It's hard to figure how a guy who has his own Web site (WarrenHaynes.net) and was recently presented with the key to the city could be considered "unsung." In fact, Asheville native and Gov't Mule front man Warren Haynes is considered one of the most in-demand guitarists in today's rock world. In 1989, Haynes became the second replacement for Duane Allman (a coveted post Haynes took a hiatus from in '95 to debut his own band). But he does make it home to the mountains fairly often -- most notably for his acclaimed annual Christmas charity show, which always features an all-star cast (and doubtless has something to do with the "hero" designation). An acquaintance of mine who opened a show for the Mule some years back and got to hang out with our man of the hour describes him as "a really great guy." Rock star or no, Haynes has apparently managed to stay pretty down-to-earth. -- AM
If 11th District U.S. Rep. Charles Taylor is truly the man Xpress readers love to hate, then who keeps voting him back to Washington? Taylor has been in office since 1990. He served in the N.C. House from 1966-72 and in the state Senate from 1972-74. In addition to his seat in Congress, Taylor also owns the 628-acre Transylvania Tree Farms corporation -- the very same bit of property that triggered all that fuss about unpaid back taxes -- and the Blue Ridge Savings Bank. Let's see: The guy had a little tax trouble, and he doesn't have the best environmental record, and there are serious questions being raised about his banking practices, and there's a petition drive demanding that Attorney General John Ashcroft stop blocking an ethics probe (oh, and did we mention that he doesn't return phone calls?). Still, this year, Taylor had some serious competition: Sheriff Bobby Medford scored a close second in the balloting for Best Local Villain. -- AM
Yes, Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Brad Johnson's got milk. He appeared in the Jan. 24 edition of USA Today sporting his lactose mustache, right about the same time he won Super Bowl XXXVII. All in all, it was a big year for the former North Carolina resident, who grew up in Black Mountain and was a star quarterback at Owen High School. At age 35, and 11 years into his NFL career, he's seen his dream come true (the Super Bowl win, not the milk). Before being traded to the Buccaneers in 2001, Johnson played seven seasons for the Vikings and two for the Redskins. And as a quarterback, Johnson's credentials are impeccable: He boasts the third-highest percentage for completed passes (right behind legends Steve Young and Joe Montana). These days, though, the sports star is keeping busy with his newly opened Brad Johnson Football Camp for kids ages 8-18. -- AM
Buncombe County Sheriff Bobby Medford came in second in this category. Ironically, he was No. 2 in the voting for Best Local Villain, too, which may shed some light on the top pick for Best Cop -- a resounding chorus of "None," "Are you joking?" and "Oxymoron." Assuming there isn't an Officer Oxymoron out there who we've cruelly overlooked, it appears that there's a vocal faction of the public that's disgruntled with our local police. APD Officer Paul Reneau ranked third, but was unavailable for comment. (Then again, you could say he came in first among bona-fide cops, since Medford is a sheriff). And while it's not surprising to discover a rift between the law enforcers and us average jay-walking Joes, it's a little disheartening that in a city with Asheville's reputation for tolerance, we can't seem to do a better job of peaceably coexisting. Group hug, anyone? -- AM
A rabble-rouser, by definition, is someone who tries to provoke others to violent action by appealing to emotions and prejudices. Our demagogue of choice, Nicole Morrow, has some staunch supporters (or are they critics?), but Morrow herself could not be found. Which seems odd for a supposedly infamous gadfly.
Maybe she could take a lesson from runner-up H.K. Edgerton, the prominent local African-American who's best known for carrying a Confederate flag through the streets of Asheville -- and across the South. The mere sight of Edgerton is enough to incite strong feelings, and the sign he sometimes carries ("Heritage Not Hate") only adds to the confusion. Edgerton claims his mission is to inspire dialogue between the races, but some of our readers apparently wish he'd embrace the sound of silence. -- AM
"Don't give up, even when things look tough," Brownie Newman tells his fellow community activists. "Three years ago, few people would have believed that North Carolina could establish the strongest air-quality standards in the nation, but we did it." And as if the N.C. Clean Smokestacks Act (which Newman and his cohorts at the Western North Carolina Alliance lobbied hard for) weren't enough, Newman can also point to the fact that as a result of that groundbreaking legislation, Progress Energy has now reduced pollution from its Lake Julian facility in South Asheville by 95 percent, making it one of the cleanest power plants in the country. Newman has been working to protect WNC's environment for more than a decade, and while I used to laugh at his save-the-world idealism when we were in college, these days I'm glad to see his name on the Asheville City Council ballot. (He's running again this fall.) -- AM
Learn more about Brownie Newman at newmanasheville.com.
"People have no imagination!" exclaims Jubilee! founder Howard Hanger with a laugh. "But I'm honored," he continues. Known for its eclectic services, outreach to those in need, and policy of acceptance and inclusion, Jubilee! (strategically located on Wall Street in downtown Asheville) is the un-church of choice. Folks are drawn to Jubilee!, says Hanger, because its programs are fresh, and something new is always in the works (like the upcoming visits by Thomas Berry and Deepak Chopra). "It's like modern jazz," the minister/musician reveals. "If you can't improvise, you're dead." He adds, "Jubilee! relies on the people to bring in the newness; it's not a top-down organization." With about 800 worshipers on a typical Sunday and a congregation of nearly 2,000, Jubilee! no longer advertises to attract new members. Having just celebrated the unconventional church's 14th birthday, Hanger quips, "We're truly an adolescent now: We plan to grow zits and become rebellious." -- AM
Former Asheville Mayor Leni Sitnick has been out of office for nearly two years, which may help explain her surprise at being named Best Politician. Of course, during her four years in office, Sitnick did make quite a splash. Among other high-profile moves, the environmentally minded mayor launched the city's film-friendly policy and proclaimed the controversial Earth-Based Religions Awareness Week. Since returning to private life, however, Sitnick has continued to work for the community she loves. In 2002, she joined the advisory board of the Canary Coalition (a grassroots clean-air group); this year, she took part in the Rolling Thunder Down Home Democracy Tour. "I want to say thank you to all the people out there who love Asheville and speak up on her behalf," declares Sitnick, adding, "I'm very happy to be one of so many." -- AM
"I'm absolutely floored. I can't believe that I've been picked -- there are so many good teachers around!" exclaims second-grade teacher Maureen Dillow of Haw Creek Elementary School. Now in her 13th year leading the class, Dillow says she tries to build a sense of fun into her lesson plans. "It's about empathy and compassion," she explains, "while being stern and firm at the same time." And if the thought of spending 13 years in the second grade seems daunting (the cafeteria lunches, those miniature desks, the Popsicle-stick art projects), Dillow is quick to reveal the secret of her success: She's a mother of five. "Maybe that gave me good training," she speculates, adding modestly, "but I don't think I'm any better than the other teachers I work with." -- AM