Xpress readers have spoken: Somebody needs to sing the praises of Mickey Mahaffey. The local activist has been officially declared an unsung hero; but in Mahaffey's view, that label might be better applied to someone else. "There are a lot of unsung heroes in Asheville -- the people on the streets, single mothers, volunteers who do countless hours of service for the city -- and I consider it a privilege to be counted among those people," he noted when told of the honor.
Mahaffey has been a fixture on the local political scene for a number of years, dedicating himself to raising awareness about the plight of the homeless, the region's dismal air quality, public transportation, litter and a host of other causes. His grassroots run for mayor last year netted him 1,000 votes -- and, in the process, invigorated the activist community and empowered many of the city's forgotten voices. When asked to describe himself, Mahaffey responded: "Businessperson, community volunteer, writer ... but most of all, I'm a serious traveler. It's the most important aspect of my life." That travel (usually done on foot) often takes him far from home, but the trail always ends back in Asheville. And for Xpress readers, that's something to sing about. -- BS
In 1986, Philadelphia traded the No. 1 pick in the NBA draft to Cleveland, a pre-draft move that was and is a rare event in pro ball. That choice turned out to be North Carolina's Brad Daugherty. The 6-foot-11-and-3/4-inch Black Mountain star went on to boast a noteworthy NBA career, although it was eventually cut short by injuries.
Since then, Daugherty has scored high points with the WNC community. His activities have included serving as a counselor at UNC basketball camps, and in writing a sports column for the Asheville Citizen-Times.
The favorite hoopster couldn't be reached by phone as the clock ran down to the final buzzer for this publication, but his fans want the man to know he has won their hearts. -- CLB
Asheville City Council member Joe Dunn is nothing if not outspoken -- frequently on issues that the public is passionate about -- and he often holds opinions that run counter to the status quo. That, naturally enough, can lead to an accumulation of detractors, and in this election, at least, the naysayers got out the vote. Dunn was named Best Local Villain -- a fact he should, perhaps, be proud of: He has clearly garnered people's attention. Good for you, Mr. Dunn. -- MB
APD Officer Leroy Lunsford is a very nice guy who doesn't let it throw him when folks unleash some anti-police venom. "People ... take out frustrations on the first contact in a bad situation -- often a police officer," he observes mildly.
Lunsford, an Asheville cop for 20 years, has worked as a detective and in internal affairs, but his favorite assignment is his current one -- patrol officer in East Asheville. "I love it out here," he gushes. "You get to know people, and people who see you every day learn they can trust you."
Lunsford says he's most proud of a Red Cross merit award he was given for keeping a heart-attack victim alive en route to the hospital. "A lot of police officers do that kind of thing, but you never hear about it," says Lunsford.
Finishing a close second on the Best-of beat was APD officer Scott Hawkins, an 11-year veteran who knows firsthand about people taking out their frustrations -- he was laid up all summer with a broken knee. The injury resulted from a fight with a driver who took exception to being informed that he had parked beside a fire hydrant.
"I really like my job," says Hawkins. "I'm not sitting in a cubicle, and every once in a while I get to help somebody." -- MB
An inordinate number of folks who won (or came close to winning) various categories in our readers' poll seem to work at or be somehow connected with the Cornerstone Restaurant on Tunnel Road. Christy Quinn is no exception. The 23-year-old waitress, an Asheville native, emphasizes that she loves the Lord. Christy is a member of the Gashes Creek Baptist Church; she also enjoys hiking and making people laugh. "I always have something funny to say," she notes. "I'm kind of crazy. But really, I care about people. I like to see them smile."
Finishing a close second behind Quinn in this category was former Asheville Mayor Leni Sitnick. "I don't know why people consider me charismatic," Sitnick says. "While I was in office, I think it was the chocolate [Sitnick kept a supply on hand and offered some to anyone who came through her door]. Now, I guess it's gotta be the hair." What was that about "hair today, gone tomorrow"? -- MB
The terms "rabble-rouser" and "gadfly" are loaded ones; both imply the stirring up of controversy. And there are few folks more aptly described by this title than H.K. Edgerton, a former local NAACP leader and mayoral candidate who wears the costume, bears the standard, and speaks the rhetoric of the modern-day Confederate movement. He has repeatedly been both vilified and honored in the press for his efforts to promote the "heritage, not hate" view of the Confederate flag. Edgerton is now hatching plans to journey to Texas on foot to raise money for the Southern Legal Resource Center. "I don't know how your readers take being a rabble-rouser, but I took it with a great deal of honor," said H.K. when notified of his win. "It says to me that somebody must be listening to something that [I'm] saying."
Runners-up in this category included flamboyant ex-mayoral candidate Ukiah Morrison and Mickey Mahaffey (who was this year's pick for Best Unsung Hero). Hmmm -- what's the diff between an unsung hero and a rabble-rouser? -- SS
It seems like everyone in Asheville knows Leni, and Xpress readers obviously love her. She's been the walk-away winner in our Best Of poll over the years, with more than a dozen wins -- and frequent second-place finishes -- in categories ranging from Foxiest Elected Official to Best Politician to Best Unsung Hero. Now out of public life, she's busy working behind the scenes. "When you get out of office, it's presumptuous to stay out in front," she opines. Sitnick's recent areas of involvement have included the controversial I-26 connector, water and air quality, and other environmental issues.
On hearing that she finished neck-and-neck with Holly Jones just behind Carl Mumpower in this year's Best Politician race (as well as second in the Most Charismatic Local Person slot), Leni said, "I'm flattered, honored and grateful, but I don't know what to attribute that to since I'm no longer in office." Asked (yet again) why she left office, she was concise. "I couldn't support myself on the mayor's pay, so I couldn't afford to run again. I worked 60- to 80-hour weeks. This community deserves a full-time mayor." What do you say, readers? Should we up the ante and offer the next mayor a real salary? -- CLB
What do you get when you ordain a jazz musician and send him to Wall Street? A Jubilee, of course. Howard Hanger started Asheville's no-holds-barred, nondenominational church in 1989 in the same space where it flourishes today -- the former Asheville Music Hall. "Jubilee," says Hanger, "is made up of people burned by organized religion, who want to keep the main thing the main thing." Pressed for more details, Hanger continues: "A diversity of faith enriches our community. Jubilee thrives on that. On a given Sunday morning, we have the homeless, doctors, straight, gay, black, white, Jewish, Hindu -- and we enhance diversity throughout Asheville." And, as an e-mail reminded me just last week, "Diverse we progress." Congrats to perennial reader favorite Howard and the jubilant flock. -- CLB
"Well, I'm definitely surprised," said Asheville City Council member Carl Mumpower. "I'm honored. I appreciate it." Mumpower first got interested in local politics while serving on the Civic Center Commission, which inspired him to make a run for Council. Taking aim at his first elected office, though, seemed daunting, and it almost didn't come to be. "When I signed up, my knees were shaking. I went out and sat in the car, and it passed through my mind, 'Can I go back in there and ask for that piece of paper back?'" Mumpower revealed. He's also at a loss to explain why Xpress readers chose him over other local politicians. As he puts it: "I just sort of have some principles I try to stay with. I operate pretty much on my own, so it's surprising feedback. I would have thought, frankly, that I was pretty low on the radar screen."
Equally surprising were the No. 2 finishers in this race: fellow Council member Holly Jones (who's rather at the other end of the political spectrum from Mumpower) and former Asheville Mayor Leni Sitnick -- in a dead heat, no less. Go figure. -- SS