The moment of truth arrives for Sylva’s new town board on the day it starts work.
When board members convene this week, the first item on their agenda will be pivotal in defining the town’s ideological direction for the next two years.
Newly-elected Mayor Maurice Moody will vacate his seat as alderman, and the task of naming his replacement will fall to the rest of the board.
While split 3 to 2 votes have characterized the board the past two years, Moody is hoping for a fresh start.
“You’ve got two different ideologies on the board,” Moody said. “Three of us are of one persuasion and two of us are of the other. I’m not sure that’s not healthy.”
Whoever fills the vacant seat is likely to tip the voting balance to one of the ideological sides that have emerged over the past two years.
Moody is keen to have the board come to consensus on naming his replacement, but he has indicated he is willing to cast a tie-breaking vote to preserve the progressive voting block that currently holds the majority on the board.
“Your majority normally does not vote to get rid of their majority. I believe that would be highly unusual,” said Moody.
Stacy Knotts, Sarah Graham, and Moody have consistently voted together and espouse what can best be described as a “progressive” agenda that favors channeling resources to the downtown district and investing in parks and recreation amenities.
Ray Lewis and Harold Hensley have embraced a fiscally conservative platform focused on the nuts and bolts of providing public safety and infrastructure. Hensley lost his seat in the fall election, but will be replaced by Danny Allen, a close ally of Lewis and Hensley with a similar philosophy.
Allen said Hensley should be appointed to the vacancy since Hensley was the third highest vote-getter in the election — separated by a mere 10 votes.
Allen said unless Hensley gets the appointment, there is unlikely to be consensus — with him and Lewis on one side in support of Hensley and Graham and Knotts on the other. Moody would vote in the case of a tie.
“It’s going to be difficult for Maurice,” Allen said. “I think a lot of it’s going to come down to him.”
Knotts doesn’t accept the idea that Hensley’s third place position in the fall election — which saw just 14 percent turnout — has earned him his seat back.
“I think that oversimplifies the decision that has to be made. When the voters went out and selected the balance of the board, that was factored into their decision,” said Knotts.
Instead, Knotts thinks the board needs to replace Moody with someone Moody-like.
“I’ve going to think hard about a person who represents the ideas and the mindset he represented,” Knotts said.