Lilly Knoepp


Lilly Knoepp serves as BPR’s first fulltime reporter covering Western North Carolina. She is a native of Franklin, NC who 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. 

 The fall semester is coming to a close at Western Carolina University. The last day of class is December 7th but the school still does not have a permanent chancellor.


Photo courtesy of Harris Regional Hospital

 As Duke Lifepoint hospitals wait to see what comes of the merger between Lifepoint and RCCH Healthcare, citizens of Swain, Jackson and Haywood county now have another healthcare issue: their insurance.

Courtesy of Harris Regional Hospital

LifePoint Health and RCCH HealthCare Partners have finalized their deal to merge into one company, LifePoint Health.  

LifePoint owns three hospitals in Western North Carolina in Haywood, Jackson and Swain counties. The hospitals, which are operated under their partnership with Duke LifePoint, are now a part of the new healthcare system which spans over 85 non-urban communities and 30 states.


Lilly Knoepp

Former Missouri Governor Jay Nixon visited Asheville last month to hear from concerned residents about Mission Health’s proposed sale to HCA.  Here’s more on what has happened since that meeting.


Risa Larsen is a member of the SEARCH committee. Based in Yancey and Mitchell counties, SEARCH stands for Sustaining Essential and Rural Community Healthcare. They have been one of the most outspoken groups outside of Asheville voicing their concerns about nonprofit Mission Health’s sale to for-profit HCA.


Lilly Knoepp

#ProtectMueller protests broke out at reportedly over 900 locations across the United States last night.

Protests in Asheville, Waynesville and Sylva were a part of the collective action around the country.

“Who can’t handle the truth? Trump can’t handle the truth,” chanted over 60 protesters in the town of Sylva in Jackson County.

Lilly Knoepp

  Republicans in Macon County were celebrating the passage of four out of the six amendments on the ballot. The two amendments that failed would have limited the governor’s power to structure the state elections board and appoint judges.

Lilly Knoepp

 Incumbents at the state and federal level did very well in Western North Carolina.  BPR caught up with the Macon County Republican Party in the town of Franklin as they celebrated their victories.

Macon County, a traditionally conservative county, stuck with that trend. State Senator Jim Davis (R) and State Representative Kevin Corbin (R) both won. This will be the 5th term for Davis and the 2nd for Corbin.

Lilly Knoepp

Just like any region, the opinions of Appalachians range across the political spectrum. Two topics came up the most: honesty and healthcare.

“Healthcare is a big issue right now,” says William Johnson of Whittier. “We tried universal healthcare with Obamacare and that just kind of went belly up.”

Johnson is looking out for how Congress can compromise to improve the current healthcare system.

Carrie Beth Livingston says that her number one issue is climate change.

Photo by Karen Lawrence

The first women’s history trail in North Carolina is open in Franklin.


Nine sites are located on the trail in about a half mile radius downtown around square. They highlight early entrepreneurial women of the 19th century who worked running the town store, a millinery and as mica workers to name just a few.


Lilly Knoepp

Western North Carolina received some big checks this week from Appalachian Regional Commission. WNC Farmers Market received $1.25 million for expansions but that’s not the only local organization that was awarded funding.


Lilly Knoepp

  The Appalachian Regional Commission awarded more than $2 million dollars in grants to organizations in Western North Carolina.


The biggest check went to the Southwestern North Carolina Planning and Economic Development Commission for $1.25 million dollars.  That money will expand the Western North Carolina Farmers Market in Asheville, by investing in a new facility that will teach entrepreneurs about food safety as well as develop food-centric entrepreneurial projects,  often using the produce sold at the farmer’s market.

Courtesy of Western Carolina University

Students at Western Carolina University using the NC Promise program - which lowers tuition to $500 per semester - were happy to share what the program meant to them at an event on campus this week. The UNC System is promoting NC Promise after a study found only 14 percent of North Carolinians knew about it.

Noah Crawford of Rutherfordton is the first member of his family to go to college, and was one of the Western students who shared with UNC system president Margaret Spellings how NC Promise made it possible for him to attend college.

Lilly Knoepp

  The Mission Health sale to HCA still sits on the desk of the North Carolina Attorney General waiting for approval. A local group of citizens have invited a former Missouri governor - who worked on a similar deal with HCA - to speak to the Attorney General’s staff in North Carolina about what he learned from his experiences.

Former Missouri governor Jay Nixon has been in public office for over 30 years.

Photo courtesy of Southwestern Community College

 Debates are a chance for candidates to share their views with constituents in hopes to win their votes. One local debate series gives candidates that opportunity while also showcasing what local students care about says Dr. Bucky Dann of Southwestern Community College.


“The debate tonight is hosted by the class members our Social Problems class here at Southwestern Community College,” announced Dr. Dann who is the debate moderator.  

Lilly Knoepp


  Five years after it started, the Moral Monday movement is still going in North Carolina.


On Monday, you could hear chants of, "What do we want? Justice! How we gonna get it? Vote!”


These chants echoed across from the Macon County Courthouse as the Moral Monday rally made its way to Franklin. The movement began in 2013 as religious leaders and others were arrested for protesting at the NC State Legislature in Raleigh.


Photo courtesy of Jennifer Jones

  Two years ago, wildfires scorched the mountains of western North Carolina. The Camp Branch Fire around Wayah Bald in Macon County burned over 3,000 acres but only destroyed only one structure.


Lilly Knoepp

This summer, the North Carolina Legislature voted to make early voting hours uniform from 7am to 7pm. However, county budgets had already been finalized so many election boards weren’t able to pay for extended weekday hours which resulted in some locations closing.

Lilly Knoepp

Mission Health has finalized their deal with HCA but it isn’t done yet. The deal is currently on the desk of NC Attorney General Josh Stein. Stein is expected to approve or amend the deal near the end of November.

Mission Health’s deal will affect 18 counties in Western North Carolina so each community has a chance to send letters to Stein voicing their concerns about the deal or their support.

Photo courtesy of Southwestern Community College

  There isn't just a lack of hospitals in rural Western North Carolina. There is also a need for more trained medical professionals to care for the population from doctors and nurses to CNAs.


This summer, Southwestern Community College secured over $20 million dollars from the federal, state and county governments for a new health sciences building.


Lilly Knoepp

The first piece of a project connecting historical sites of the Eastern Band of the Cherokee is complete.  When the full project is finished, a cultural corridor will run over 60 miles along the Little Tennessee River from Rabun County in Georgia to the town of Cherokee on the Qualla Boundary in North Carolina. The effort has been a long time coming.

Photo by Bear Allison (Courtesy of The Museum Of The Cherokee Indian)

The Museum of the Cherokee Indian is hoping to improve attendance and inspire new artists through its newest expansion.


A new room at the Museum of the Cherokee won’t be full of any ancient artifacts.  Museum director Bo Taylor says, instead, it will be a gallery space for local artists.


Courtesy of Harris Regional Hospital

  Non-profit Mission Healthcare’s $1.5 billion dollar sale to for-profit HCA Healthcare is all but done. However, this isn’t the first for-profit healthcare system operating in Western North Carolina.


For-profit Duke LifePoint purchased facilities in Jackson, Haywood and Swain county four years ago. Now it’s going through its own changes.


Lilly Knoepp


  As Hurricane Florence barreled toward Western North Carolina, businesses and homeowners alike battened down the hatches. Farmers though had a different job - saving a product that is always at the mercy of the elements.

Appalachian Growers in the Cowee Valley outside of Franklin just put their first seeds in the ground in April. Last Friday, they were rushing to get their first harvest in from the fields before the storm.

Photo courtesy of Western Carolina University

 Western Carolina, Elizabeth City State University, and UNC Pembroke all decreased both their instate and out-of-state tuitions through a program funded by the legislature this year.  In-state students now pay just $500 per semester under NC Promise.

Walker Golder

The greatest effect of Hurricane Florence will be felt along the coast from Bald Head Island to Topsail Beach says Director of the Program for the Study of Developed Shorelines Robert Young.

Young, who heads the Western Carolina University program in partnership with Duke, has been studying the coast on many front including helping coastal communities plan for sea level rise and hurricanes.

Becca Scott of the Southwestern Commission

  It’s no secret that there is a housing problem in Western North Carolina. Prices are booming as the demand for mountain homes outweighs the supply in all price brackets.

Representatives from the Eastern Band of the Cherokee, U.S. Department of Agriculture, local nonprofits, county commissioners and many more came together to talk about how to bring more affordable housing to the area at a housing and economic development summit in Sylva, NC.


Courtesy of Western Carolina University

  Some locations shine in summer or winter but arguably the mountains are the best when there is a chill in the air and bright colors are on the trees.  


Now that summer is winding down, we can expect the leaves to start changing says Beverly Collins, a biology professor and the proclaimed autumnal soothsayer of Western Carolina University.


Lilly Knoepp

  As Mission Health announced its sale to HCA for $1.5 billion dollars, Western North Carolina’s other major hospital system, Duke LifePoint, is going through its own merger. For-profit Duke LifePoint is moving forward in a merger with much larger for-profit healthcare system RCCH Healthcare.