When Canton voters go to the polls in November, Mayor Zeb Smathers will be the only person on the ballot for the top elected post in town, but there will be three candidates vying for two board positions in the board member races.
Smathers was 30 in 2013 when he first filed for an alderman position on the town’s governing board. Four years later, he filed for the mayor post and is seeking a second mayoral term this November.
Even though he is unopposed, Smathers said he will still be campaigning for the position.
“It’s important to me to have conversations over next few months and talk to people about the next four years, he said. “I need to know what people think about what we are doing good and not doing good. I tend to treat an unopposed race as important as if someone else was running.”
Smathers said the next four years will be important in terms of continued economic growth and outdoor recreation.
“We’ve shown we can bring in new ideas without sacrificing our soul,” Smathers said. “We’ve clawed our way back from COVID, but still have things we need to do. The conversation now is how can we build the hometown of tomorrow.”
Since becoming mayor, Smathers and his wife, Ashley, became parents of Stone, who they are proud to call the next generation of Pisgah Bears.
Alderman Tim Shepard won a special election in Canton following the resignation of Alderman James Markey and is seeking reelection this November.
Shepard is in his seventh year teaching science at Pisgah High School, and previously taught at Canton Middle School for 13 years.
He is seeking another term on the board for several reasons.
“Things have been going well, and I’m really pleased with the town’s progress,” he said. “I feel like we’ve made good decisions and that the board did a really good job of making our way through the main part of the pandemic. We got Canton through tough decisions by allowing people to do things like hold a Christmas parade and keep the pool open when other places around us weren’t able to.”
Going forward, Shepard said he wants to continue the success Canton has seen in the past several years.
“We’ve had success in bringing more opportunities into Canton and growing opportunities for small businesses,” he said. “I’m looking forward to a lot of the infrastructure improvements currently budgeted this year and what we will be able to do for the citizens of Canton.”
Shepard and his wife, Tonya, have two children, Adeline, 9, and Barrett, 6.
Alderwoman Kristina Smith was first elected to Canton’s governing board in 2017, and is seeking a second term for several reasons.
“I believe in what we’re doing in Canton, and we have no plans on slowing down now,” she said. “I want to continue to be a part of that.”
She said her first four years of public service were filled with “learning, amazing activities and lots of opportunity for town growth.
“It was humbling and amazing to be part of that and hopefully I will have the honor of serving on the board again,” she said.
Smith has been most excited by the economic development and the recreation strides made by the town and said that will be part of her priorities for the future.
Going forward, she said the town needs to evaluate how best to sustain the businesses that have moved into town and look at what support for mid-size businesses could look like. There is also a need to address water and sewer issues in the community, as well as to invest in public safety.
“I’m incredibly excited to run again,” she said.
Smith’s son Henry is 9, and he attends school in Haywood. She works out of her home as a marketing strategist for List Engage, and works with enterprise level clients on global marketing campaigns.
Matthew Langston is a newcomer to local politics and decided to file for one of the town governing board posts to use his experience in business to help the town continue on its forward path.
“I lived in a similar town to Canton growing up and fell in love with Canton on my first visit,” Langston said, noting he and his wife, Jessica, drove over from Black Mountain for a visit three years ago, looked at a house and made an offer on it the very same day.
Langston has lived in Western North Carolina for 12 years and in Canton for the past three years. He was a professor at Montreal College, but left the field a decade ago to work in the music industry.
“I’m a music producer and mix engineer,” he said, noting he works on albums with artists from across the world. “I started a production company in Canton when I moved here and work with different artists to help them figure out their sounds and their careers.”
At one point Langston was part of the Eleventyseven band, which performed synthesizer pop music. The band recorded with Sony records, an experience that led him into music production.
Langston said once he became acquainted with local business owners and got to know his neighbors, he convinced a number of Asheville friends to move to Canton.
“We really love the charm and quality of life here,” he said. “I would love to be able to use my experience within the music industry and event industry to help steer Canton in a way that enables growth but also just improves the quality of life here.”