Maggie Valley has extended its deadline for alderman applications by a month, despite already having five applications in hand.
The town set an application deadline of Feb. 9 after Alderman Colin Edwards tendered his resignation last month. Edwards told The Smoky Mountain News that he stepped down from the board because of irreconcilable differences with the other board members. His resignation was accepted after a 3-1 vote, over the protestations of Alderman Phil Aldridge.
The town staff and remaining alderman decided to take applications for the position, hoping to name a new member at their Feb. 15 meeting. But late last week, town officials announced a deadline extension to March 9, which Town Manager Tim Barth said was to allow more residents the opportunity to apply.
“When we were finally able to get the ad in both newspapers, it ended up giving people very little time to get their applications or resumes in,” said Barth. “The board didn’t want to limit the number of people who were interested because they want to get the best candidate available, so they decided to extend it and not try and force it.”
However, Aldridge said he is concerned that the extension wasn’t to get the best candidate, but instead to find a hand-picked candidate.
The town currently has five applications, two from former alderman hopefuls from the last election, which Aldridge believes is more than enough, and indeed a far better response than he expected.
“I thought they were all good,” said Aldridge of the applicants, “and one of them was the highest vote-getter [in the last election aside from those who were elected], which would have been the most admirable way and the most democratic way to go about this.”
Aldridge clashed with the other three aldermen at a special-called meeting earlier this month over accepting Edwards’ resignation, as well as the operation of the town’s ABC board. That issue — and specifically Chairman Ralph Wallace’s decision to remain the chair — was what other aldermen said was the only reason given to them for Edwards’ abrupt resignation in January.
Edwards himself was appointed to the board before he won his seat in the last election.
Barth said the decision was about timing rather than choices, and said a March deadline would allow a broader range of citizens to apply. Alderman will interview selected candidates before voting on a choice at their March 15 meeting.
The appointee will sit in the position until November, when an election will be held to determine the seat.