Archived Opinion

Foy ranks among Waynesville’s most respected leaders

op fr“You bet I’m happy. I feel this was only right. My goal is to improve Waynesville and set it apart as a first-class mountain community.” 

— Former Waynesville Mayor Henry Foy in May 2003, upon receiving notification from DOT about the roundabout and other modifications to the Old Asheville Highway plan.

The passing of former Waynesville Mayor Henry Foy on April 15 brought back a flood of memories for me. Foy’s tenure as mayor of Waynesville (he was elected in 1991) was closely aligned with my move to Haywood County (1992) and my introduction to mountain politicians and their motivations.

And that is what was remarkably refreshing about Foy. His motivation was simple and straightforward: to make his hometown a better place to live, and whether he was acting the gracious ambassador or engaged in a bare-knuckled political dogfight, he did so with that singular purpose as his guiding force.

I remember when the Old Asheville Highway was being designed and widened by the state Department of Transportation. Foy, an architect by training, wanted sidewalks, raised medians with trees and grass dividing the lanes, and the roundabout that is now at the intersection of Raccoon Road and Old Asheville Highway. After years of back and forth with the DOT and emotional public hearings that pitted the town against county commissioners, Foy and the town — see the quote at the beginning of this story — got most of what they wanted.

He also was a long-time supporter of the Waynesville Recreation Center when many thought the town should not build a second complex to compete with one recently opened at the hospital. I was editor of The Mountaineer at the time and wrote many editorials supporting the construction of the recreation center, arguing that both could thrive. When the center was finally approved by the town board, Foy came by my office with one of his trademark hats in hand to personally thank the newspaper for its support. He had an old-school graciousness that is lost on many of today’s politicians.

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He also helped lead the movement to protect Waynesville’s watershed, a resource of which few towns its size can boast. He fought for large issues like Waynesville’s progressive land-use plan, its merger with Hazelwood, and its successful Main Street. But he argued just as passionately for more parking lot trees at the west Waynesville Wal-Mart when the town was voting on its design. He knew that seemingly small yet significant measures contributed mightily to the larger, long-term picture.

Foy and then-Town Manager Lee Galloway led an engaged and progressive town board during the 1990s and 2000s that helped get Waynesville to where it is today. That vision and work are still bearing fruit. That sidewalk along Old Asheville Highway is about to become part of a several-mile loop from the rec center once the construction is finished on Howell Mill Road, something joggers and walkers will enjoy for years to come. 

For all his tireless work for Waynesville, there were sides to Foy that those of us who knew him only from his civic life did not see. He was perhaps the town’s most astute historian, and he’ll take to his grave knowledge that will never see the light of day. 

He was also totally committed to his beloved wife Mary Lu. His death came nine days after she passed, completing what must have been a remarkable love story.

Waynesville is a great place to live and work, and Foy ranks somewhere near the top on the list of those who can take significant credit for making that happen. But the work came naturally because he simply loved his hometown. Or, as he said in 2003, he just wanted to “set (Waynesville) apart as a first-class mountain community.” 

Job well done, Henry.

(Scott McLeod can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..)

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