Face of Sylva board may change come November
Sylva Mayor Maurice Moody has announced he will retire from town government and not seek reelection in the upcoming election. His departure, after 16 years on the Town Board of Commissioners, will leave a void of experience in local government and force Sylva voters to choose a new leader.
Moody served 12 years as a town commissioner and four years as mayor. But his time in office will come to an end in December when his current term expires. Plainly put, Moody said it’s in the cards.
“I think I’m going to retire,” Moody said. “I think it’s time.”
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Moody said his decision to not run again was a personal one and largely based on spending more time with his wife. Moody said she would support him if he decided to run again, but that she had expressed interest in seeing him around more often.
He also said he is stepping down, in part, because it’s time for Sylva to have some younger members of the community take a role in town government as it opens the next chapter.
“After 16 years on the board, I think it’s time to move on and let some younger folks step forward and lead into the 21st century,” Moody said.
Moody was on the board when the Sylva entered the current century. After taking early retirement from his post with BASF, a German chemical company, he moved back to Sylva, his hometown, and took an interest in the local happenings. Moody was born in Sylva but spent 30 years living in South Carolina and Georgia before returning.
He wasn’t back in Sylva long before he put his name on the ballot and ran for alderman. With no particular agenda in mind — running for office with a narrow-minded focus is a mistake many politicians make, he said — Moody was the top vote-getter. But he learned quickly about the fickleness of politics when he ran for a second term and barely scraped out a victory.
On the board, Moody helped mold the current set of town ordinances, including some controversial but necessary regulations, according to Moody. He said it was imperative as Sylva developed to make sure rules were there to guide that growth.
“As the town grows and the lot sizes get smaller — what I do in my backyard may affect what my neighbor can do and see from his backyard,” Moody said.
He was also on the board that saw major improvements made in the landscape of the town and the surrounding area. The renovation of Main Street, renovating the pool right next to town hall and the building of Bridge Park — now a popular destination for the farmers market and everyday recreation — are on Moody’s short list of noteworthy projects.
He also supported the sale of the town’s phased-out watershed into a conservation easement through the state’s Clean Water Management Trust Fund. The move protected acres of sensitive habitat from development and created Pinnacle Park.
And Moody warned future boards about using the funds the town gained from that sale. For the past two years, the town has used big chunks of the money to balance the budget. Moody believes it should be left to gain interest and only the interest should be spent.
“If you only spend the interest, that money will basically last forever,” Moody said “Once you spend it — it’s gone.”
However, that piece of advice was one of the few Moody was willing to give. He asserts he will not be a backseat mayor and will not take an active role in guiding the town board and whoever succeeds him.
“When you step aside, whoever replaces you, it’s their job then,” Moody said. “When my term is over in December, I don’t plan to be giving a whole lot of unsolicited advice.”
Yet, with Moody departing and two other town commissioners on the fence about whether or not to run again, town government could look different come next year. Long-term commissioner Danny Allen is toying with the idea of calling it quits. He said he likes the idea of fresh faces and turnover on the board, yet he won’t go as far as to say he has made up his mind.
“I’ve been in one of these seats for 10 years, and I’m a firm believer of term limits,” Allen said. “But I’m leaving the door open, and the door is cracked.”
Newly appointed this year to take over the seat of an outgoing commissioner, Barbara Hamilton is still deciding if she will run in her first election. She indicated she is leaning toward running but is deciding if she’s up for four more years.
“I feel pretty positive, but you have to ask yourself, looking forward, for that length of time,” Hamilton said. “Yet, I’m really enjoying it.”