Candidate forums next week in Canton, Maggie Valley

To mark the start of early voting, The Smoky Mountain News will host a pair of free candidate forums in the towns of Canton and Maggie Valley.

Both towns have two aldermanic seats up for grabs, but aside from that, the situation couldn’t be more different.

In Canton, retiring Mayor Mike Ray has chosen not to seek re-election; Alderman Zeb Smathers is the only candidate for mayor, meaning that his alderman seat — along with that of Alderwoman Carole Edwards, who also chose not to seek re-election — are both available.

Four candidates have answered the call, and no matter which two win, they’ll both be newcomers to politics, joining a new mayor and a new town manager.

They’ll also bring the average age of the board way, way down; the oldest of the four is 43, the youngest, 33; Ray and Edwards are nearly twice the age of some of them, and Smathers is just 34.

Voters will be able to hear from 34-year-old data architect Carl Cortright, 33-year-old Biltmore marketing employee Kristina Smith and 38-year-old Erwin Middle School music instructor James Markey; as of press time, 43-year-old respiratory therapist Brent Holland hadn’t responded to his invitation.

Cortright and Markey are unaffiliated, while Holland and Smith are Democrats; the free Oct. 19 Canton forum begins at 6:30 p.m. at the Colonial Theater.

All five Maggie Valley candidates have also confirmed their attendance at the free Oct. 18 forum, which will be held at 6:30 p.m. at the Town Pavilion next door to Maggie Valley Town Hall.

Two alderman seats are available in Maggie Valley this year, but they’ll both be defended by their current occupants.

Voters can decide to return Aldermen Mike Eveland and/or Clayton Davis to their seats as an endorsement of the town’s direction of late, or, signal a desire to move in a new direction by electing two of the three challengers.

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