“I have the most experience — 12 years on the board,” Allen, 58, said of his reason for running. “I’ve worked under two previous mayors; with Brenda Oliver, and I worked under Maurice Moody.”
Allen, who works security at the N.C. Center for the Advancement of Teaching at Western Carolina University, will oppose Alderman Barbara Hamilton, a relative newcomer to the board, in the mayor’s race. Hamilton, 70, is retired from 25 years as a registered nurse. She was appointed to the board in 2012 and elected in 2013.
Allen, who categorizes himself as a “progressive conservative,” has staked himself out over the years as a staunch opponent of raising taxes and of increased regulation. With the county’s revaluation taking effect next year and the town already dipping into its savings account to meet its budgetary needs, he said, it’s hard to see a way around raising taxes next budget season. But he’d like to help lessen the blow.
“Since I’ve been on the board, I’ve been one of the board members that has persistently tried to get businesses and residential inside the city limits, and that’s what I would do to try to offset the large tax increase that we’re encountering with the revaluation,” he said.
He pointed to decisions such as the town board’s vote last fall to require downtown property owners to put glass in any boarded-up windows as an example of a decision that might prevent such growth.
“I’d love to see just downtown Sylva as a quaint little village, but we’re going to have to speed up on our ordinances to help get people on and not run them off,” he said. “Some of our ordinances will just scare people off.”
Hamilton, a self-defined moderate, has often been on the opposite side of Allen during split votes. She says she welcomes the competition and trusts her reputation as an honest, genuine person who thinks carefully about voting decisions to aid her in the race.
“Competition does not bother me,” she said. “I think people know me, they know what I stand for. I just believe in doing the right thing, and I think they all know that.”
Hensley seeking re-election
Harold Hensley, a 10-year veteran of Sylva’s town board, has decided to run for re-election.
“I decided that I’d let the people decide if they want me to go home or not,” said Hensley, 78. “I’ll run the same way I run before.”
Hensley, who retired as maintenance supervisor for Jackson County Schools after 30 years with the system, has been an opponent of tax increases during his time on the board and has opposed town ordinances perceived as increasing regulation. For instance, when Wal-Mart asked for an exemption to the town’s sign ordinance in 2013, Hensley’s feeling was that it wasn’t the town’s role to “stand by and nitpick at a sign.”
His priorities would include getting public bathrooms put in downtown and drawing more businesses there. And, of course, forestalling a tax increase.
“I still feel like you shouldn’t go out and raise taxes every time you need an extra dollar,” he said.
With election sign-ups open through July 17, other candidates for the three open council seats currently include David Nestler and Jay Ball.