Fiscal Year End 6.30.2024

Chair: Jimmy Cowan, District Field Representative of NC Farm Bureau Federation

First Vice Chair:  Karen Hammett, Haywood County

Second Vice Chair: Craig DeBrewHenderson County

Treasurer:  Bill Yarborough, Haywood County

Secretary:  Jeffery Owen, Attorney, McGuire, Wood & Bissette

President:  Dean Kanipe

Vice President:  Jimmy Cowan

President Emeritus: K. Ray Bailey, Buncombe County

Chivous Bradley, Rutherford County

Edie Cecil, Buncombe County

Sophie Dixon, Buncombe County

Lumpy Lambert, General Manager, Harrah’s Cherokee Valley River Casino & Hotel 

Laura Leatherwood, President of Blue Ridge Community College

Joey OwleSecretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources, EBCI

Bruce Peterson, Buncombe County

Harris Prevost, Vice President of Grandfather Mountain

Kaleb Rathbone, Assistant Commissioner, Western NC Agricultural Programs and Small Farms, NCDA&CS

Randy Rogers, Haywood County

Zeb Smathers, Mayor of the City of Canton

L.T. Ward, Buncombe County

Shelley White, President of Haywood Community College

Tammie WhitlockVP, Business Development Officer First Citizens Bank

Ross Young, Madison County


  • W. Louis Bissette Jr., McGuire, Wood & Bissette
  • F. Ed Broadwell, Buncombe County
  • E. Charles Dyson, Bladen County
  • Jacob F. Grigg, Madison County
  • Sam H. McGuirt Jr., Henderson County
  • Richard B. Wynne, Henderson County

In Memory

WNC Communities has been fortunate to have great leadership through the years in two of our region’s finest, Morris L. “Mac” McGough and Patricia Brinkley Shulimson.

Pat Brinkley

Pat Brinkley, Past President of WNC Communities, faithfully served our communities and agriculture for over 25 years. Her belief that rural communities are the backbone of our mountain region was present everyday and her work. In addition, Pat was passionate about supporting area youth on their journey to higher education. The WNC Communities’ Board of Directors established the Pat Brinkley Shulimson Memorial Scholarship to award to one of our Journey Scholars that presents exceptional leadership skills, just like Pat. 

For a fascinating oral history about community development in the mountains of North Carolina and the great work of Pat Brinkley go to:


Mac McGough

Mac McGough was the father of community development and the catalyst behind so many of the great pieces of infrastructure we all continue to enjoy to this day including; the WNC Farmers Market, WNC Ag Center, NC Arboretum and the Mountain Research Stations.

Mac McGough came to Western North Carolina in 1948 as part of a Rural Area Study, which took a careful and thorough approach in creating an appraisal of the agricultural resources in our area. The study created a plan to bring farmers and businessmen together to push forward with agricultural development of our region.

In February of 1949, over 700 leaders representing, farms, businesses and the State, attended a Chamber of Commerce meeting to hear an explanation of the study and the proposed Rural Development Program at the Asheville City Auditorium. Approval was enthusiastically given and a new movement was underway. 

The Asheville Agricultural Development Council was formed and adopted the slogan, “Business, Agriculture and Labor Working Together to Build a Prosperous and Stable Community.” Mac McGough was hired as the manager to implement the plan within the mountains of North Carolina. When Mac McGough spoke to George Cecil about the Asheville Agricultural Development Council sponsoring the first rural development contest, he advocated for the idea that 'you’ll never do anything in rural development unless it comes from the bottom up'. 

The Western North Carolina Rural Community Development Contest gave $1,000 in prizes to three top communities. Over 60 years later this program, now called the WNC Honors Awards, is still going strong.

In the words of Richard Wynne, “Mac McGough should be at or near the top of Western North Carolina’s ‘unforgettable’ list, a visionary who could get things done. Once he decided on a course, he pursued it relentlessly. If the cause got opposition, he met it head-on or circumvented it, depending on the situation.”

WNC Communities’ Board of Directors created the Morris L. “Mac” McGough Endowment to continue Mac’s legacy of work in community development. Gifts to this endowment fund can be mailed to WNC Communities, 594 Brevard Road, Asheville, NC 28806.