Family cancels Gatlinburg vacation following Sevier commissioner’s controversial comments

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – Travis Akers and his family come to Sevier County often from their Jacksonville, Florida home, especially in the summer and fall.

Following remarks from Sevier County Commissioner Warren Hurst, Akers said they’ve canceled their Thanksgiving family vacation to Gatlinburg and are currently looking at options in Asheville, North Carolina. “Change doesn’t occur unless it affects the pocketbook,” he said. “Sometimes, that’s the extremes that it takes to make change.”

Akers said the people living in Sevier County should pressure his resignation or removal, as well as policy changes to prevent statements, like Hurst’s, from being spoken in the future. “We’re the country that believes equality should apply to all people, regardless of their backgrounds,” Akers said.

MORE: Comments by Sevier County commissioner drawing sharp criticism

“It’s very disheartening and quite painful, actually, to know that this type of bigotry still exists in the United States in the 21st century…it’s just very un-American, it’s just not right,” Akers said.

They’ve been to the mountains dozens of times. It’s a tradition that started when Travis was growing up and his family took vacations to Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg.

He said it’s nice, when you live so close to the beach, to get away to a spot “where the air is a little bit cleaner and the weather is a little bit cooler.” “The people there in Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg, have been so hospitable in the past. They’ve been so friendly. It’s disappointing for me and my family that we don’t get to go and enjoy spending time with them again.”

We did confirm, through a screenshot text message, Akers and his wife decided on the cabin they wanted in Asheville. Akers hopes his protest leads to change.

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