UNC Asheville student supplants Democratic incumbent for tax collector


Joshua Staley

UNC Asheville senior Sebastian Cothran, now Haywood County’s tax collector-elect.

Joshua Staley, [email protected], Sports Editor

The 2022 midterm elections in Haywood County, North Carolina saw a victory for GOP candidates in every contested race on the ballot. Among those running and winning was a 21-year-old UNC Asheville senior named Sebastian Cothran. 

“I’m a lifelong Haywood County resident, so I thought I’d try my hand at public service. This job matches exactly what I’m going to school here for, political science and accounting,” Cothran said.

The senior’s win makes him the youngest elected official in Haywood County, and the second youngest in the state of North Carolina. Concerning his youth, Cothran said he believes it to be advantageous and hopes it inspires others to consider a similar path into politics.

“I think it’s a benefit. Nothing personal against my opponent, but he was more than double my age. Hopefully my win encourages a generational shift in politics where more young people run for office. I want it to inspire them to do so,” he said.

Cothran said he spent his time talking to people, campaigning, going to events and shaking hands with constituents to earn their support.

“I definitely had to work for my win, I didn’t just win because I’m a Republican. I was out on the ground campaigning, handing out my materials. I didn’t win just because I had an R beside my name,” he said.

Greg West, The ousted Democratic incumbent, served in the role for four years and managed to increase his collection rate to roughly 98%. 

“I didn’t have anything personal against my opponent. He did a good job, and the collection rate is the highest it’s ever been but I think there’s still work to be done,” Cothran said.

When going to the county election office to file for his candidacy, Cothran expressed excitement for the laborious process.

“It was exhilarating. Once you start filling out the paperwork, which there’s a lot of, you realize you’re in the thick of the political system. But I enjoyed it and I’m glad I did it,” Cothran said. 

Cothran said his double major in accounting and political science at UNCA will help him in his newly earned position.

“Especially the accounting aspect of it. Political science helped too, with campaigning and talking to people, but definitely accounting. The accounting systems and control class here will help me with the software I’ll be using on the job,” he said.

Cothran said his next semester at UNCA will all involve afternoon classes while he gets used to the job. 

“All my classes are at night so no matter what I’ll be working full-time, not laying out for school. And if there is an issue, the job will come first. I have obligations to the people who put me into office,” he said.

The county tax collector has several responsibilities, and alongside learning those responsibilities and getting to know the staff he’ll be working with, Cothran said his priority is getting the word out about tax exemptions.

“I can be more active with the community, getting exemptions out to seniors, veterans and people that deserve them. I talk to a lot of elderly who don’t know they qualify, so getting the word out is something I want to focus on,” he said.

Cothran said he’s grateful for everyone that came out to vote, and he’s passionate about public service.

“I’m thankful for the voters that put their faith in me. The tax collector collects $40 million dollars a year from the people of Haywood County, so it’s definitely a big job. But I’m looking forward to it,” Cothran said. 

Cothran is set to take office on Dec. 5th.