“All we are doing now is talking on the phone and holding hands,” Brown said last summer, when the so-called courtship began.
But the discourse has grown downright steamy recently.
If Waynesville and Lake Junaluska decide to get hitched, state lawmakers must consecrate the union. And with a mid-March legislative deadline bearing down to get a bill introduced in Raleigh, town leaders decided it was high time to start writing the vows.
“We need to at least reserve a wedding chapel,” Brown said two weeks ago.
Brown, for one, seems smitten and doesn’t want to look back at Junaluska as the one that got away.
“They may marry someone else,” Brown warned. Or perhaps decide to stay a spinster forever.
Before Lake Junaluska can promise its hand, however, it needs the blessing of its extended family: a task force, a community council and board of directors to be exact.
But the clock is ticking. A do-or-die date to file for the necessary legislation with Raleigh lawmakers is just two weeks away. So Waynesville leaders were expected to take the plunge this week — even though Lake Junaluska hasn’t officially spoken up on the subject of its own betrothal.
“We may have to ask their hand in marriage before they say they want to get married,” Brown said.
But Brown pointed out the wedding can be called off up to the last minute, even if a merger bill is already working its way through the halls of the legislature.
“If we get engaged, that doesn’t mean we have to get married. If things turn up, like if an asteroid hits the dam,” Brown joked, “we can probably get out.”
Inevitably, Brown’s relentless references to marriage prompted others to adopt the framework as well.
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“To use the mayor’s analogy of marriage, no marriage works unless both parties spend a lot of time and effort making it work, and that’s what we’ll need to do for this union,” said Pat Mayer, a Waynesville resident who has lived both in town and at Lake Junaluska over the years.
Mayer then offered her opinion as matchmaker.
“I want to say to Lake Junaluska, ‘Waynesville is a unique place to live and call home.’ I want to say Waynesville, ‘Lake Junaluska has a great deal to offer this town,’” Mayer said.
Indeed, the mutual admiration was flowing last week as leaders from the two entities came to the table for a series of prenuptial talks.
“Whatever comes of this we want you to know how grateful we are for this partnership we have been in, not only in the past but right now as we explore this opportunity,” Jack Ewing, the CEO of Lake Junaluska Conference and Retreat Center, told town leaders at a recent meeting.
The feeling is reciprocal, according to longtime former Waynesville Mayor Henry Foy.
“I want (Lake Junaluska) to know how much we appreciate them and how much they have meant to Waynesville,” Foy told Ewing in response.
Waynesville leaders believe Lake Junaluska would be a good catch.
“It will be a win-win for both communities,” Waynesville Town Manager Marcy Onieal said.
Ewing, not wanting to speak out of turn before his extended family formally offers Junaluska’s hand, would only say that Lake Junaluska leaders are taking “a serious look at the possibility.”
“So in other words I need to go find a wedding chapel?” Brown asked
“We have one available,” Ewing quipped.
— Becky Johnson