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Panel finally formed to pick Sylva’s top cop

One town commissioner, the town manager and two business owners will help pick Sylva’s next police chief.

The panel, agreed on last week at a board meeting, replaces one originally conceived by Town Manager Adrienne Isenhower that sparked dissent among the town’s five commissioners. She proposed using herself, two Western Carolina University employees, and the town of Maggie Valley’s police chief to select a replacement for Jeff Jamison, who steps down Oct. 1.

But Commissioners Harold Hensley, Danny Allen and Ray Lewis objected to the use of outsiders. They said there was ample wisdom on the town board to help guide the selection. The town’s leaders include two former police officers, Allen and Lewis, and a former district attorney, Christina Matheson. The board agreed to this panel makeup previously.

Allen and Lewis missed last week’s meeting. No explanation for their absence was offered.

Matheson volunteered to serve on the panel, and nominated Marion Jones of Jones Country Store. Hensley nominated R.O. Vance of Vance Hardware and Appliance Repair. The nominations of all three, Matheson, Jones and Vance, passed unanimously, 3-0.

While hiring choices and day-to-day management of town affairs usually fall to the manager, a town ordinance stating commissioners shall select the police chief further confused the issue.

Sylva hired its first manager eight years ago, but this represents the first time the manager has wielded hiring power for the police chief. Before, town board members selected the police chief.

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