Sylva extends term limits on local boards

Sylva extends term limits on local boards File photo

Sylva Town Council voted last week to extend term limits on local boards, allowing for the renewal of veteran members on the ABC board.  “The only two boards we have that this affects is the ABC board and the planning board,” said Mayor Johnny Phillips. 

Mayor Phillips brought the issue before the Sylva board during its April 25 meeting and originally asked for a motion to eliminate term limits completely on local boards. He cited the N.C. 107 project as part of the reason to do away with the limitation at this time, saying that the town was in “crisis mode.” 

The board had not previously discussed the issue when it was brought up at the April 25 meeting. Commissioner Mark Jones made the motion to eliminate term limits, but Commissioner Brad Waldrop urged caution, saying he was concerned about voting on the matter without having given it due consideration.

Despite Waldrop’s hesitation, Phillips said a vote on the issue was essential at the Thursday meeting because the town needed to reappoint Sylva’s member on the ABC board, Maurice Moody, whose term was set to expire. Moody had already served three terms and was not eligible for a fourth consecutive term.

“Being our former mayor and former chairman of the ABC board, he is the most experienced man on our board, and we have a unanimous vote from our ABC board to reappoint him,” said Phillips.

In 2014 the town and county agreed to a merger and created a countywide ABC board. At that time board members were permitted to serve two terms. However, in 2018 the town and county both approved a request from the ABC board to strike term limits from the board rules.

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When the ABC board made that request in 2018, Moody’s second term was set to expire, along with Tom Albert’s, and the board wanted to retain both members.

However, in 2022 Sylva reinstated term limits on its board, which would limit its members on the ABC board to three consecutive terms. (The county did not reinstate term limits for its members on the board.) With Moody’s third consecutive term set to expire, the issue was brought back before the board last week.

“I know it was a very fluid, wholesome idea to try to have term limits to give new people or younger people an opportunity to serve on some of our boards and I think we can still try to achieve that goal,” Phillips said. “But at the present time the most experience is what we need on these boards while we’re trying to rebuild Sylva.”

Commissioner Mary Gelbaugh said that she would support eliminating term limits, but that she also wants to see more people involved on local boards.

“I want to make clear that I do want folks to feel welcome to submit their names to get involved,” said Gelbaugh. “It’s very important that you get involved, volunteers are getting harder and harder to come by which I think is partly why this has come to light. We need folks to serve.” 

Phillips noted that his intent was not to permanently end term limits.

“We’re in a crisis mode with the 107 project for the next three years,” Phillips said. “When that time is up, and our budgets are back to normal and things are where we need them to be … I’m very much in favor of going back to the term limits we have.”

The ABC board has five members with two appointed by the Town of Sylva and two appointed by Jackson County. The chairman is a joint appointment made between the town and the county. Board members make $150 for each monthly meeting attended.

When the town and county merged the ABC board in 2014, Moody, Marion Jones, Donald Ferguson, David Noland and Albert were appointed to the board. Today, four of those members remain the same, with Marion Jones the only original member not still on the board. Phillips, who won the race for mayor of Sylva in 2023, was appointed to the ABC board in July of 2022.

But rather than revoke the term limits completely, as the mayor called for, Gelbaugh suggested changing the rule to allow for four terms instead of three.

“So that we’re not just going back to ground zero,” Gelbaugh said. “That would serve our goal for now.” 

“That would seem like less of a revocation of term limits and more of a temporary measure for the situation that we’re in right now,” said Waldrop.

Jones agreed to change his motion and the board unanimously agreed to extend term limits from three to four on both the ABC and planning boards.

The board then unanimously approved Moody for a fourth term on the ABC board and reappointed Noland as chairman of the board for another year.

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