of Education. “This, accompanied by increased parental involvement in all areas, because I believe parents deserve a voice in their child’s education and should be afforded every opportunity to make the decisions they feel is right for their child, as well as ensuring academics are promoted in all subjects, safe schools, and Pre-K classrooms in ALL elementary schools is why I am running for election. Our county’s parents deserve no less.”

Diedre Breeden Diedre Breeden is a wife, mother of three and a follower of Christ. Native to Macon County, Breeden was raised by a family of educators and highly values the role of education and learning in our lives. 

Breeden has a B.A. in Psychology and M.A. in Professional Counseling. Currently, she owns and operate a private Christian counseling practice in Franklin. In addition to this, she and her husband, Barry lead Heart for Families, a local non-profit that specializes in bringing Bible-based marriage and family resources to the community. 

“I am running [for office] because I have a desire to serve and want to make a difference,” said Breeden. “I am a parent of children currently in the school system so I have insight to current issues and my professional background gives me a perspective I believe would be an asset to the board.”

What do you see as being the greatest issue facing the school system?

ARNOLD: I see the top three issues facing Macon County students as being 1) The need for a new high school in Franklin and the need for Pre-K classrooms in ALL elementary Schools. 2) We desperately need updated technology in all subject areas for our students, for both academics as well as vocational classes and 3) We have to continue working to build strong partnerships with local law enforcement to improve our schools to be as safe as possible,” said Arnold

BREEDEN: “Mental Health is huge,” said Breeden. “Over the last few years, we have seen a significant rise in mental and behavioral health issues within our students and families. Every school in our county has expressed to me the need for adequate mental health support within the school system.”

Macon County is in the midst of significant infrastructure planning for the school system. A) What are your thoughts on the new Franklin High School Project Proposal? B) What are your thoughts on the proposed expansion to Highlands School?

ARNOLD: A) “I have had the privilege to work with our county commissioners and community leaders on the High School Facilities Committee to develop and provide a safe and modern high school to replace the deteriorating old Franklin High School,” said Arnold. “The current school no longer best suits the needs of our children to be prepared for college and the 21st Century workforce. We need a high school that serves all our students, including those with disabilities. We must make our new school “safe school” compliant protecting our students and staff and helping our school resource officers by reducing the number of school entrances and exits and being able to install new communications technology.”

B)  “I have been fortunate to have a husband who has worked both at Highlands School and Nantahala School to give me valuable insight to our two unique K-12 schools,” said Arnold. “I have also had the privilege to work with our county commissioners and community leaders in Highlands to support the proposed expansion to Highlands School. I have worked hard to ensure that Highlands School and Nantahala School receive equal opportunities to any program being offered by Macon County Schools.  Community leaders and parents have spoken loud and clear that they need Pre-K in Highlands. I will continue to advocate for Pre-K for Highlands parents and will not stop until the goal is achieved.”

BREEDEN: A&B) “I will always be in favor of investing available resources into providing the most up-to-date learning environment possible for our students, as a way of promoting their success,” said Breeden. “It’s important as representatives of Macon Co. as a whole, we equally consider all needs within the school infrastructure and find effective ways to prioritize and responsibly tackle these issues with student and teacher safety as well as long-term growth and sustainability in mind.”

What are the top three things you hope to accomplish if elected? 

ARNOLD: “The top issues facing Macon County Schools mentioned earlier are the very reason I am running for the board,” said Arnold. “The top issues are things we have been working diligently to achieve since I was appointed to the board in 2020 and I want to retain my seat on the board to see these projects through. I want to see the completion of a new high school for the Franklin area as well as Pre-K classrooms for every elementary school in Macon County. I also want to see updated technology for both academics as well as vocational classes. College may not be the right course for every student, so we need to make sure our vocational courses are afforded every opportunity and resource as the academic courses. I also want to build on the partnerships with local law enforcement agencies in Franklin, Highlands, and Macon County Sheriff’s Office to ensure our schools are as safe as possible.” 

BREEDEN: “My priorities will always be the students and teachers in our community, as well as promoting parent voices and encouraging that relationship to continue to strengthen, as it really does take a village to raise up future generations,” said Breeden.

What is your stance on the proposed sales tax referendum scheduled to appear on the November ballot?

ARNOLD: “No matter what each voter decides on this issue at the ballot box, funding our school facilities has always been an “all hands on deck” proposition that all of our county leaders, past, present, and future will grapple with,” said Arnold. “Macon County parents and leaders have always had a partnership to do what is right for our students. I’m excited to be a part of this process and even if we disagree on how to go forward, we can still find solutions together.”

BREEDEN: “We have increasing needs county-wide, including school infrastructure, and this would be an efficient way to keep bringing more money into our county without local taxpayers bearing all of that burden,” said Breeden. 

Any additional information you would like to include?

ARNOLD: “I have spent my entire life working in public education and hope to continue serving Macon County to see that our students have every tool possible to become the next generation of leaders,” said Arnold. 

BREEDEN: “I am a parent, and I am invested in Macon County,” said Breeden. “I strongly believe in parents having input and choice in their child’s education, which I believe will only become more important over the next few years.”

Macon County Board of Education— District 2

Billy Handley 

Handley has been happily married to his wife, Heidi for 24 years. They have two children, a daughter, Leighanne who graduated from Franklin High School in 2020, and a son, Ty, a senior at Franklin High School who will be graduating in the spring of 2023. Handley is the son of Bill and Joyce Handley. His dad was the manager at Nantahala Lumber for many years and he also served in the Navy and is a Vietnam Veteran. His mother retired for the first time from First Citizens Bank, she also worked at Franklin Health and Fitness Center. She is currently working at Nantahala Physical Therapy and used to be an Alderwoman for the Town of Franklin for many years. Handley has coached the youth of Macon County on and off for 30 years.

Handley graduated from Franklin High School in 1988 and then received his Bachelor of Science Degree from Western Carolina University. He currently serves as the general manager of Tastinger’s Floor Covering in Franklin, NC. 

“I have been looking for a way to serve the community for a few years now,” Handley said of his decision to run for office. “I felt it would be a good time to give back and try to help our teachers, staff, and students of Macon County.”

Danny Reitmeier

Danny Reitmeier was raised in Franklin with his sister, Beth Corbin and brother Chris. He was a student-athlete and very involved in student government all through his school years.  After Reitmeier graduated from Franklin High school he joined the Air Force and served for 8.5 years. He is a proud Veteran, having served in Saudi Arabia during Desert Storm. Reitmeier is married to his wife, Kim, and together they have a wonderful family as proud parents and grandparents. Reitmeier is a born-again Christian, saved by the blood of Jesus. He is a member of Holly Springs Baptist Church, which he has attended for 28 years. Reitmeier has been a Sunday school teacher, sang in the choir, and helped with the church youth group. He has coached many youth sports teams and has umpired and refereed in youth leagues for many years.  Reitmeier also has volunteered his time at many school activities such as being the equipment manager for the high school football team and this season volunteered as the Public Address announcer for Macon County Youth Football games.

After the U.S. Air Force, Reitmeier began his professional career where he has experience working as a tax software programmer, landscape maintenance accounts manager, small business owner, operating his own landscape business, as well as working for the U.S. Post Office. 

“My reason for running for School Board is simple.I love our county and the people that live here and want to serve them in the best way possible,” said Reitmeier. “Our students deserve the BEST education and chance to succeed in life. I have a strong desire to preserve and improve the quality of our school system.  It’s time for new ideas, new energy, new personalities, and new ways of looking at things. I am a “people person”…I’ve never met a stranger. I truly care about people. I believe those character traits will help me connect with the citizens in our county and earn the trust necessary to move our school system forward. ALL of our citizens, teachers, administrators and support staff deserve someone to truly listen to them, be transparent and speak on their behalf. I would be that voice.”

Stephanie Laseter

Stephanie Laseter was born and raised in Franklin and is a proud graduate of Franklin High School. She and her husband, Ben have two children- Reid (7th) and Laurel (10th) grade. Laseter has been active in youth sports clubs, PTO, and is the co-founder of Macon County Support our Schools campaign. She teaches youth Sunday school at First Methodist Church.  

Laseter attended Auburn University and the University of Georgia with degrees in wildlife biology and forestry. She currently works as a biological scientist with the Forest Service.  

“I’ve been attending school board meetings the past few years, working to understand the complexities of the school budget, and helping advocate for increased parent engagement,” Laseter said when asked why she is running for office. “The school board needs leaders ready to maximize opportunities for our children. I’m ready and committed to listening, to doing my homework and to come prepared.”

What do you see as being the greatest issue facing the school system?

HANDLEY: “Having the infrastructure and teachers to give our students the best education possible,” he said.

REITMEIER: “Everything we do in regards to our children is important.  It’s tough to single out one thing as paramount,” said Reitmeier. “With that being said, I believe keeping our children safe, both in their mental well-being and their learning environment, is extremely important. I have spoken with several teachers and administrators.  Pretty much all of them have talked about the mental health needs in their respective schools and the overall security of their facilities. To that end, I believe we need to have the appropriate number of mental health professionals in our school system, as well as making sure the physical security of our school grounds is taken care of. Given the events that have unfolded in our world the past few years, our youth have had a front row seat to some things that have been unprecedented. Children are impressionable from a very early age. Part of our responsibility as parents and leaders is to ensure that they have all of the understanding and support that they need, both in their environment and to feel secure mentally when surveying everything around them. To me, feeling safe in their mental well-being and their environment go hand in hand. I want to make sure our children are comfortable, both in mind and body, so that they are confident in everything they do on their way to reach for the stars.”

LASETER: “Regarding the biggest issue facing schools, I see two,” said Laseter. “Number 1: The quarter-of-a-cent sales tax. It provides the biggest revenue boost with the least impact to residents. It’s simply a no-brainer.   It could result in revenue gain across all public infrastructure- schools, public safety, law enforcement, and public health.  Number 2: School infrastructure. The school board needs leaders who are ready to help identify, plan and execute opportunities that will benefit both our students and community.   Growth is inevitable, but we can be strategic in HOW we grow.  School infrastructure needs our attention.   The last few years brought unprecedented challenges. It’s time to be innovative, creative, and to provide teaching and learning environments that match 21st-century technology.”

Macon County is in the midst of significant infrastructure planning for the school system. A) What are your thoughts on the new Franklin High School Project Proposal? B) What are your thoughts on the proposed expansion to Highlands School?

HANDLEY: “I am 100% in support of building a new Franklin High School,” said Handley. “I feel all schools including the Highlands School should be up to the standards of the rest of the schools in the state. I am looking forward to hearing more about this proposal for the Highlands School.”

REITMEIER: A) “The Franklin High School project should have happened LONG ago,” said Reitmeier. “It is way overdue.  We can’t do anything about the past, but we CAN do something about the future!  Our current and future students deserve to be invested in by us!! We need to provide them the BEST education possible and this new facility will go a long way to do that! Our teachers, administrators and support staff also deserve this facility. A positive work environment goes a long way toward people giving their best effort at their job. Also, this facility will allow ADA students, faculty and staff safe and appropriate accessibility.  This facility will also be much safer. In the world we live in today, that is of extreme importance and something that we can’t afford to take lightly. This facility will be a shining example of our county’s desire to provide for future generations and could also positively affect economic growth in our county. For all these reasons, I believe it’s time to move forward with this project and provide a facility that will benefit our county for years to come.

B) “I was in attendance at the County Commissioner meeting when the Highlands School expansion proposal was presented,” said Reitmeier. “It was apparent that the group working on it was very thorough in all phases of this proposal. There is a very pressing need for the things they presented. I believe we should work hard to try to make this expansion a reality, while being extremely cautious and aware of budget funds.” 

LASETER: “I am in favor of the FHS proposal and love the idea of keeping the school rooted and central to downtown Franklin,” said Laseter. “I’m also in favor of the Highlands expansion.”    

What are the top three things you hope to accomplish if elected? 

HANDLEY: “Number 1: Vote yes and proceed with a new Franklin High School. Number 2: To make sure our teachers never pay another penny out of their personal accounts for school-related items,” said Handley. “They’re underpaid as it is. Number 3: I would like to start an extended plan to figure out how we can get more money to come into the county for future projects such as a new school for the Nantahala area.”

REITMEIER: “Again, it’s tough to narrow it down to three things,” said Reitmeier. “This is not a comprehensive list, but here are some things that I would like to get accomplished if elected: 


We need more input from our teachers, administrators and parents.   To accomplish that, we as board members, need to be easily accessible, very approachable and completely transparent.  Our teachers and administrators are the front line and know the needs of the children and the school better than anyone.  We should be actively engaging with them to find out what we can do to help them.  The parents know their children better than anyone else.  They need to know that we as board members want to give their children the BEST education possible.  They need to know that we will LISTEN and do all we can to provide that. 


After researching our student’s performance on the state level, I found them to be making about the same academic progress as the state average.  While that is not bad, I would like to see us strive to be above the state average.  I want our students to have the BEST education they can receive.  This is where input from teachers, parents and students would be very useful.  Identify the best teaching and learning environments and methods and implement them.  Also, I would like for us to implement more programs for our students to learn more skills and be better prepared to go out into the world.  We can put them in a position to learn invaluable skills for their potential future careers.


ALL of our citizens pay taxes that make up our budget.  We, as board members, should work to evaluate the budget and be the best stewards of taxpayer money.  We should make sure to be mindful of how to directly use it to benefit our schools and children even more than it has been done in the past.”

LASETER: “1-The previously mentioned infrastructure changes at FHS and Highlands,” said Laseter. “2- high engagement with County Commissioners on the best ways to utilize the 1/4 cent sales tax revenue! 3- I’m really interested in working with our community to provide greater after school opportunities at the high school and middle-school level.”

What is your stance on the proposed sales tax referendum scheduled to appear on the November ballot?

HANDLEY: “I will be voting yes for the sales tax referendum,” said Handley.

REITMEIER: “ I am in support of the proposed sales tax referendum,” said Reitmeier. “In general, I am not one who likes to raise taxes. However, this would allow us to receive funds from EVERYONE who spends money in our county…not just our residents. I do believe that these funds are supposed to be earmarked for our education system. I would push for it to be a separate line item in the budget. That way it will be clearly seen where the money is and where it is being used.”

LASETER: “All for it,” Laseter said. “It provides the biggest revenue boost with the least impact to residents.   It’s simply a no-brainer.  It could result in revenue gain across all public infrastructure- schools, public safety, law enforcement, and public health.”

Any additional information you would like to include?

HANDLEY: “I would really like to be able to listen and figure out problems that the teachers of Macon County have,” said Handley. “I will be open to talking to any teacher, staff, or administrator with any of their concerns and/or needs. Lastly, I would love to have an open dialogue with the parents or guardians of the students in Macon County. I believe parents/guardians should be able to voice their concerns if something at their child’s school is bothering them.”

REITMEIER: “I have a true passion to serve,” said Reitmeier. “I’ve served in the Air Force, on youth sports boards, and in my church. I have learned many leadership skills that I believe would be very beneficial if elected. I have a heart for young people and want to help them succeed in life. I am always willing to discuss any ideas, thoughts, concerns, questions, etc. from any of our citizens, students, teachers, administrators and support staff. We HAVE to be transparent, LISTEN, and be TRUE voices as their representatives.  We are there for THEM!”

LASETER: “You can reach me at, or on Facebook,” said Laseter.

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