Last updated on October 19, 2022
Early voting kicks off across North Carolina Thursday, October 20 and will continue through Saturday, November 5. Election Day is scheduled for Tuesday, November 8. 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.
District 1 County Commissioner
Jerry Moore has been married to Kay for 29 years and they have four children. Moore has been actively involved in the Highlands community since his arrival in 2007, volunteering as little league baseball coach, youth basketball coach, youth soccer coach, Highlands School baseball and golf coach, past chairman of the Highlands Chamber of Commerce, past secretary of Highlands Tourism Development Commission, past president and current treasurer of the Highlands Rotary Club, past chair of the Highlands Zoning Board, current member of the Macon County Economic Development Council and finance chair of the Highlands-Cashiers Health Foundation. Moore has a Bachelor of Science Degree in Criminal Justice and a Master of Public Administration Degree. Moore has been a small business owner for the past 15 years. From 2007 until 2019, he operated Kilwin’s Chocolates & Ice Cream in Highlands. Moore was also employed by the U.S. Court system for over 10 years as a federal probation officer, spending the last four years as the supervisor of the presentence and pretrial investigation unit. Moore currently operates Main Street Payments which provides credit card processing and bookkeeping services to small businesses throughout Western North Carolina.
“I believe my life and work experience will allow me to bring a fresh perspective to the commission,” said Moore of his reason for running for commissioner. “Additionally, Macon County is clearly experiencing a period of significant change and I would like to be a part of the solution to help maintain the character of what makes this a great place to live. I also believe the need to maintain our economic viability and improve our education system will require someone with analytical skills and the ability to work with others. I believe I am the best person in this race to accomplish those goals.”
John Shearl and his wife Lila Munger have been married for 36 years. She is a native Highlander and graduate of Highlands School. They have three sons Allen, Michael and Jared, all three of which are native Highlanders and graduates of Highlands School. Shearl also had four grandchildren.
“The spring of next year, will be the 40th anniversary of Highlands being my life,” said Shearl. “I have always loved Highlands.”
Shearl is a N.C. licensed contractor, owner of J&J Lawn and Landscaping Services, Inc. of Highlands, and
Founder of Shearl Produce, Inc. of Otto. He is a retired Highlands Firefighter and Medical Responder (21 years) former President of Highlands Little League, former Highlands High School baseball coach, former Highlands School Booster Club board member, recipient of the Highlands High School -Highlands School Service To The School Award and former Macon County Planning Board Member.
“I am a lifelong Conservative Republican (not someone who claims to be a conservative),” said Shearl.
According to Shearl, he is running for the Macon County Board of Commissioners “to instill conservative values and leadership to District 1 County Commission seat,” said Shearl.
What do you see as being the greatest issue facing Macon County?
Moore: “Clearly the most significant issue that will impact the county financially is the building of a new high school in Franklin,” said Moore. “The existing structure is unsafe, outdated and not an adequate learning facility for students or teachers. We must be creative in our approach to financing this project, working hard to get state funding and other funding sources in lieu of an excessive increase in property taxes. Although the county does not have control over the outcome, access to broadband is a critical need for our county residents, and the commission will need to work with all stakeholders to deliver reliable broadband to all of our residents. I have found broadband access to be the number 1 topic on the campaign trail.”
Shearl: “This depends on who you talk to or ask. The needs are many and broad,” said Shearl. “As a 35 year conservative Highlands local small business owner I am concerned about the 50.7 percent land value increase in Macon County for the 2023 reevaluation. We are going from approximately 8 Billion in land values to approximately 13 Billion in values. We are potentially looking at a 25 percent increase in property taxes for capital improvement projects at this time. This is very concerning to me and should be to all landowners and taxpayers.”
Macon County is in the midst of significant infrastructure planning for the school system. What are your thoughts on the new Franklin High School Project proposal?
Moore: “As previously noted, Franklin High School must be replaced to address the inadequacies of the current facility,” said Moore. “The school board and commission will need to continue to work closely to get the new Franklin High School project started immediately. Early childhood education is critical to the success of our children and the future of our county and country.”
Shearl: “I would love to see a brand new school for our children however with us being in a recession, people living paycheck to paycheck, inflation at the highest in many decades, the high prices of medicine, groceries, gas, heating cost skyrocketing, every other costs extremely high and businesses closing because they can’t get help, the cost to build at the highest that I have ever seen and interest rates are extremely high, etc. How are we going to pay for it or any other project?
What are your thoughts on the proposed expansion to Highlands School?
Moore: “The Highlands community is in desperate need of early childhood education to serve families from across the county who live and work in Highlands. I am in full support of renovating Highlands School to provide early childhood education. If we do not invest in our education infrastructure now, we will be investing in more jail cells later,” said Moore.
Shearl: “I am in the middle of researching Highlands School proposal and needs,” said Shearl. “This has not been discussed until recently and is new to a lot of people. Most of the people in Highlands don’t even know about this expansion proposal nor the Pre K. In my research one thing I have found is there are three of these Pre Ks in other county schools already.”
What are the top three things you hope to accomplish if elected?
Moore: “I completely understand that my priorities may not be the priorities of the other commissioners; therefore, I want to immediately find out what their concerns and priorities are moving forward and start working together on the issues,” said Moore. “I think the commission needs to prioritize education and county infrastructure, access to broadband and work closely with agencies in the community who deliver substance abuse and mental health services.”
Shearl: “1 – Provide essential services 2- Vote the will of the people 3-Vote for low taxes to protect our citizens that are on a fixed income,” said Shearl.
What is your stance on the proposed sales tax referendum scheduled to appear on the November ballot?
Moore: “I fully support the proposed ¼ cent sales tax increase, which will round-up our sales tax to 7%,” said Moore. “All five of the other counties in Western North Carolina have taken advantage of this increase, and they are moving forward with infrastructure projects with these funds. Approximately 45% of retail spending in Macon County is completed by visitors who will be paying the extra ¼ cent on their purchases that will benefit our county’s bottom line. This alternative funding method will allow us to keep our property taxes fair and reasonable for our residents, while still allowing us to meet the demands of our county’s future.”
Shearl: “The voters will decide by vote on the November 8th ballot,” said Shearl
If elected, what you will you do to ensure all areas of Macon County (Highlands, Nantahala, Cowee, Franklin, etc) and all residents regardless of political affiliation (this election could mark the first time in more than a decade that the board is made up by only one political party) receive equal and fair representation?
Moore: “I chose to run as an unaffiliated candidate for this race in an effort to leave partisan politics on the sidelines,” said Moore. “I firmly believe at the local level, with only five commissioners, we can work together to address the concerns of all residents of Macon County. I look forward to addressing the needs and concerns of my district and the entire county.”
Shearl: “Regardless of your affiliation, we are all residents of Macon County and need, deserve and expect the same essential services,” said Shearl.
What makes you the most qualified candidate for this position?
Moore: “My experience working for more than a decade in the criminal justice system and operating small businesses for the past 15 years, gives me a unique insight into the role of government and the private sector,” Moore. “I want to bring these experiences to the commission to address the concerns outlined above. Additionally, much of what the commission addresses is complex financial issues to fund and finance the needs of the county. My experience as finance chair on the Highlands-Cashiers Health Foundation and treasurer of the Rotary Club of Highlands as well as my accounting work with small businesses, will give me the base knowledge I need to be an effective commissioner.”
Shearl: “I am a 35 year conservative small business owner in Highlands,” said Shearl. “I am a lifelong Conservative. I am not for nor do I support the tax and spend ideology .I believe in planning and investing your tax dollars for the future.”
Any additional information you would like to include?
Shearl: “I love Highlands, Macon County and our country,” said Shearl. “Naturally I want the best for our children, families citizens, businesses and our home county. We live in one of the most beautiful parts of the world. This is why so many come here to buy their vacation homes and this is why I am proud to call Macon County Home. I look forward when elected to represent my people in Highlands, Scaly Mountain, Sugarfork, Ellijay and all of the citizens of Macon County.”