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Fresh faces will lead Canton

As with the election two years ago, Canton will once again see three new faces on the board.

Voters had a deep bench of candidates to chose from: 10 running for four seats on the board. The only two returning board members are Alderman Eric Dills and Mayor Pat Smathers.

Town politics in Canton have been marked by division the past two years, and the vast majority of candidates running this time claimed they would rise above the fray and bring an end to opposing camps.

The two town leaders most at odds — Smathers and Dills — are the only two returning to the board, leaving it up to the three new board members to forge a new direction.

“I think we will sit around that table and come up with some good ideas and discuss them and come to a consensus hopefully a lot quicker than what was done in the past,” said Ed Underwood, one of the new candidates winning election to the board.

Candidate Jimmy Flynn agreed.

“I just feel like the three new people need to concentrate on bringing everybody together,” Flynn said.

Flynn said personality conflicts need to be put aside to do what’s best for the town.

“They have to concentrate on listening to each other more than talking,” Flynn said.

Two years ago, voters ousted three long-time board members and ushered in a slate of new faces for the first time in years. A power struggle between Smathers and Dills rooted in philosophical differences bogged down progress, according to both candidates and voters.

One voter interviewed for an exit poll, Paul Moore, said he went for a “complete change” when casting his ballot. Moore had supported a change on the board two years ago but was disappointed in what they had accomplished.

“Nothing,” he said.

Luckily for Moore, all the seats on the Canton board are up for election every two years, so he didn’t have to wait long to vote for another clean sweep.

Dills has been among the first to admit that the change promised by candidates two years ago hasn’t come to fruition but says progress was stymied by hold-overs in the town leadership who resisted the change.

“People haven’t been satisfied with the progress that has been made, but I know I will continue to stand in there with their best interest,” Dills said.


Coming to consensus

A hot topic in the race was forging a new place for the historic, blue-collar mill town in the 21st century economy.

“I think everybody in Canton wants Canton to be a vibrant community again,” said Randy Burrell, a voter interviewed on his way out of the polls. “I think all the candidates have that in mind. It is the main issue. Canton has a little niche somewhere and once we find it, we’ll be back.”

Indeed, most candidates made revitalization a central issue — but they differ on how to best target the town’s efforts. Some want the top focus to be on the core downtown. Others want to upgrade water and sewer around the Interstate 40 interchange to lay the groundwork for commercial development. Yet others believe Canton’s strength lies in its neighborhoods and want to clean them up.

Underwood said it is crucial they agree on some priorities, or they won’t be any better than the last board, which was chastised for getting nothing done.

“You hear presidential elections with a mandate. The mandate here was get down there and work together,” Underwood said. “I think if you didn’t hear that message, you got a problem.”

Mayor Pat Smathers published an op-ed piece in a local paper listing 17 priorities he wants to see the town tackle and challenged voters to elect candidates who would follow his lead on them.

Dills said he is going to come up with his own list to put before the board. He said the board should commit to priorities on paper rather than a piecemeal approach that is hard to track.

“We have to come to some concensus and figure out what we want to accomplish the next two years, put it on paper and let’s go do it,” Dills said.

Troy Mann, a current board member who lost re-election, wished the new board good luck.

“If they can fulfill Mayor Smathers’ list of 17 projects, they have their work cut out for them,” Mann said.

Smathers was running unopposed, and nearly a third of the voters chose not to vote at all in the mayor’s race and instead marked no name at all. Another 88 voters wrote in a candidate for mayor, but the names were not available as of press time.

Barry Mull, a worker at the mill, was among those who chose not to vote at all, rather than vote for Smathers.

“I think it’s time for him to slide out of there,” said Mull.

Most voters wouldn’t say who they voted for to avoid hurt feelings in a small community. For Cassie Erwin, 22, members of her own family were split over who to vote for and therefore she wouldn’t share her picks.

Flynn, a safety manager for Buckeye Construction, was the top vote-getter. He chalks it up to his experience working for the town for 30 years in a variety of jobs from the police department to recreation department to streets. He also served as town clerk and assistant manager.

“I think people were looking for experience,” Flynn said.



Pat Smathers (I)    448


Town board

Seats up for election:    4

Total seats on board:    4

Jimmy Flynn    364

Ed Underwood    337

Eric Dills (I)    288

Kenneth Holland    257

Carole Edwards    246

Patrick Willis    229

Charlie Crawford    216

Troy Mann (I)    214

Angela Jenkins    195

Gene Monson    171

Registered voters:    2,880

Voter turn-out: 648 (24%)

Franklin voters stick with familiar faces

Not one face is changing in Franklin’s local government despite close contests for mayor and aldermen.

In a neck-and-neck race, Franklin Mayor Joe Collins beat out Alderman Bob Scott by only 14 votes to reclaim the office for another two years.

All three incumbents, Jerry Evans, Billy Mashburn, and Sissy Pattillo, held on to their seats for the next four years, edging out challengers Ron Winecoff and Angela Moore. Scott retains his board seat.

Collins and Pattillo interpreted the election results as a vote of confidence by Franklin residents.

“We have a board that in the last two years has done more toward the future of Franklin than any board has in any two-year period I can remember,” said Collins. “The town can expect we’ll move further ahead.”

“It was the quietest election I’ve even seen,” Pattillo said. “Usually when an election is quiet we’ve done something right.”

Meanwhile, Scott, whose campaign sounded the call for a more open and participatory government, said he would make the most of his two years left on the board.

“The mayor certainly didn’t get a landslide,” said Scott. “The voters have spoken, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to quiet down. I’ve got two more years and I’m going to give it my all.”

Collins acknowledged that Scott spent a lot of time and energy in his campaign, effectively using the Internet to reach voters.

“It was a close race, closer than a lot of people thought it would be,” said Collins. “Bob worked very hard.”

With an alderman and a mayor in stiff competition, tensions might carry over into Collins’ next term. During his campaign, Scott accused Collins of not always being forthcoming as mayor specifically by leaving him out of the loop on decisions like a three-year contract with CGI Communications to produce a series of streaming online videos about Franklin.

Collins retorted that communication is a two-way street and not every decision requires board approval now that the position of town manager has been created.

Moving forward, the board will have to decide what to do with the 13-acre Whitmire property on the east side of town and plans for a public park commemorating the historic Nikwasi mound.

While Collins said he favors a mixed-use development that will rush the Whitmire property back into the town’s tax base, Scott said he’d rather see the town hold on to the property to develop a museum, civic center, or a park.

Collins acknowledged that the pieces haven’t fallem into place on the Nikwasi park development but added that the project still had broad support.

“I think everybody in the end would love to see a park,” said Collins.

Meanwhile, Scott said the town should take a step back, do a feasibility study, and make sure the committee spearheading the project is inclusive and transparent throughout the planning process.

After Scott’s two years are up, he says he’ll officially retire his political career and return to his roots as a newspaper writer.

“I’ll be 71 years old,” said Scott. “I’ve learned a lot. I just don’t think politics are for me. I’ll go back to writing some commentary ... probably something scathing.”



Joe Collins (I)    255

Bob Scott    241


Town board

Seats up for election:    3

Total seats on board:    6

Billy Mashburn (I)    350

Sissy Pattillo (I)    313

Jerry Evans (I)    241

Ron Winecoff    234

Angela Moore    225

Registered voters:    2,651

Regional election results


Town board

Seats up for election:    2

Total seats on board:    4

Carroll Mease (I)    103

Jim Trantham (I)    95

Alan Trantham    42

Registered voters:    780

Voter turnout:    127 (16%)

Village of Forest Hills


James Wallace (I)    49

(running as write-in)

Mark Teague    22

Town board

Seats up for election:    2

Total seats on board:    4

Clark Corwin    56

Carl Hooper    55

Registered voters:    344

Voter turnout:    72 (21%)

Bryson City

Town board

Seats up for election:    2

Total seats on board:    4

Stephanie Treadway (I)    28

Tom Reidmiller (I)    28

Registered voters:    1,046

Voter turnout:    30 (2.87%)


Mayor, four-year term

David Wilkes    376

Don Mullen (I)    104

Town board

Seats up for election:    2

Total seats on board:    5

Gary E. Drake    330

Amy Patterson (I)    229

Hank Ross (I)    186

Registered voters:    893

Voter turnout:    429 (48%)

Price and Pauley ride easily into office in quiet Maggie race

After a feel-good race lacking much controversy, Maggie Valley voters have re-elected Saralyn Price to her second term on the town board, sending with her a fresh face, motel owner Scott Pauley.

Both Price and Pauley ran on campaigns that promised to bring a balance between business and residential interests. With about 140 votes each, the duo solidly beat out candidates Ron DeSimone and Phillip Wight.

After results were called on election night, Pauley said he’d already printed out business cards with his home and cell phone numbers and was ready to hear what constituents have to say.

“I’m going to be all ears and eyes and feet moving as fast as I can,” said Pauley, who added that he was humbled by his win.

Price and Pauley said they are ready to get moving on promoting the festival grounds to attract tourism to the town. They also said they had reservations about the proposed design standards that would regulate the look of new construction and major renovations.

“Maybe this concept would be better received when we get out of this difficult time,” said Pauley.

“I don’t think anything can be done overnight,” said Price. “Even with new construction, it costs a whole lot more to change appearances.”

On Tuesday, all four candidates lined the front lawn of Maggie Valley’s town hall, greeting voters before they went inside to cast their ballots. Some, like Wight and Pauley, arrived in the early dawn. Wight and Price offered constituents doughnuts and coffee, while Price even threw in some Maggie Valley keychains.

Maggie Valley resident Jeremy Case, 30, said he voted for Price because she provided a “good voice” for Maggie Valley. The message Case wanted to send to the town board is to put tourism second on their priority list.

“Help the local people first,” said Case.

Meanwhile, Deb and John Schaefer came out specifically to cast a vote against Price, who voted to annex their subdivision, Campbell Woods, into the town limits.

“The good thing about annexation is that you can vote,” said Deb.

John, 60, said he voted for DeSimone and Pauley because of their professional backgrounds.

“One is a motel owner, and one is a realtor,” said John. “That’s what needs to be represented here because that’s what the town is.”


Maggie Valley
Town board

Seats up for election:    2

Total seats on board:    4

Saralyn Price (I)    141

Scott Pauley    140

Phillip Wight    82

Ron DeSimone    45

Registered voters:    1,027

Voter turnout:    224 (22%)

Allen joins Knotts on Sylva board

Danny Allen, a former Sylva town commissioner who has been off the board for two years, will reclaim his seat after being the top vote-getter in the town election.

Commissioner Stacy Knotts followed closely on his heels, while Harold Hensley narrowly lost re-election. Hensley said he is not too disappointed, however.

“I will have a lot less headaches,” Hensley joked.

Hensley and Allen shared a similar platform, being closely aligned on most issues, making it unusual that Allen won while Hensley, a sitting town board member, did not.

The chance to serve with Allen again “was the only reason I would have cared to go back on,” Hensley said. Hensley has been in the minority on several split votes defining town board dynamics the past two years.

Two years ago, Allen tied for third place with Town Commissioner Ray Lewis, but rather than holding a run-off election Allen stepped down. Allen was fighting cancer at the time.

Knotts said she was pleased to go back on the board.

“I am excited that I get to work four more years for the town,” said Knotts, a stay-at-home mom.

One of the first decisions facing the town board will be appointing a new member to its ranks. Town Commissioner Maurice Moody will be vacating his seat on the board to become mayor. The other board members will appoint his replacement.

Board members were uncommitted on whether they would appoint the next highest voter-getter in the election to the vacancy.

Hensley said it would make sense to appoint the next highest vote-getter to the vacant seat, which would place him back on the board. Allen and Lewis would likely support such a move since they historically have been in the same camp as Hensley.

But the other two board members — Knotts and Commissioner Sarah Graham — have been on the opposite side of many issues.

While the mayor only votes in the case of a tie, Moody could find himself as the deciding vote in appointing a new board member, who in turn will hold a swing vote on what could otherwise be a split board.

Knotts and Graham have a more progressive platform, while Allen and Lewis have more conservative views. They opposed town funding for the Downtown Sylva Association and the use of tax dollars for the construction of the downtown Bridge Park concert pavilion — two things Knotts and Graham supported.

Sylva had poor voter turnout of only 14 percent of registered voters.

“I was really surprised the turnout was so low,” Knotts said.

But voter Minnie Casey, 83, wasn’t among those who stayed home.

“I just knew I was supposed to vote,” Casey said.

Jim Moffett, 50, also felt it was his civic duty.

“I believe in voting. If you don’t vote, don’t complain. I think we need some new blood in this little town so it doesn’t become stagnant,” said Moffett.

Moffett said controlling development and protecting the environment were the issues that brought him to the polls.



Maurice Moody    174


Town board

Seats up for election:    2

Total seats on board:    5

Danny Allen    119

Stacy Knotts (I)    117

Harold Hensley    109

David Kelley    79

Ellerna Bryson Forney    46

Registered voters:    1,684

Voter turnout:    242 (14%)

Sylva candidates split on funding for downtown projects

The election for Sylva town board next week will determine the philosophical direction for the town.

The board has been marked by split votes over the past two years, stemming from deep-seated ideological differences.

Two years ago, the majority on the board shifted away from a more traditional mindset toward a more progressive bent, reflecting the growing number of newcomers and young people moving to town. This election, the pendulum could swing back to the traditional camp, or swing further toward the progressive side.

The more traditional camp — consisting of Harold Hensley and Ray Lewis — has consistently opposed town funding for the Downtown Sylva Association. They also opposed funding for the downtown Bridge Park concert pavilion and were against allowing dog walkers in the park for sanitary reasons.

They have been on the losing side of issues over the past two years, however. Danny Allen, who lost re-election two years ago, was once in their camp. If he wins his seat back, they would once again be in the majority.

Town Commissioner Stacy Knotts, who is up for election, has partnered with Sarah Graham and Maurice Moody to pursue a more progressive agenda of town initiatives.

Another challenger in the race, David Kelley, says he wouldn’t join the progressive camp by default but he would be more flexible than Hensley in advancing the progressive agenda.

Kelley, 32, said he straddles the divergent philosophies on the board. On one hand, he’s younger like Knotts and Graham and spends a lot of time downtown. On the other hand, he was born and raised in Sylva and can identify with the more traditional views of long-time residents.

“Sometimes Harold and Ray are more traditional because they have been here longer and are closer to a lot of the natives,” Kelley said. But, “I can see ways of improvement and change that might be good overall that maybe the others can’t see or don’t want to see.”

Whichever side wins the election will have a chance to further solidify their agenda on the board by appointing a like-minded board member to join their ranks come December. Moody will vacate his board seat to become mayor, and the rest of the board members get to appoint his replacement.

Knotts got more votes than Hensley when the two appeared on the same ballot four years ago. Like this time, there were two seats up for election on the board. Both were running unopposed, however, creating a shoe-in for each.


Bridge Park

One issue that shows the dividing line on the board is funding for downtown amenities. Hensley and Allen both raised issues with the money spent on Bridge Park, a small vacant lot downtown that was converted into a gathering place featuring a covered pavilion stage with a grassy lawn.

“I talked to a lot of people and they are saying they are not going to use that park,” Allen said. “But who pays for that? It is the taxpayers. That park is not a necessity in these times right now. The taxpayers are on fixed incomes.”

Hensley agreed. He said the town contributed around $100,000 to the creation of the park, including $12,000 on the sod alone.

Knotts supports the investment in Bridge Park and thinks the public appreciates it. She has heard a lot of support for Bridge Park on campaign rounds.

“A lot of people really like Bridge Park,” Knotts said.

Residents tell her they like the progressive projects the town has embarked on, Knotts said, whether it was Bridge Park, the launch of curbside recycling and plans under way for a Sylva to Dillsboro sidewalk.

While Hensley prides himself on penny-pinching, Knotts said he does not have the monopoly on safeguarding taxpayer dollars.

“I think all the board members have been good stewards of the taxpayers money. Many, many of these projects are funded by grants. We are as efficient as we can and definitely scale back,” Knotts said.

Kelley wouldn’t weigh in on whether Bridge Park was a good use of money. He has heard from both sides, he said.

“It certainly is nice and is definitely improves the town overall,” Kelley said. But he thinks the board could communicate better with residents about those types of expenditures.

Allen said the current board’s focus on downtown, like the town’s effort to provide plastic baggies for dog walkers to clean up after their dogs, is excessive. He said Knotts’ camp has been catering to special-interest groups who want to shape Sylva to suit their own lifestyle.

Hensley opposed spending town dollars on the plastic baggies for dog poo as well. He suggested banning dogs from Bridge Park as an alternative solution so that people could enjoy the park without worrying about sitting in dog poo while watching a concert.

Hensley still doesn’t favor a contribution of town dollars to the Downtown Sylva Association — another source of debate on the board.

“I don’t think the taxpayers send their money down there for us to decide to give it to other charities,” Hensley said.

Several years ago the town contributed $20,000 to DSA. But Hensley, Lewis and Allen voted to reduce it to $2,000. When Graham unseated Allen, the philosophy shifted and the town partially restored funding to $12,000 a year, where it now stands.

“I think they are a great organization, but I do not believe in using tax dollars to fund it,” Hensley said.

Knotts said the work of the Downtown Sylva Association is important to the quality of life of all residents . DSA performs vital community service by generally promoting downtown and staging events, including the Christmas Parade and Greening Up the Mountains festival. Knotts sees it as an economic investment, since downtown events bring in visitors, who in turn support businesses throughout town.

Hensley says he is not against downtown, however. He would like to build a public restroom downtown and employ a police officer who walks the streets of downtown like in days gone by.

Knotts said several issues will face the town over the next four years. She sees the town board weighing in on how to solve traffic congestion on N.C. 107. The town will also likely tackle new development guidelines along the commercial corridors leading into town.

A trail and recreation plan for Pinnacle Park will be adopted. And the town will have to decide what to do with a town building occupied by the Golden Age Senior Center once it moves into a new senior center built by the county. Knotts wants to see it turned into a community center of some sort.

Canton election hangs on vision for town

How Canton residents envision the future of their town could play a pivotal role in who gets elected this fall.

The current town board has been locked in a power struggle recently, with two long-time board members often at odds with three newcomers who swept into power on a platform of change two years ago. Canton Mayor Pat Smathers said strife on the board is holding the town back from making advancements.

“I think the next board needs to reach a consensus on the direction for the town,” said Smathers, mayor for the past 10 years. “There is not a lot of consensus on the current board. I am not saying who is right and who is wrong. I am not throwing bricks at those guys. It’s just a fact there is not a lot of consensus.”

The town needs to get on the same page and figure out where it is going and how to get there, Smathers said.

Smathers’ opponents on the board say they have fundamental differences with Smathers over what that vision should be, however.

“Pat’s vision for the town and my vision for the town are two opposite things,” said Alderman Eric Dills, one of Smathers’ chief opponents. “Pat’s vision for the town is a vision to try to make the town a tourist town. That’s what they have been trying to do for the past 10 or 12 years: to draw visitors.”

Dills said Smathers often talks about finding a way to capture more of the traffic that passes by Canton on the way through the region.

“But it passes by on Interstate 40 at 70 miles an hour. To put all this effort into promoting Canton as a destination is to forget about the 800-pound gorilla sitting in the room, which is this paper mill over here,” Dills said.

Alderman Troy Mann agreed that Smathers’ emphasis on making Canton attractive to tourists is the wrong direction.

“There are some on the board who do not feel like that is Canton’s potential and we are not going to spend a bunch of money trying to bring about something we don’t envision,” Mann said. “That is the point of friction between what the mayor sees for the town of Canton and what the board sees for the town of Canton.”

Increasing the mill town’s visibility to the outside world has indeed been a recurring theme for Smathers in recent years. Capturing tourists and travelers has only been part of his vision, however. Smathers wants to see the town’s retail sector expand and downtown developed. He has pushed for parks and recreation complexes, from ball fields to river walks. He also wants to create and implement a long-range economic development plan.

Smathers has worked to make Canton more of a player in the region, be it politically or economically. He sees having events as one way to achieve that.

“We need to be more active in having events. Who would have thought two years ago we would have the Beach Boys in Canton and Charlie Daniels? It puts us out there,” Smathers said.

Dills said some of the initiatives have not been worth the time and effort, citing the $175,000 fund-raising campaign to bring the Beach Boys to Canton for a concert. Dills wants to see more energy put into making the town’s neighborhoods attractive, which means more stringent enforcement of the town’s ordinances.

“What Canton must do is promote itself as a family-oriented, family-friendly town. These people moving into WNC will look at Canton as a place to come and raise families,” Dills said. That means ensuring good, clean, safe neighborhoods — one of the chief assets Canton has going for it, he said.

Patrick Willis, 29, a challenger seeking a seat on the board this year, agrees that Canton should focus on developing its image as a good place to live.

“Canton has a lot of charm and a lot of personality. There is a growing younger crowd that is discovering the town and moving here to start families,” said Willis, himself being one example. Canton has been discovered for its proximity to Asheville, affordable homes, and traditional neighborhood feel, Willis said.

But Willis said the town is at a crossroads and town leaders are too busy arguing to get focused.

“I don’t think the board has done enough in the last two years to try to act on the town’s potential,” Willis said. “Looking at the past two years now, I don’t think the town has gone forward with economic development. I think the mid-term and long-term planning are not there.”


At odds with little progress

The shake-up two years ago when three new members were elected — shifting the majority control on the board — has produced no shortage of disagreement, but tangible change has been little.

Dills said the board has been stymied in some of its attempts at change. Despite drawn-out, heated controversy, the town board has kept on the same town manager, Al Matthews, which Dills said has made it difficult to accomplish some of the reform he would like to see.

“The town manager, not the board, truly has 75 percent of the power,” Dills said.

A hot button issue two years ago was a move by the former board to raise the property tax rate by 5 cents. It became a top campaign platform of the new aldermen that won election.

While the new board members haven’t raised taxes further, they failed to lower them back to the former levels, however.

“Sometimes when people are running, they will promise people stuff they can’t do because they don’t know about city government,” said Ted Woodruff, a former alderman who was ousted two years ago.

Woodruff said they had to raise taxes to cover costs incurred by flooding to the town in 2004, and a decrease in taxes paid by the paper mill, which accounts for a large chunk of the town’s budget.

Charlie Crawford, another former alderman who lost re-election two years ago, said that town residents don’t like the turn the board has taken the past two years.

“I’ll be honest — I think there is a lot of dissatisfaction,” Crawford said. “I don’t know whether they voted for the opposition the last time, but they are expressing dissatisfaction with what they got.”

Crawford added they failed to deliver on their promises.

“They definitely didn’t lower taxes like they said they were going to do,” said Charlie Crawford. “They raised water and sewer rates, building permits, trash pick-up — anything they could raise without raising taxes they raised.”

Alderman Troy Mann said they never promised to lower taxes.

“I just said I hoped not to raise it like the board then had,” Mann said.


Changing management

Another platform of the new board members — Dills in particular — is reforming the general administration of the town. Dills said there is an engrained way of doing business based on favoritism. Far too many town employees are given town vehicles to drive home and use for personal use, including one employee who works only 10 hours a week for the rec department. The town was also paying a cell phone stipend to its retired town clerk because they occasionally called him with questions.

“I wanted to break the good old boy system,” Dills said.

The division on the current town board has also been defined by those who support Mayor Smathers and those who don’t. The three new board members felt Smathers was exerting too much unilateral control over town affairs. Those who were ousted were pleased with Smathers leadership.

“I think Pat is a wonderful mayor, really I do,” Woodruff said. “Pat loves Canton and has worked hard to make canton a better place.”

Patrick Willis, a challenger for town board, said the old board agreed with Smathers too often, while the new board seems to oppose him every step of the way.

“It is not good to have a board that says yes to the mayor and town manager all the time, but at the same time the board is put there to get things done. They either need to work out with their personality conflicts and differences and try to work together better,” Willis said. “There needs to be a middle ground.”

Will Sylva vote expose usual fault line?

The race for the Sylva town board this fall could once again gauge the extent of shifting demographics of the town.

Two seats on the board are up for election. Town Commissioner Stacey Knotts confirmed she will run again while Commissioner Harold Hensley said that he probably will.

Meanwhile, a third candidate had thrown his hat in the ring as a challenger: David Kelley, son of the longtime downtown business owner Livingston Kelley. The two-week sign-up period for candidates does not open until next week, when additional candidates may emerge. The deadline is July 17.

Mayor Brenda Oliver is up for election as well, but would not confirm whether she is running again.

“I am not ready to make any announcement yet. I am still pondering,” said Oliver, who has been mayor for 17 years.

A split has emerged on the town board in the past two years with a progressive camp outnumbering the more conservative camp. The most prominent disagreement to erupt was over the firing of former town manager Jay Denton. The conservative camp has consistently opposed town funding for the Downtown Sylva Association and has been less enthusiastic about spending money on amenities like sidewalks and town parks.

Hensley, 72, a retired maintenance director for the school system, has led the conservative camp. Knotts, a 37-year-old stay-at-home mom whose husband is a Western Carolina University professor, has largely sided with the progressive camp.

Hensley agreed that he and Knotts are different types of candidates.

“She’s a young woman and I’m an old man,” he joked.

Hensley said he speaks up for a demographic of the town that could be left underrepresented if he was no longer on the board.

“I am not a lone wolf with an agenda of my own. I try hard to be a good steward of taxpayers’ money. That is my number one platform,” said Hensley, who prides himself on being a stickler when it comes to town spending.

Knotts cited several accomplishments of the past four years; in particular, curbside recycling, the Pinnacle Park grant, the renovation of Bryson Park, and the Bridge Park project.

“I would love the chance to complete a number of additional projects such as the Dillsboro to Sylva sidewalk, the Fire Department building renovation, additional trails in Pinnacle Park, economic development, and most importantly preserving the rich history and culture in the town of Sylva,” Knotts said.

Knotts got more votes than Hensley when the two appeared on the same ballot four years ago. Like this time, there were two seats up for election on the board. Both seats happened to be vacant, however. One board member had decided not to seek re-election. The other dropped out of the race after being charged with embezzlement from her church.

It created a shoo-in for both Knotts and Hensley, although Knotts got more votes: 205 to Hensley’s 164.

Knotts worked hard during the campaign by going door to door to introduce herself to voters. Hensley said he would not actively campaign if he runs.

“If I’m on there another six months or four more years, I’m not going to be out there doing a big campaign of knocking on doors. If they want me they want me, if they don’t they don’t,” Hensley said.

Kelley could create an entirely new dynamic. Kelley has observed the split nature of the board, but says he hasn’t consistently agreed with one side or the other.

“I have been where I could see both sides and going either way on different issues,” Kelley said.

Voters who perceive Knotts and Hensley to be in opposing camps could allocate one of their votes to Kelley.

In the vote over Denton, Kelley said he would have sided with Hensley to keep Denton.

“I think it could have been handled better,” Kelley said. “He had good intentions for the town and just screwed up.”

Denton’s misstep was investing money in funds not allowed by the state, which stipulates only the least risky funds be used to park town investments. Denton said he had merely been trying to get the best interest rate. Town leaders had little patience, however, as the mistake came on the heels of a miscalculation by Denton when ordering a foot bridge for a town park that cost $100,000 more than expected.

Kelley is also not a fan of the current level of financial support the town provides the Downtown Sylva Association, to the tune of $12,000. He thinks that may be too much.

When it comes to long-range planning, however, Kelley is more in tune with progressives on the board who would like to plan for growth.

“It doesn’t hurt to have some educated people thinking about the future,” Kelley said. “You got to look long-term, what is going to happen with the cause and effect of everything.”

Kelley, 32, works at his dad’s store, Livingston Photos.

Danny Allen, an alderman on the board for several years until two years ago, said he did not foresee a run again this year.

“I am not planning on it at this time,” said Allen, who is still battling health issues. Allen said many people have been pestering him to run, however.

New face on Waynesville board: Funeral home director fills Kenneth Moore’s seat

One would be be hard-pressed to find someone uttering anything but praise for new Waynesville Alderman Wells Greeley.

The 6-foot, 5-inch former college football player and one-time Canton alderman is a well-known and well-liked figure about town. In his role as fourth generation director of Wells Funeral Home, Greeley has helped shepherd numerous residents through some of their most difficult times — and garnered an impressive level of respect doing it.

“I think he’s a great guy and a great choice for Waynesville,” said Canton Mayor Pat Smathers, who has known Greeley for years.

Greeley was picked by town aldermen to serve out the remaining term of the late Kenneth Moore, who passed away March 2. Greeley says that’s left him with some big shoes to fill.

“Kenneth Moore has left such a legacy of service and dedication in his tenure as an alderman,” Greeley said. “He was a champion of the little guy, and I would really hope to carry on the accessibility that he always had. But that will be a tough act to follow.”

Here’s a little bit more about Greeley, including some of his views on issues currently confronting the town.

Smoky Mountain News: Why did you want to be alderman?

“It’s a level of political involvement that I think is rewarding, because you live right in the community and are accessible on a daily basis to the people you’re serving. I don’t really have visions of political grandeur — I just enjoy this level of service at the town level,” said Greeley.

SMN: What makes you a good alderman?

Greeley says his background has prepared him for the position. His experience as an alderman in another town has provided him with a unique view of things.

“I think the fact that I interact with people throughout the county and in both towns gives me a perspective that will be ultimately valuable in making decisions,” he says.

He also says his job as a funeral director has let him interact with citizens from the whole spectrum of backgrounds and incomes.

“My vocation puts me at all levels of population in this county,” he says.

Greeley has other traits that qualify him for his position.

“I’m pretty much a team player and I don’t come to this job with any other agenda other than being able to serve and give something back to the community,” he says.

SMN: What were some of your accomplishments in your previous role as an alderman?

Greeley served as an alderman in Canton from 1981 to 1985. Though his experience was years ago, his tenure means he’s confronted issues at the town level before. As a Canton alderman, Greeley was involved in several annexation and zoning issues. He also helped push for beautification of the downtown area. In addition, he and the board declared Rough Creek Watershed a natural area, laying the groundwork for the opening of the watershed for hiking and biking.

Greeley points out that Canton and Waynesville, “are two totally different venues.” He says Waynesville represents a more tourist-oriented setting. Even though each town possesses its own unique set of problems, Greeley says cooperation will be important when dealing with future challenges.

“There are real partnering relationships that may need to occur,” he says.

SMN: What are your feelings on growth?

Greeley says he’s generally supportive of the current aesthetically friendly development standards and smart growth principles in place.

“Growth is a wonderful thing. It’s got to be controlled growth, but not to the standpoint where its infringing on people’s rights,” he says.

Greeley thinks the land use plan has been successful in its goal to improve the town’s appearance, particularly along the Russ Avenue corridor.

“I’m very pleased in terms of Russ Avenue,” he says. “If I’m an advocate for something, I’m an advocate for the aesthetics of how (the town) will appear for residents and visitors.”

Greeley says the town needs to be careful in granting variances, or exemptions, to the land use plan. Businesses frequently ask for these, and some have criticized the land use plan for not being flexible enough and discouraging industry.

“Variances are something that demand a lot of attention because the minute you allow a variance in one aspect, it no doubt affects another,” he says.

Though he supports the land use plan as it currently stands, Greeley also supports a review of the plan to make sure it’s effective. A five-year review of the plan is currently under way.

“To me, every piece of legislation and every ordinance in the town is subject to review on a continual basis,” he says.

Greely thinks the next big area where the land use plan will be tested is in the South Main Street corridor, which has experienced rapid growth recently with the arrival of Super Wal-Mart and other big stores.

“I think we need to pay particular attention to that and keep it sidewalk and bicycle accessible,” he says.

Related to that, Greeley says he will make the continued development of the town’s greenway an issue of primary importance.

SMN: How will you handle the budget?

W.G. “The budgeting is going to be a real challenge,” Greeley admits. “The one thing I will do very diligently is pay attention to line item expenses to, if nothing else, cast a new set of eyes to say, are there any economies of scale we can possibly save.”


Officials: Appointment process is suitable

Three others also vied for the alderman seat filled by Wells Greeley — Waynesville residents Julia Freeman, Ron Reid, and Bruce Carden, according to Alderman LeRoy Roberson. Roberson says he was surprised more didn’t apply.

“I think part of it is that people have been satisfied with the way the town’s being governed,” Roberson speculated.

The town board has received some criticism over the informality of the selection process. Candidates verbally notified alderman of their interest, then filled out a questionnaire asking their views on town issues. If board members had further questions, they met with candidates individually. The interviews weren’t conducted in public.

Mayor Gavin Brown has defended the process, and so does Roberson.

“Quite honestly, this was much more open than any of the previous times,” Roberson said. “When I first served on the board in 1991, the questions that I had were: would you like to serve on the board, and then the next thing, I was on the board.”

State guidelines provide little guidance on filling vacated town board seats, so the process was left up to the discretion of the town board.

“I’m sure there’s a better way, I just haven’t seen one that’s going to be better other than holding an election, and I don’t think that’s really necessary,” said Roberson.

Sylva board rift heats up

Split votes are becoming increasingly common on the Sylva town board, throwing into question whether the board can meet its stated goal of agreeing on a new town manager.

Town commissioners Harold Hensley and Ray Lewis often vote together against commissioners Stacy Knotts, Sarah Graham, and Maurice Moody.

Hensley and Lewis voted against funding the Downtown Sylva Association, opposed improvements to Bridge Park, support hunting in the Fisher Creek Watershed, and were against steep slope regulations.

Hensley offered little explanation on why he thinks there are split votes.

“I’m not going to comment on that,” said Hensley. “I like to have unity instead of division.”

Hensley suggested that, “Maybe mine and Ray’s ideas are wrong.”

Moody said he, Graham and Knotts are “probably” more progressive than Lewis and Hensley in certain ways. He would not elaborate on how he thought they were more progressive.

“I’m not going to say anything that could be construed as being critical,” said Moody.

As for Moody saying he, Knotts and Graham are probably more progressive, Hensley said, “I guess he’s right.”

“I’m not going to get into tongue lashing,” Hensley said. “I’m trying to keep a lid on this. I don’t think it would do anyone any good to get into an argument, so if that’s the way he feels, that’s the way he feels.”

Hensley said it depends on what Moody means by “progressive.” Hensley said if it means spending money on unnecessary things, Moody, Graham and Knotts probably are more progressive, but if it means watching out for the taxpayer money, it probably means he is more progressive.

Graham said she would never vote to spend taxpayer money on something that doesn’t benefit the town.

Asked if she thinks Lewis and Hensley hold the town back, Graham said, “I’m not going to say.”

She noted that one of the bigger issues that Lewis and Hensley have opposed the other board members on is funding the Downtown Sylva Association. Lewis and Hensley have voted against any town funding for the Downtown Sylva Association for the past three years, running counter to rest of the board.

The DSA received $12,000 from the town this year, and Graham said the money goes toward downtown revitalization and supporting small businesses.

“I wish we could be more cohesive at times,” said Graham.

But she said she thinks the differences on the board are representative of the population of the town.

Knotts said each board member was elected by the people of Sylva to vote “the way we see fit.”

The board is now trying to hire a new town manager.

Moody said he would like the vote to be unanimous when the new town manager is chosen because each board member has to work with the manager.

Graham also hopes the vote on the new town manager can be unanimous.

“It’s an important move for the town,” she said. “I hope we can agree.”

In the most recent 3-2 vote Hensley and Lewis voted against making improvements to Bridge Park, while the others supported the upgrades.

Hensley said he couldn’t support the town spending $79,000 with all of the economic problems facing the country.

“Maybe I’m a little too conservative,” said Hensley.

Lewis admitted that he and Hensley don’t see eye to eye with the other board members. But he wouldn’t say he and Hensley do a better job.

Another issue that has resulted in a 3-2 vote was terminating the former Town Manager Jay Denton. Hensley and Lewis voted to keep Denton, while the others voted to fire him.

Moody said anytime there is a group there is going to be “some give and take and compromise.”

As for why Hensley and Lewis vote opposite of the others, Moody said. “I think they see things differently.”

However, Moody said there are times when he, Lewis and Hensley vote together and Knotts and Graham oppose.

In fact, Moody said he doesn’t necessarily think it is a bad thing that there are split votes on the board.

“You need various viewpoints,” said Moody. “People have different backgrounds. I think everybody is doing what they think they ought to do.”

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