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Sylva town board welcomes new member, new mayor

The race for Sylva town board was won by only a hair on Election Day.

The results show Mary Kelley Gelbaugh edging Danny Allen off the town board by a mere four votes. Allen has been on the town board on and off through the years, with a total of 10 years in office if you add it all up.


While the Jackson County Election Board must still certify the results, they have already doubled counted the ballots since the race was so close.

Gelbaugh, 34, is now the youngest member of the town board.

“I feel like I meet a lot of the demographics that aren’t met on the town board at this time,” said Gelbaudh, who has an 11-month-old baby and works downtown.

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She straddles two distinct demographics of Sylva. She can related to younger people, understands what’s important to families in town and counts many newcomers to town among her friends.

But she can also relate to the older, long-time Sylva residents. She grew up in Sylva and is the daughter of a well-known downtown businessman.

The top vote getter in the town board race, though, went to Barbara Hamilton, 69, a retired nurse. Hamilton has been on the board almost two years, but she was appointed to fill an empty seat when another board member moved away. This was the first time Hamilton ran for the office.

Meanwhile, Chris Matheson, who has been on the town board for 10 years, handily won the mayor’s race. Former Mayor Maurice Moody did not run, leaving the seat up for grabs.

Matheson said as mayor she hopes to increase Sylva’s profile. One goal on that front is to nurture the town’s relationship with the county.

“The better the relationship between the town of Sylva and the county, the more likely we are to work together on things that positively benefit the town,” Matheson said. “That relationship has to be nurtured.”

The same thing goes for the town’s relationship with other agencies and entities, from the N.C. Department of Transportation to the county’s tourism development authority to the newly-formed Jackson County Business and Advisory Council.

“We are the county seat and an integral part of the county,” Matheson said, citing the need for Sylva to play a larger role and have a bigger voice in issues facing the community.

Another of Matheson’s missions will be economic development for the town.

Matheson will vacate her current seat on the town board to become mayor, leaving her seat on the town board empty. The remaining people on the town board will decide who to appoint to her seat.


Sylva Mayor

Christine Matheson 162

Jeremy Edmonds 36


Sylva Town Board

(two seats available)

Barbara Hamilton 133

Mary Kelley Gelbaugh 114

Danny Allen 110

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