Sylva’s mayor for the past 17 years, Brenda Oliver, has announced that she will not run for re-election this fall.
Oliver, 67, said she has enjoyed serving the town and is optimistic about the direction it is headed. Oliver said she was ready to do something else with her life, and by the same token the town was ready for new leadership.
“I just feel it is time for a change,” said Oliver. “I really feel that Sylva is a good place. We are headed on the right track and it was a good time for someone else to step up.”
Oliver has been on the town board for a total of 28 years, serving as a board member before becoming mayor. Oliver has not been a subject of controversy nor has there been an apparent lack of public confidence in the job she’s doing.
“Brenda was without a doubt one of the most popular local elected officials,” Town Commissioner Maurice Moody said. “Most local politicians have maybe a fourth or half of her tenure. Brenda still has a positive attitude toward the town. If we needed a volunteer I think she would be right there.”
Moody has already stepped up to run for mayor following Oliver’s announcement at a town board meeting last Thursday (July 2).
“The main reason is I couldn’t talk Brenda into staying,” Moody joked.
In actuality, Moody said the move seems like a natural one. With 12 years on the town board, he is the longest-standing member after Oliver.
“I think I can handle it without any difficulty,” Moody said.
The sign-up period for candidates began this week and runs through Friday, July 17. Moody said he will be surprised if no one else files to run for mayor.
Moody has two years left in his term as a town commissioner. If he doesn’t get mayor, he will keep his seat on the board. If he wins, the incoming board would choose a new member to fill his vacated seat as commissioner.
The Sylva town board is comprised of five members and the mayor. The mayor doesn’t get a vote except in the case of a tie.
“That is the one negative thing. I will miss that if I am elected,” Moody said. “But with my personality everyone will know what I think.”
Oliver was the opposite. She rarely took a public stand, but acted more as an arbiter in guiding discussion rather than voicing her opinion on issues.
Moody agrees with Oliver that the town is on the right track. Moody and Oliver have both been advocates of a progressive agenda, which has the support of the majority on the board right now. Moody offers a disclaimer, however.
“That’s not a name we picked. Other people gave it to us,” Moody said.
Moody said he wants to continue the momentum of the current board.
“Sylva is a good place to live and we need to enhance it anyway that we can,” Moody said. “I think there are some good things going on right now and I think we need to continue that.”
For example, Moody wants to advance projects like Bridge Park near downtown and Pinnacle Park in the town’s old watershed.
Town Commissioner Stacey Knotts said Oliver will be deeply missed. Knotts said her deep knowledge of the town and municipal operations have been invaluable to the town.
“Her integrity and deep knowledge of municipal government have been invaluable for the Town of Sylva,” Knotts said. “On a personal level, she has been a great mentor and close friend during my time in office.”
Likely contributing to Oliver’s decision are her eight grandchildren spread out in Texas, Georgia and North Carolina.
Town Commissioner Harold Hensley had favorable words for Oliver as well.
“I try to get along with everybody and I always got along with Brenda,” Hensley said. “We didn’t see eye to eye on a lot of things, but we never had a cross word.”
Knotts and Hensley — while coming from different viewpoints on the board — are both already backing Moody.
“I think he will be great for it,” Knotts said. “He has been a great board member and will do a great job as mayor as well.”
Hensley agreed, even though he admitted he and Moody aren’t always on the same side of issues.
“He definitely knows the ins and outs of the town,” Hensley said. “I don’t know who else will file but I know Maurice and I know he would do a good job.”