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Matheson wins election but says no to mayor’s job

fr sylvamayorA meeting of the Sylva Town Board took an unexpected turn last week when mayor-elect Christina Matheson announced that she would not be able to accept the office. The board then appointed outgoing Mayor Maurice Moody to continue in office until the next municipal election.


Danny Allen, who was narrowly defeated for a seat on the town board in November, was appointed to fill the seat left vacant by Matheson, who also resigned from the town board.

Moody’s and Allen’s will be the fourth and fifth appointments to the board in four years. Four of the six current board members are there by appointment.

Matheson delivered a prepared statement in which she explained that she was expecting a job offer that would make her ineligible to hold the office of mayor.

As Matheson explained it, she had begun exploring job options early last summer and had contacted District Attorney Mike Bonfoey to inquire whether there were any positions available in his office. After Bonfoey informed her that no positions were available, she decided to run for mayor.

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Matheson won the mayoral race in November. But within days, Bonfoey contacted her to let her know that an assistant district attorney position in his office had become available. “At that point it became obvious that if I were offered the position, there would be a conflict,” Matheson told The Smoky Mountain News. “Much as I would like to do both [jobs], I couldn’t.” 

Matheson said she wrestled with the decision. She still has not been formally offered the ADA job, though she has been assured this will happen. In her statement to the town board, she said, “I could have been sworn in today only to resign when my employment became final. I don’t feel that is in the best interests of the town.”

“In the two or three weeks it would take to offer the job, it would have been a negative for the town if I’d been sworn in as mayor,” Matheson said. “No one would have been in a position to function as mayor. The mayor said he would remain in the position, so it was a natural move. It allowed for integrity, consistency and leadership from the top. I knew he would be there, that he would continue to guide the board and they would move forward.”

Matheson cited several factors in her decision to choose the job in Bonfoey’s office over the mayoral job. One factor was her desire to follow in the footsteps of her father, Marcellus Buchanan, who was Jackson County’s elected solicitor (now district attorney) for more than 20 years. 

Another factor was economic. 

“I so wanted to serve as mayor,” she said. “When God opens two windows for you, you can’t go through both of them. And the position as ADA is a paid position with benefits.”

Moody, who had already cleared out his office, has agreed to stay on for two more years. 

“It came as somewhat of a surprise,” he said. “I had already taken my pictures home and everything.” 

“I was not anticipating this, but it’s really an honor for fellow board members to ask you to stay on,” he said. “It makes you think you must have been doing something right.” 

In the end, he said,  “I have enjoyed my years on the Sylva board, so it was a fairly easy decision to make. I decided it would be the easiest transition if Chris was not going to be able to take the position.”

Moody said he does not intend to run for office again.

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