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.