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Franklin Mayoral Election Centers On Nikwasi Mound

Lilly Knoepp
Vice Mayor Barbara McRae is challening current Mayor Bob Scott in the town election next week.

  Current mayor Bob Scott ran unopposed for his last two terms in office. The 17-year veteran of public service says he’s using the same signs as years past and took zero campaign contributions this time around. Here’s why: 


“To much money in elections. The worst thing that ever happened to this country was Citizens United,” says Scott, referring to the famous U.S. Supreme Court case.  

This election is different in that he has a challenger.  His own Vice Mayor Barbara McRae. Both are longtime journalists. Scott turns 79 this week while McRae is 77. Many of their differences center on the decision to give away the deed to the ancient Nikwasi Mound – a sacred site to the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians – to a non-profit. 

“I am still so disappointed that neither MainSpring, Nikwasi Initiative would even talk about a compromise,” says Scott, who was against the deal. 

McRae is the co-chair of the non-profit that now owns the Nikwasi Mound. It’s made up of representatives from Franklin, Macon County, the Mainspring Conservation Trust and the Eastern Band of the Cherokee. 

“If we take advantage of this, it'll be a whole new chapter for Franklin,” says McRae. The Nikwasi Initiative already has plans for an educational kiosk at the mound. It will be a part of the group’s cultural corridor.

For McRae, the area around the Mound is a chance to help invigorate the neighborhood. The Women’s History Trail, the first trail of its kind in the state, is currently raising funds for an almost $100,000 historical statue to welcome visitors to Franklin in the same neighborhood. McRae is co-leader of the project.

“I think if we pull that off, it's going to take really good leadership to do that. And by leadership, I don't mean me, I mean a lot of people coming together,” says McRae, explaining how the area around the mound could potentially become a green space. 

Scott is concerned about the Eastern Band’s plan to build a museum next to the mound, wanting instead to focus on infrastructure rather than development.  Scott claims he only learned the Cherokee plan last week, even though it’s been public since the summer.

“If I have heard anything about it. I sure don’t remember it,” says Scott. 

The controversy over the mound underscores what both candidates feel is one of the most important parts of the job - working with their neighbors in Western North Carolina.


Both candidates have plans to continue to bring the community together. Scott started a mayors association of the seven western counties that meets regularly.  McRae hopes to start a leadership program in Franklin. 


Lilly Knoepp is Senior Regional Reporter for Blue Ridge Public Radio. She has served as BPR’s first fulltime reporter covering Western North Carolina since 2018. She is from Franklin, NC. She returns to WNC after serving as the assistant editor of Women@Forbes and digital producer of the Forbes podcast network. She holds a master’s degree in international journalism from the City University of New York and earned a double major from UNC-Chapel Hill in religious studies and political science.
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