31-year-old appointed to Maggie town board

For the second time this year, Maggie Valley can boast a brand new alderman on its five-member town board.

Mike Matthews was picked by an uncharacteristically unanimous vote at the board’s meeting last Tuesday, filling the seat left vacant by former alderman Scott Pauley’s departure in August.

Matthews is a long-time Maggie Valley resident who has lived in the town on and off for 15 years.

At 31, Matthews brings a much younger perspective to the board, and the current members noted that fresh outlook as one of the reasons they chose him over the other two candidates who had put in for the position.

“He’s got a lot of energy,” said Danya Vanhook, who was herself appointed to the board in March. “He has a lot of young fresh ideas.”

Matthews came to Maggie in high school, and after leaving for several years, has returned with his wife and two children to make the valley his home.

He said he went out for the job because of a longing to see the town, so often embroiled in conflict and infighting, return to the more harmonious days he remembers from his childhood.

“I’ve seen Maggie how it used to be and how everybody used to get along,” said Matthews. “Now, there’s such a disconnect between the businesses and the residents and the town officials. Everybody should start working together and getting on the same page.”

Indeed, even at the same meeting where he was appointed, there was contention among residents and business owners over noise ordinances and confusion over town-imposed fees.

Matthews said that he believes the best way to overcome those conflicts is better communication from all parties and more visibility by the town in the community.

“You’ve got to get out and be visible and go to the businesses and go to the residents,” said Matthews, though he pointed out that changing the mood in Maggie Valley can’t just come from the town hall. “It’s got to take everybody.”

Recently, however, the town board has had enough contention to deal with among its own ranks, without worrying about discord from the wider community.

Though this particular seat came up for grabs through non-political circumstances — Pauley moved from the valley due to financial constraints — the board hasn’t lacked its share of political quarrels.

In the months leading up to his resignation, Pauley and fellow alderman Phil Aldridge had several public disagreements, while Aldridge also took vocal issue with the opinions of other board members regularly.

And in February, the town lost another alderman to politics when Colin Edwards resigned over what he thought was poor handling of the town’s alcohol board and squabbles with Ralph Wallace, it’s chair and former town mayor.

Over many issues that come before the board, there are often discordant factions among the elected officials. Even the process of choosing replacement aldermen has been hotly contested between officials and among town members.

Outside the town hall walls, disagreements also persist as business owners and residents often have clashing priorities on town issues such as the Maggie Valley Festival Grounds and its profitability, budget spending and noise ordinances. It isn’t unusual to hear a few residents and business owners stand up at town meetings to take issue with how the board is run or even the board members personally.

It’s this climate that Matthews said he’d like to change.

“It seems like everything is so one sided, it’s divided up,” said Matthews. “I think we just need to figure out a way to get everybody together, to get everybody on the same page, get everybody to realize that we’re all working towards the same goal: to make Maggie better.”

He’s coming to the job after a stint on the planning board, which will now end. According to town rules, an alderman can’t also sit as a planning board member.

Asked whether he’d like to run when his seat comes up for reelection, Matthews said it’s certainly something he’d be interested in. He was planning to run for the seat anyway, had he not been appointed.

“I intend to keep going as long as I can,” he said.

The spot, however, won’t be up for election for another two years.

Mayor Roger McElroy said he was hopeful that Matthews could provide another good link between the board and the community.

“We thought he would be good to interface with the local people as well as the people who have moved into the valley,” said McElroy.

At their meeting, all the sitting aldermen seemed enthusiastic about Matthews, despite their differences of opinion over the process for choosing the post.

In the past, Aldridge, the regular voice of dissent, had advocated for filling an open seat with the next runner up from a previous election. But since that person, Phil Wight, wasn’t in the running, even Aldridge threw his vote behind Matthews.

Several times the idea of bringing the appointment of an empty seat to a popular vote, or at least appointing the next runner up, has been broached by Aldridge and other community members.

But the board’s sentiments seem unlikely to swing that way, should another spot become available.

“It’s not something that I look at, because it could be somebody that has 100 votes or somebody that has two votes,” said Alderwoman Saralyn Price.

Some at the meeting questioned why Pauley’s seat couldn’t be placed on the November ballot, along with the two alderman positions already up for reelection. However, state election law will not allow for such a change after the candidate filing period has closed.

Matthews will be sworn in at a special called meeting on Oct. 4.

Maggie aldermen flip-flop on process for filling vacant board seats

For the second time this year, a Maggie Valley alderman is resigning from his seat, leaving it up to the rest of the board to pick a replacement. But in what appears to be an about-face from the process used just six months ago, aldermen refused to accept two applications that came in late.

In February, aldermen had five applications in hand at the deadline and chose to extend it.

This time, they had two fewer applicants and decided it was enough.

“It was more of an issue of look, we set a deadline and we need to follow the deadline,” said Town Manager Tim Barth, when asked about the policy change.

Barth polled the remaining four board members on whether to accept the late applications, and the majority favored sticking with the set deadline. That decision wasn’t made in an open meeting.

Alderman Phil Aldridge said he wanted to extend the deadline this time, but was vetoed by other board members.

Philip Wight, who has been critical of the current board, found himself on the wrong side of the shifting rules.

Last time, Wight had applied on time, only to see the deadline extended. This time, Wight didn’t get his in on time, only to learn the deadline honored. Wight has run for office in the past, and came in a close runner-up two years ago.

Wight and June Johnson were both one day late and had their applications rejected.

One of the three applicants who met the deadline — Bill Banks, Michael Matthews and Billy Case — will be picked at the town board meeting this week.

Banks and Matthews will be interviewed before the meeting. Case had a conflict and will be applying on the merits of his application.

Chuck Dickson, the town’s lawyer, said that there’s no set procedure when trying to fill a vacant seat. Consistency in the process from one seat to the next is the board’s prerogative.

In the past, there has been contention among board members over choosing a new person. Aldridge spoke out vehemently against extending the deadline for applications in February, saying that five applications was quite a turnout for small Maggie Valley.

On the agenda for this week’s meeting is a discussion about the process, as well.

The new member will start work at a special called meeting on Oct. 4.


Empty seats in Maggie

• Earlier this month, Alderman Scott Pauley left his seat two years ahead of schedule for financial reasons.

• In February, Colin Edwards exited the board over differences of opinion with other members.

Maggie Valley loses another alderman

Maggie Valley Alderman and motel owner Scott Pauley is leaving his post, pushed out by the region’s sagging economy.

Pauley tendered his resignation on Aug. 23, effective that day.

He is the second alderman to resign the town board this year, following Colin Edwards’ departure in February because of a disagreement over what he felt was subpar oversight of the town’s liquor stores.

Pauley, however, is bidding not only the board, but the town, farewell.

He, his wife and daughter are moving back to Virginia after a string of tough tourist seasons made it impossible for them to stay.

“We’ve been struggling for a while trying to do what we could to stay in the valley,” said Pauley.

But this was the worst year in three for the Lowe’s Motel, which the family has been running. They have lived in Maggie Valley for just over six years, and Pauley has been on the town board for two.

He said that he regrets having to leave the board and the town, and that his decision isn’t political, just financial.

He even intended to run for mayor before the scope of the economic situation became clear.

But when he realized a move was imminent, he stayed off the ballot.

The remaining members on the town board will vote on Pauley’s replacement.

Though two of the four aldermen seats and the mayoral spot are up for reelection this November, whoever is chosen to fill the vacant seat will get a free pass in November. Pauley was not up for election for another two years, and his replacement will serve out the remainder of that term.

It’s possible some of those on the ballot could put in a bid for the vacant seat hoping for a direct route to a seat on the board.

Town Manager Tim Barth said the process for replacing Pauley has already begun. The town is currently taking applications, with notices being posted in newspapers and going out on the town’s e-mail list.

Anyone interested in the seat has until Sept. 13 to apply, and although the timeline for appointing a new member isn’t set, it will likely be within the month. Each candidate must be interviewed by the whole board, and depending on how many hopefuls turn out, it could take a while.

When Alderwoman Danya Vanhook was appointed to Edwards’ vacated seat in March, there was some contention among board members about how to deal with filling the opening. The original deadline for applications was extended because some board members felt there wasn’t enough time for everyone to express interest.

That raised the ire of Alderman Phil Aldridge, often at odds with the rest of the board. Aldridge felt there were plenty of applicants, but the rest of the board just didn’t like the choices.

This time, however, Aldridge didn’t have a gripe against the process as yet, though he did say he was not sorry to see Pauley go. The two engaged in a heated public exchange earlier this year over the town’s ABC board and the performance of ABC Chairman Ralph Wallace.

Pauley’s wife, Dorene Pauley, is also vacating a public position as a planning board member.

Pauley said he’s proud of his time in Maggie Valley and hopes to return one day.

“I always wanted to retire here and I can’t ever rule it out, but you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do for your family,” said Pauley. “We just regret leaving. Maggie’s a beautiful place, has got great people and I’ve enjoyed serving.”

Waynesville voters not shy of options this fall

The contest to fill Waynesville’s town board has drawn a wide crowd this year, a mixture of incumbents, political newcomers and a couple of election veterans.

Seven candidates will vie for four seats in the November election. The town board hasn’t seen an upset in the last two elections.

Sitting Aldermen Gary Caldwell, J. Wells Greeley and Leroy Roberson are all coming back for another try, and given the track record of incumbents in Waynesville elections, the odds seem in their favor. But at least one seat is wide open, as Alderwoman Libba Feichter is not returning for re-election, likely fueling some of the competition entering the race.

The challengers represent a variety of views, some business owners, some retirees, some public servants, but nearly all named the economy and the replacement of retiring Town Manager Lee Galloway as top priorities in the coming term.

Only one, Sam Edwards, expressed open discontent with the current administration, with the rest either backing the board’s positions or staying mum on the issue.

Among the challengers for town board, none are returning from the 2007 contest, however, Mayor Gavin Brown will face competition from Hugh Phillips, assistant manger of Bi-Lo, who ran unsuccessfully against him four years ago.

The general election will be held on November 8. Voter registration closes on October 14.


Gary Caldwell

Age: 58

Occupation: Production manager at Cornerstone Printing in Waynesville.

Time in Waynesville: Caldwell is a lifelong Waynesville resident.

Political Experience: Currently a sitting board member, Caldwell has served four consecutive terms as a Waynesville alderman.

Why he is running: “I just enjoyed being in city government. I just really love it.”

Biggest challenge in the next term: “My challenge is completing the skate park. I’m halfway there. We’ve raised probably close to $160,000 of the $300,000 that we’re trying to raise to break ground on it, and that’s been my goal probably for the past 10 years. Finally we’ve got it really going on great.”


Sam Edwards

Age: 57

Occupation: Clergyman. Edwards spent two decades with the Episcopal church before becoming vicar at St. Peter’s Anglican Church in Waynesville. He is now waiting to be received into the Catholic church.

Time in Waynesville: He lived in Waynesville through high school and returned in 2007.

Political Experience: Edwards unsuccessfully ran as a Republican against N.C. Rep. Ray Rapp, D-Mars Hill.

Why he is running: “I’d been concerned, with a bunch of other citizens, that the current administration in Waynesville is not providing a good climate for small businesses. I thought it was time to give the people a choice.”

What he’d bring to the new board: “Making do with less. We’re going to have to prioritize our budget and wisely spend the public’s money.”


Mary Ann Enloe

Age: 70

Occupation: Retired from Dayco after 37 years, most recently as the senior purchasing agent.

Time in Waynesville: Enloe is a lifelong Waynesville resident.

Political Experience: Enloe was the mayor of Hazelwood, a Haywood County commissioner for two terms and ran unsuccessfully as the Democratic candidate for N.C. House in 2000. She currently serves on the Haywood County Board of Equalization and Review and the Haywood County Fairgrounds Board. She has never run for office in Waynesville.

Why she is running: “It’s my love for this area. I live in the house I grew up in and I just have a real love for the area and a real understanding of how government has to work.”

Biggest challenge facing the new board: “I don’t know that it will be the biggest but it will certainly be at the top, will be hiring the new town manager.”


Julia Boyd Freeman

Age: 44

Occupation: Executive Director of REACH of Haywood County, a non-profit that deals with domestic violence.

Time in Waynesville: She is a lifelong resident.

Political Experience: Freeman has never run for public office, but sits on the Haywood County Department of Social Services Board and the North Carolina Domestic Violence Commission.

Why she is running: “For some time I’ve had an interest in public service and also in serving the community. I’ve got a vested interest in the community from a business standpoint, and there’s going to be a lot of changes in the town coming up in the next couple of years.”

Why she would make a good alderwoman: “I think I bring a youthful perspective, a younger generation connecting with the people. My desire to serve the community and work with diverse populations could make a big difference.”


Wells Greeley

Age: 59

Occupation: Owner of Wells Funeral Home, with locations in Waynesville and Canton.

Time in Waynesville: Greeley is a lifelong Haywood County resident, and has also lived in Canton.

Political Experience: Greeley is currently an alderman. He was appointed to fill the unexpired term of the late Kenneth Moore. He was also an alderman in Canton from 1981 to 1985.

Why he is running: “I did make the commitment when I accepted the appointment to run again, so I’m following through with my word.”

Biggest challenge of his previous term: “I knew it was going to be challenging and I have been pleasantly surprised with how well the town board works together.”


Ron Reid

Age: 55

Occupation: Owner of the Andon Reid Inn, a Waynesville bed-and-breakfast. Reid had a law enforcement career and was a health fitness consultant before becoming an inn-keeper in his retirement.

Time in Waynesville: He and his wife moved to Waynesville from the West Palm Beach, Fl., area in 2006.

Political Experience: This is his first run for public office, but has previously served on the board of the Haywood County Tourism Development Authority. He is currently on the board of directors at the Haywood County Chamber of Commerce.

Why he is running: “I’ve got a vision for the community. I like what the town is doing, I like the direction it’s been going in. I wanted  to be a part of that team.”

His top priorities for the next term: “The main thing is the economics. How are we going to keep the young people here, what’s going to be attractive to new businesses? Along with keeping the mountain Appalachian heritage and history. I would hate to see Waynesville just become anytown USA. People come here for a reason. We have to be progressive, manage smartly, but not forget what made Waynesville what it is.”


Leroy Roberson

Age: 67

Occupation: Optometrist at Haywood Optometric Care in Waynesville.

Time in Waynesville: Roberson is a lifelong resident of Waynesville.

Political Experience: He is completing a four-year term on the board and was elected as an alderman once in the past.

Why he is running: “Basically, I enjoy doing it. I think there’s still some things that need to be done, and maybe touch up on the land development standards.”

Greatest success of the current term: “Considering the financial difficulties that have presented themselves, we’ve been able to maintain the services and the town, I think, is being run quite well.”

Charlie Burgin had registered as a candidate last week, but has since decided not to run.

Sylva’s appointed aldermen must run for real this fall

Easing congestion on N.C. 107 and general economic development issues look to shape the context of Sylva’s upcoming municipal elections.

Three commissioner positions are open. Two landed in their seats via appointments instead of election by voters: Harold Hensley and Chris Matheson, who will now have to officially run to keep their seats. Ray Lewis won his seat four years ago.

Hensley was not prepared to commit this week on whether he will seek election, saying he is truly undecided at this juncture.

“I’ve enjoyed it,” Hensley acknowledged, adding that his decision, however, will hinge on whether he feels he “can benefit the taxpayers.”

Hensley had served on the board previously, but narrowly lost his seat in the last election in 2009. He found his way back on the board last year, however, being appointed to replace the outgoing Sarah Graham, who resigned after moving out of the town limits.

Like Hensley, Lewis wouldn’t commit one way or another about whether he will run.

“It is a little early yet. I haven’t made my mind up,” said Lewis, who is finishing a second term as commissioner.

Matheson said she would run, seeking this time to win election to the post she was appointed to fill when Maurice Moody moved up from commissioner to mayor in the November 2009 election.

“I do want to be a part of helping ease congestion on 107,” Matheson said. “To continue working with the DOT, and the county.”

Matheson also wants to see further improvements to Mill Street (known as Backstreet locally). And, the former assistant district attorney is adamant about helping shepherd the police department from cramped quarters into more spacious accommodations.

The town is trying to get the county to swap the old library building for the town’s former chamber of commerce building. The old library, Matheson said, would make a perfect home for the police department.

One newcomer has announced his intentions of running for a town commissioner position. Sylva businessman and resident John Bubacz, owner of Signature Brew Coffee Company, said he became interested in serving after Commissioner Danny Allen indicated he would resign for unspecified reasons at an unspecified point in the future, something which has yet to actually happen.

And, Bubacz said, he was motivated to run while following the town’s wrangle over how best to fund the Downtown Sylva Association. Bubacz is on the DSA board.

“I literally want to do this because I want to be a part,” he said. “There is nothing specific I want to change or accomplish, but I do feel that responsibility.”

Sylva leaders support DSA with more funding

The future of the Downtown Sylva Association remains unclear despite a move by town leaders to increase public funding for the group.

The town board unanimously voted last week to increase funding from $12,000 to $15,000 a year, but that amount still falls short of the $25,000 the downtown association says it needs.

“It is very appreciated, but it still doesn’t get us where we need to be,” said DSA Executive Director Julie Sylvester minutes after town leaders made their decision.

DSA, the group charged with spotlighting and underpinning Sylva’s vibrant downtown scene, has stated it faces “solvency” dangers without the $25,000.  DSA wants to drop what it claims is an unsustainable funding method — raising money directly from merchants. The group hoped the town would make up the difference. It’s unclear whether the group will now continue soliciting extra funds from downtown businesses.

Mayor Maurice Moody told fellow town leaders that DSA’s total budget each year is in excess of $50,000.

“If you under-fund them, whether you intend it or not, there’s a chance they may go away,” Moody said.

Commissioner Harold Hensley said an article in The Smoky Mountain News two weeks ago mischaracterized where he and fellow board members Danny Allen and Ray Lewis stood on the issue. He said they never intended to totally cut DSA off the town’s funding list. They simply felt that the $25,000 being requested is too much.

“I said we could leave it (at the same amount) … but we do have other things we have to look at,” Hensley said, saying he wanted to keep DSA at $12,000.

Hensley also said he wanted clarity that there is no “power struggle going on on this board. Everybody has their own ideas — but I don’t call it a power struggle.”

Allen said he agreed with Hensley.

“I don’t think there’s one board member that wants to cut DSA,” Allen said. “Fund as is … In the past, we’ve gotten that rap about not funding DSA, but we do want to fund DSA.”

Allen then qualified his support by noting that funding anything is difficult given the economic climate, saying, “we have to take a hard look at what we fund and what we don’t fund.”

Allen said town merchants he’s talked to want money put toward paying a policeman to work the downtown area.

Hensley also said if the town wanted to give DSA funding that approaches the $20,000 level, then he strongly believed that the director’s position ought to transition to a town staff position. Sylvester receives $20,000 a year for 20 hours a week. She also receives $250 a month for a health-savings account.

North Carolina requires a paid director for towns to participate in the Main Street program. The program is important, among other reasons, because it opens the door to grants, which towns otherwise don’t qualify to receive.

Commissioner Chris Matheson told Hensley that bringing a new employee on board with the town entails much more than simply paying that person’s base salary, citing health benefits and so on.

Hensley said perhaps Town Manager Adrienne Isenhower or Town Clerk/Tax Collector Brandi King “could be the Main Street person.”

“If you are going to start appropriating that kind of money, you ought to have it in-house,” Hensley said.

Commissioner Stacy Knotts said Isenhower and King have fulltime jobs as it is, without taking on DSA duties.

Ultimately, the commissioners in a compromise decided on an additional $3,000 in the budget to DSA bringing their funding to $15,000, plus gave a Neighbors in Need help group just more than $1,000 at Allen’s request.

“I’d also like to say we need to keep in mind the policeman on Main Street,” Allen added.

Board members also discussed a flat raise for all town employees who make under $50,000 instead of an across the board cost-of-living increase.

Hensley said dividing up the proposed 2.5 percent increase would give $1,020.28 to those making below $50,000 though he asked not to be held strictly to his math.

“We’ve got some people that’s really low paid in this town,” he said.

The other commissioners indicated they agreed with Hensley’s proposal, but Matheson and Commissioner Stacy Knotts emphasized this was a one-time deal that they’d want to revisit next year.

Much ado about everything in Maggie

In Maggie Valley’s Town Hall, the cooperative spirit has been in short supply of late, with disputes flaring at nearly every turn.

A chill fell over the Board of Aldermen when former member Colin Edwards took his leave last month, creating a vacancy on the board and a chasm between its remaining members.

Things got significantly less friendly at the board’s Feb. 15 meeting, where disagreements and outright arguments among board members erupted over several touchy issues.

Edwards departure – and the choice about how and when to replace him – was a cause of some indignation, with Alderman Phil Aldridge criticizing the other members over the extending the deadline for people to apply for the vacant seat.

Other aldermen said they were in favor of giving residents an extra month to put their names in the hat, but Aldridge said he was vexed by the extension when the town had five applications in hand already.

“We had more people to come forward that applied for this vacant position we have on the board here than we’ve ever had,” said Aldridge. “We’ve never had this many people.”

Aldridge questioned whether other town board members simply didn’t like those who have applied so far and were hoping to hand pick someone of their own choosing. Aldridge has lobbied for selecting the runner-up from the last town election, calling it the most “democratic” thing to do.

Whoever the appointee eventually is, they’ll only be sitting in the position for six months before the November election, where Alridge’s seat will also be up for grabs.

Though the decision to extend was made in consultation with the town board, Aldridge laid the blame for the extension squarely at the feet of Town Manager Tim Barth, even going so far as to call for Barth’s resignation.

“I guess I’m holding him accountable for this,” said Aldridge. “I think we need to look at Tim’s severance pay and his contract and go forward possibly looking for another town manager.”


ABC board controversy

The ire didn’t stop there, however, with perhaps the most heated exchanges coming over issues related to the town’s ABC board. Maggie Valley’s two liquor stores lost money in 2010 for the second year in a row, and blame was placed on a bad economy and overhead related to opening a second store. While revenue increased with the second store, overhead increased by even more, according to ABC Board Chairman Ralph Wallace.

But Aldridge, and Edwards prior to his resignation, suggested the stores have been poorly run, even mismanaged, and need more oversight. Both wanted to see the ABC board increased from three to five members.

However, Aldridge failed to garner support for the idea, as the board ultimately voted 3-to-1 not to increase the ABC board membership, at which point the meeting devolved briefly into a mire of bickering. Board members vacillated between hurling insults and accusations at one another, and taking it in turns to directly address the nearly full audience.

Aldridge logged the lone vote in favor of increasing the board, although Alderman Scott Pauley and fellow member Saralyn Price said they’d be for the measure at some point, but not right now.

Despite implications to the contrary, Price countered that she had faith in the scruples of the alcohol board’s members.

“The ABC board assures us everything is on the up and up,” Price said. Otherwise, Price said, town leaders would not “stand for somebody taking something and not doing things about it.”

After a shout from the crowd that cast derision on that claim, Price shot back, “then don’t vote for me ever again and maybe some other people should start running for these offices.”


Broken chain of command

Pauley made his appeal to the crowd, after proposing a policy to prevent members from circumventing Barth and going straight to town employees with their requests.

“We have a terrible communication problem,” said Pauley. “I’m not trying to mask it, I’m trying to fix it.”

Even in the public comment segment, citizens who showed up vented their spleen about nearly everything on the agenda, including the fact that public comment continued to languish at the end of every meeting. That means citizens have no venue for pitching their thoughts before votes are taken.

Several residents made the point that a poorly worded resolution that was passed before public comment could have been amended before it was voted on, had the board recognized audience members with raised hands looking to illuminate the mistake.

The resolution will now have to wait until next month’s meeting to be rectified.

In the end, Mayor Roger McElroy closed the tense session with a half-hearted adjournment, telling the few audience members who remained, “we appreciate your comments and will take them under consideration. Or at least I will.”

Maggie Valley extends alderman application deadline

Maggie Valley has extended its deadline for alderman applications by a month, despite already having five applications in hand.

The town set an application deadline of Feb. 9 after Alderman Colin Edwards tendered his resignation last month. Edwards told The Smoky Mountain News that he stepped down from the board because of irreconcilable differences with the other board members. His resignation was accepted after a 3-1 vote, over the protestations of Alderman Phil Aldridge.

The town staff and remaining alderman decided to take applications for the position, hoping to name a new member at their Feb. 15 meeting. But late last week, town officials announced a deadline extension to March 9, which Town Manager Tim Barth said was to allow more residents the opportunity to apply.

“When we were finally able to get the ad in both newspapers, it ended up giving people very little time to get their applications or resumes in,” said Barth. “The board didn’t want to limit the number of people who were interested because they want to get the best candidate available, so they decided to extend it and not try and force it.”

However, Aldridge said he is concerned that the extension wasn’t to get the best candidate, but instead to find a hand-picked candidate.

The town currently has five applications, two from former alderman hopefuls from the last election, which Aldridge believes is more than enough, and indeed a far better response than he expected.

“I thought they were all good,” said Aldridge of the applicants, “and one of them was the highest vote-getter [in the last election aside from those who were elected], which would have been the most admirable way and the most democratic way to go about this.”

Aldridge clashed with the other three aldermen at a special-called meeting earlier this month over accepting Edwards’ resignation, as well as the operation of the town’s ABC board. That issue — and specifically Chairman Ralph Wallace’s decision to remain the chair — was what other aldermen said was the only reason given to them for Edwards’ abrupt resignation in January.

Edwards himself was appointed to the board before he won his seat in the last election.

Barth said the decision was about timing rather than choices, and said a March deadline would allow a broader range of citizens to apply. Alderman will interview selected candidates before voting on a choice at their March 15 meeting.

The appointee will sit in the position until November, when an election will be held to determine the seat.

Maggie ABC stores face questions amid losses

Maggie Valley’s liquor stores lost money in 2010 for the second year in a row, prompting some aldermen to question whether the ABC stores are being properly managed.

The two stores are opening for fewer hours. Three part-time employees have been laid off in hopes of turning the corner, according to Ralph Wallace, chairman of the Maggie Valley ABC board.

“It is paying off,” Wallace said. “I think we are going to be all right.”

But Alderman Phil Aldridge doesn’t understand how Maggie’s two ABC stores ended up in the red for a second year in a row.

“There has to be money in this. I know there is,” Aldridge said.

Towns with ABC stores get to keep a cut of the profits. That once amounted to about $40,000 a year, but instead the Maggie stores lost $70,000 over the past two years.

“I am a steward of the taxpayers money. Because of mismanagement, the ABC funds are not coming back to the taxpayers like they should,” Aldridge said. “This is an issue that needs to be brought to the public’s attention.”

Wallace blames the losses on the bad economy and additional overhead of opening a second ABC store in 2009.

In a tactical move to grow revenues, Maggie Valley opened a second store aimed at capturing business from Waynesville. Maggie strategically annexed a satellite tract into its town limits to put the new store half way between Maggie and Waynesville on U.S. 19 in Dellwood.

Financial reports out of Waynesville show a corresponding drop in revenues since Maggie opened the second store.

Liquor sales in Maggie grew by $300,000 the first full year the store was open, with $1.59 million in sales in 2010 compared to $1.235 million in 2008, according to annual revenue reports filed with the state.

But the increase in revenues wasn’t enough to offset the expense of the second store, Wallace said.

Operating costs went from around $225,000 a year to $430,000 a year, according to revenue reports.

The new store not only meant more employees and additional overhead for phones, computers and utilities, but also paying off the debt from building the store and buying the land for it.

On the surface, the growth in liquor sales seems like enough to cover the extra overhead, however, and that’s what puzzles Aldridge.

“I wouldn’t mind seeing the financial records for the past five years,” Aldridge said.

The Smoky Mountain News has requested more detailed financial records from the ABC board, but Wallace is out of town and was unable to provide them as of press time.



Town leaders were not aware of just how poorly the stores were doing until recently. The town does not get regular financial reports from the ABC board, something town leaders want to change. Until now, all they got was a copy of the annual audit.

“We need to determine how they can report to us on an ongoing basis — what can they give us that will show how they are progressing over the course of the year so that we don’t just get a once-a-year snapshot,” said Town Manager Tim Barth. “Obviously it is something that concerns us.”

The town does not have a direct hand in operating the liquor stores. That’s up to a three-member ABC board. The town’s only role is appointing those three members.

“Other than that our hands are tied,” Aldridge said.

Aldridge wants to expand the ABC board from three to five members. So did former Alderman Colin Edwards.

Edwards had been leading the charge to expand the ABC board to five members. Like Aldridge, he had raised concerns about mismanagement and questioned the financial losses.

Edwards resigned as an alderman last week, however, citing irreconcilable differences with the rest of the town board.

SEE ALSO: Maggie alderman Colin Edwards resigns 

Aldridge said Maggie’s ABC board could use new faces.

“The more people the more accountability there is,” Aldridge said. Besides, it seems they could use the help.

“Five heads is better than three,” Aldridge said.


Red flags

Town leaders at the time hoped the second store would pay off in the long run, but it now doesn’t seem that way. Aldridge half-heartedly suggested closing the second store if it costs more to run it than it is making, but that would leave the town holding the bag on the remaining 13 years of loan payments on the building.

Barth said it wasn’t a total surprise that the stores were in the red. The issue came to a head, however, when a few aldermen noticed shelves at the second ABC store seemed empty.

“There was some concern among the aldermen about whether the stores were being stocked as they needed to be stocked,” Barth said.

The town board called a special meeting with the ABC board in early January to ask questions.

A poorly stocked store is a bad sign, and would only make financial problems worse, Aldridge said.

“You can’t sell it if you don’t have it,” Aldridge said.

It ran counter to the whole idea of capturing sales.

“We lost that edge when we let the stock run down,” Aldridge said.

Cash flow problems are likely why the store wasn’t keeping as much inventory, Barth said.

Wallace brought the attorney for the ABC board along to the meeting with the town board, as well as their accountant. Barth and Aldridge said they did not know why Wallace brought the attorney.

“It was supposed to be a casual meeting,” Aldridge said. “What was going through my mind was how can we help the ABC store.”

But the meeting allegedly got heated at times. There is no written or audio record of the meeting. The town clerk was out sick that day, and Town Manager Tim Barth said he didn’t take minutes.

This violates the NC Open Meetings Law.


Short of expectations

Wallace said the recession came at the worst possible time.

“When they opened the new store the economy took a downturn all of a sudden,” Wallace said. “We are not the only ABC store in the country that isn’t doing good.”

Wallace said another factor that hurt the bottom line was the closing of Thunder Ridge, a large nightclub and dancehall.

“That was a big account of ours and that has hurt business some,” Wallace said.

However, Thunder Ridge has been closed since 2004, long before the ABC board made forays into a second store.

“You can blame it on a lot of things,” Wallace said.

Indeed, in an interview in December 2009, then-chairman of the ABC board Austin Pendley cited several factors. Pendley primarily blamed the recession for a slump in tourism, further exacerbated by the closure of Interstate 40 because of a rock slide.

Meanwhile, Harrah’s Cherokee Casino began serving alcohol. Before, people gambling at Harrah’s would drive over to Maggie Valley to stock up on booze. The Maggie liquor store did a bang up business in pocket-sized airline bottles: the perfect size for smuggling into the casino.

Nonetheless, Maggie’s ABC stores posted gains in liquor sales to the public despite the recession, according to revenue reports. Restaurants and bars, on the other hand, stopped buying as much. Liquor purchased by restaurants and bars once accounted for one-third of the business done by Maggie’s ABC store.

But sales to restaurants and bars went from $300,000 a year before the recession to less than $200,000 in 2010, according to revenue reports. The recession meant fewer people were eating out, and those who did ordered fewer drinks.

Pendley passed away last year, as did fellow ABC board member Sam McCrary

Wallace said he isn’t as knowledgeable about ABC operations as they were.

“We lost both of those guys, and it has really been a struggle,” Wallace said.

For example, when questioned about overhead for the second store, Wallace couldn’t say how many new employees were added. He also said he didn’t know off the top of his head how much the annual debt on the land and building is.

Maggie alderman Colin Edwards resigns

Maggie Valley Alderman Colin Edwards resigned last week, prompting a special called meeting where barely-concealed animosity among the remaining board members threatened to bubble up into outright conflict.

Alderman Phil Aldridge voted against accepting Edwards’ resignation — the only member to do so — and also voted against the appointment of Alderman Scott Pauley as new mayor pro-tem.

“I’m voting against it, I’m not in favor of it,” said Aldridge. “We have a very dysfunctional board, I’m sorry to say.”

Edwards himself was not present at the meeting. The only reason he offered for his departure was his displeasure at serving with other aldermen, though over what issue the rift opened, Edwards didn’t specify.

“I had a difference of opinion with other board members on the Maggie Valley board of aldermen,” said Edwards. “I felt like I could not sit in that position no longer, so I tendered my resignation.”

Alderwoman Saralyn Price and Mayor Roger McElroy said after the meeting the only reasoning Edwards gave them was he wanted ABC Board Chairman Ralph Wallace to step down from his position.

Aldridge said he thinks the board should pick the next most-voted-for candidate from the last election, which in this case would be Phillip Wight. Aldridge said going with the next highest vote getter from the last election is the Democratic thing to do.

That’s not the method the rest of the town board has chosen, however.

“Rather than going back to the results of the election, they felt it would be better to see who was interested and to interview those candidates,” said Town Manager Tim Barth.

Barth said the board plans to appoint a new member at the board’s Feb. 17 meeting.

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