Brown wins by slim margin in Waynesville

All of Waynesville’s current leaders managed to hang on to their seats despite an impressive challenge mounted by a contender for mayor.

Waynesville Mayor Gavin Brown nearly lost his seat to Hugh Phillips, the general manager of Bi-Lo grocery store. Brown won by only 31 votes out of a total 1,445 cast in the mayor’s race.

It was Phillips second unsuccessful attempt for the mayor’s seat.

Brown, an attorney who makes a habit of mingling with the business community and the Main Street crowd, said he has apparently not done a good job connecting with a segment of Waynesville’s population.

“Mr. Phillips and his supporters represent a very important segment of the community and perhaps I haven’t recognized that,” Brown said. “You can never get ahead of your troops as a leader. Today they said ‘Gavin, you may be leaving me behind.’”

Brown is a visionary and idea man, focused on the long-range, big picture view for the town.

“Maybe I am too big picture,” Brown said. “If you are worried about your pay check and gas bill, how do you worry about something happening 20 years from now.”

Meanwhile, as the general manager of a grocery store, Phillips comes into contact with hundreds of average, blue-collar shoppers every week, who likely formed the backbone of his constituency. In some of Waynesville’s outlying precincts, Phillips carried the vote. But the in-town precincts — with neighborhoods like Eagle’s Nest, Waynesville Country Club, Auburn Park and the historic downtown neighborhoods — pushed Brown over the edge to victory.

Aldermen Gary Caldwell, Wells Greeley and Leroy Roberson will all return to the board. They will be joined by a newcomer, Julia Boyd Freeman, who will fill the seat of Libba Feichter, who decided not to run.

Freeman said she was “giddy” after hearing that she will have a place on the board and looks forward to working with her fellow aldermen.

“I really think we will work together and be a cohesive board,” Freeman said. “I think the world of the incumbents.”

While Freeman did not run a negative campaign against the current leaders, a block of supporters did. The Waynesville-Haywood Concerned Citizens, a conservative-leaning political action committee, as well as the local Republican Party, campaigned on Freeman’s behalf — and against the incumbents. Freeman said she did not solicit their endorsement but was happy to have it.

For Greeley, it was his first bona fide election in Waynesville after initially being appointed to the town board three years ago to fill the empty seat of an alderman who passed away.

“I’m just overwhelmed and humbled by the support I was given,” Greeley said. “To get elected is a very rewarding thing for me.”

Both Freeman and Greeley agreed that the most pressing concern for the new board is the replacement of long-time town manager Lee Galloway, who will retire in April.

One of the top issues that ended up dominating the Waynesville town election, however, was Cracker Barrel — or rather the lack thereof. A great debate broke out in the weeks preceding the election over whether a Cracker Barrel was blocked from coming here by the town’s development standards. In fact, the case of Cracker Barrel, it was a matter of economics: Waynesville’s population and traffic count wasn’t big enough to support a Cracker Barrel, according to the Realtor trying to market property to the company.

But the story spread, thanks largely to a political action committee that created a web site and took out newspaper ads to get the message out.

It clearly worked for some voters, including Gladys Watson, 69, who works part-time at Walmart and was stopped on her way out of the polls Tuesday afternoon.

“I would like to see an Olive Garden or Cracker Barrel,” Watson said. “I eat out a lot. You get tired of the options that are here.”

Other voters rejected the notion that the town was somehow to blame for the lack of chain restaurants.

“I would like a few more restaurants and a few more stores, but with the economy being down, they’ve done a great job,” said Janie Benson, a voter emerging from the Waynesville library polling place.

— By Becky Johnson and Caitlin Bowling 


Mayor

Gavin Brown (I) 729

Hugh Phillips 698  


Town Board

Seats up for election: 4

Total seats on board: 4  

Wells Greeley (I) 1,133

Gary Caldwell (I) 943

Julia Boyd-Freeman 843

Leroy Roberson (I) 811

Mary Ann Enloe 736

Sam Edwards 579

 

Two incumbents win seats in Sylva, “old” newcomer joins board, too

Sylva voters on Tuesday night might have put the brakes on something of a voting trifecta by adding former commissioner Lynda Sossamon to the town board at the expense of incumbent Ray Lewis.

Two other incumbent commissioners, Chris Matheson and Harold Hensley, both won seats at the table.

Hensley, Lewis and current Commissioner Danny Allen generally spoke in a unified voice and voted together when it came to deciding most Sylva issues.

Sossamon, who served a four-year term in the 1990s, described herself as “progressive yet traditional in things such as saving taxpayer money — but progressive in the sense that I want to move Sylva forward in some ways.”

“I’m glad it’s over,” Hensley said before saying he needed to call his wife and let her know the results.

“I am honored to have the opportunity to serve the citizens of the town of Sylva for four more years,” an openly relieved Matheson said.

Turnout was low. Out of 1,593 register voters, just 234 people opted to vote. Among them were Tammi VanHook and her 89-year-old mother, Ida Jean Bryson.

VanHook said she cast her vote for one simple reason: “If you don’t vote, you can’t complain.”

Bryson, who registered to vote on Oct. 16, 1965, had a slightly different view than her daughter.

“I don’t complain,” she said softly. “It don’t do no good.”

But Bryson never fails to cast her vote. Board of Elections records show Bryson has participated in every election in which she’s been eligible to vote since registering on Oct. 16, 1965.


Town Commissioner

Seats up for election: 3

Total seats on board: 5  

Christine Matheson (I) 177

Lynda Sossoman 152

Harold Hensley 127

Ray Lewis (I) 88

John Bubacz 72

Winning trio promises change in Maggie Valley

A slate of three candidates pledging change and an end to good old boy politics swept into office in Maggie Valley in this week’s the town election.

Longtime Mayor Roger McElroy, who has been on the town board for 30 years, got ousted by challenger Ron Desimone.

Desimone said the established leadership in Maggie Valley had shut the people out over the years.

“I think it is going to be a new day for Maggie Valley. People are going to be involved again,” Desimone said.

“We have four open minds on that board now.”

The old guard that has controlled Maggie politics since the 1980s wasn’t moving the town forward, he said.

“I connected with everybody up and down this valley. I spent a lot of time talking to people and listening to people,” Desimone said. “I guess they made their wishes known.”

Desimone and the other two victors in the race — Alderman Phil Aldridge and Phillip Wight — ran as a team, billing themselves as the candidates that would give the people a voice.

“People want a fresh start, they want a new look. I think it sent a message that this Valley is in need of some repair. I just hope we can be the ones to do it. We have our hearts in this,” Aldridge said.

Aldridge said it won’t be easy to breathe life back in to Maggie’s struggling tourism economy.

“Our plate is full,” Aldridge said

Mayor Roger McElroy wished the new board luck in their efforts.

“Do I think they can do better? I hope they can because I think Maggie needs something better,” McElroy said.

It is hard to tell whether those who came out and voted were those with a bone to pick, possibly swaying the election.

“In an off-year election, all the people who oppose you go and vote. I didn’t get the vote out and they got it out,” McElroy of his opponents.

Voter turnout was quite high as far as town elections go at 34 percent.

Maria Dreispiel, a 56-year-old dental assistant, is one of those coming to the polls in search of change Tuesday afternoon.

“There are a few things that aren’t good in Maggie Valley,” said Dreispiel.

This marked the third straight election that Aldridge has run on a campaign of change. Despite being on the board for eight years, he has been a lone voice and unable to bring about change. Aldridge, who ran a general store in Maggie Valley for years, was probably a shoe-in for re-election and could have catered to voters on both sides of the aisle. But he made the decision to stake out his position and run as a team up with Desimone and Wight.

The only way to accomplish change was to get a majority with the same views elected.

“I needed support on that board. I needed two people I could look at and depend on and somebody who would have my back,” Aldridge said.

Alderwoman Danya Vanhook lost her seat, although she was not exactly part of the old guard in Maggie. She was a newcomer to politics after being appointed to fill a vacancy six months ago. But she did not join forces with the camp pushing for change — or as some would see them, the complainers and critics.

Now, the complainers will have their turn to steer the town that has become known for its small town political bickering for years.


Mayor  

Ron DeSimone 215

Roger McElroy (I) 137  


Town Board

Seats up for election: 2

Total seats on board: 4

Phil Aldridge (I) 196

Phillip Wight 187

Danya Vanhook (I) 156

Danny Mitchell 132

Michael Matthews 18 

Newcomer Patrick Willis joins incumbents on Canton board

The Canton Town Board of Aldermen will now feature three old dogs and one new one.

Patrick Willis, who ran unsuccessfully in the last election, won a seat on the board with 312 votes.

“I am looking forward to working with the board,” Willis said. “I’d like to bring some new ideas, some new perspectives to the board.”

Willis said he thinks he will be able to work with the board to set some goals for the town.

As a member of StepUp Canton, Willis focused his campaign on economic development. Specifically, updating the town website, increasing communication between town officials and residents and marketing the town’s assets (e.g., its cheap housing and beautiful landscape) to draw new residents and businesses.

Willis said he expects there to be a small learning curve but he “deserve(s) to be there.”

Six candidates — three of whom were incumbents  — ran for four seats on the Board of Aldermen. Jimmy Flynn, Kenneth Holland and Ed Underwood reclaimed their seats on the board. Mike Ray, the sole candidate for mayor, received 440 votes.

Mayor  

Mike Ray 440  

Town Board

Seats up for election: 4

Total seats on board: 4  

Ed Underwood (I) 347

Jimmy Flynn (I) 313

Patrick Willis 312

Kenneth Holland (I) 292

Phil Smathers 275

Cecil Patton 82

Stanley Metcalf 72

Write-in candidate takes mayor’s race in Bryson City

After months of campaigning, a write-in candidate won the Bryson City mayoral election — an interesting twist in a competition that had only one name on the ballot.

Tom Sutton beat out Jeramy Shuler, the only candidate whose name was listed on the ballot, by 22 votes.

“I’m pretty excited,” Sutton said. “It’s been a great day.”

The newly elected mayor woke up at 6:30 this morning and spent all day at the polls shaking hands and talking to voters with his brother, he said.

Sutton said he tried to keep an informal tally throughout the day.

“I knew it would be pretty close,” Sutton said. “I was really lucky that it went that way.”

Sutton ran a write-in campaign after finding out that incumbent Mayor Brad Walker would not be running for re-election. By that time, however, it was too late to register.

His first order of business will be to talk to the town department heads and find out “where I can help,” Sutton said.

Sutton spent 24 years in the Navy, worked as a school resource officer for the sheriff’s office and is now a parole officer. He listed road repairs, streetscape improvements and continuing to upgrade the town’s water system as projects he would like to focus on.

Voter turnout was actually better than the norm for a town election. Of the town’s 1,040 voters, 210 came out to the polls for a turnout of 20 percent.

Shuler refused to comment after the results were tallied but said “there may be some discrepancy.”

The only other Bryson City candidates, Jim Gribble and Kate Welch, were both incumbents and ran unopposed.

Mayor

Tom Sutton (write-in) 111

Jeramy Shuler 89  

Town Board: 

Seats up for election: 2

Total seats on board: 4  

Jim Gribble (I) 148

Kate Welch (I) 134

Write-in 39

Canton candidates target downtown revitalization, recreation

Four years ago, candidates for office in Canton wanted new faces. Two years ago, their platforms were cooperation. And this year, business development and recreation are the common threads among candidates.

“I think we also need to look at doing our best to attract new residents to Canton and new businesses to Canton as well,” said Patrick Willis, who is spearheading StepUp Canton, a program aimed at spurring economic growth in the town.

Willis, who ran unsuccessfully two years ago, said Canton needs to market its assets: its comparatively cheap property values, its friendly atmosphere and its family-oriented recreation.

All the candidates shared a similar desire to revitalize downtown Canton.

The town should also work with existing businesses to improve the appearance of local storefronts through grants to owners willing to redo their façades, said Alderman Ed Underwood.

“It’s just got to be a cooperative effort,” he said. Underwood cited his personal effort to improve the town’s appearance by picking up trash once a week while walking through town with his wife.

The candidates emphasized some form of combined effort between the town and business owners, many of them discussing the need for a business or merchant’s association to serve as a driving force for commerce.

When current Alderman Jimmy Flynn ran for office two years ago, he pressed for the creation of a business association, he said.

“That is what I will continue to push every chance I get,” Flynn said.

Fellow candidate Phil Smathers said such an association is key if the town hopes to bring specialty shops to Canton’s Main Street and beautify its downtown.

“Certainly, everybody’s moving for progress,” Smathers said. “We are expecting big things to eventually come.”

A couple of candidates even mentioned offering incentives to draw businesses to the area.

“We’re going to have to work as a team to get things going,” said candidate Cecil Patton.

Patton said the town must work with property owners and businesses to fill the empty storefronts along Main Street.

Stanley Metcalf also said he would like to see more local businesses on Main Street, adding that it is difficult to own a business in Canton, but incentives might entice people to open a store.

“In my opinion, Canton is an unfriendly business town,” said Metcalf, who owns a lawn care service.

It seems every time a business does something to promote itself, such as place a sign on the sidewalk, it breaks an ordinance, he added.

Willis and Underwood, another candidate and current alderman, both cited updating the town’s website as an important tool for promoting Canton to prospective businesses and residents.

“That gets the word out,” Underwood said.

Recreation reconstruction

From replacing its aging pool to lining up acts to play in the historic Colonial Theatre, Canton board candidates agree that the town needs to step up its focus on recreation.

“We’re going to have to take a hard look at that pool,” Underwood said. “We’ve got to have that pool.”

Flynn agrees that the pool needs to be replaced — a cost of more than $1 million.

The swimming pool only has about three years of life left in it, said Flynn, who wants to start a recreation fund to save money for the replacement. Flynn said the town should start other reserve funds for future projects as well.

Adding lighting to the ballpark complex, creating more paths for pedestrians and cyclists and repairing the pool are among Smathers’ list for recreation improvements.

One of Patton’s main campaign goals is to increase activities for kids and seniors. He said the town should offer games and keep the pool open later so that there is not a shortage of recreation opportunities for either age group.

The past two years

Canton has an unusual election cycle: all four town board members plus the mayor are up for election every two years. Two years ago, a slate of three new candidates prevailed in the election. A similar upset was seen four years ago. The widespread dissatisfaction that drove those elections does not seem as prevalent this year, however.

“I’ve got all respect in the world for the board that is in there now,” said Smathers, a challenger in the race. “To me, it’s been one of the best boards that has been seated in Canton in years.”

Smathers said he is not looking to oust one of the current board members. Instead, he is running for the seat currently held by Alderman Eric Dills, who is not in the race this year. Smathers was a longtime town employee and cited his experience working with the town budget.

“I am running on experience as an asset,” Smathers said.

Other candidates had more mixed reviews of the current town board, however, questioning whether it has accomplished enough.

Willis said if elected, he wants to work with other board members to create short- and long-term goals, which the town can work toward.

“I have not seen or heard what direction the town wants to go with,” Willis said, adding that he thinks the board can accomplish much more than it has in the past couple of years.

“Not everybody is going to agree on every issue … but if there is common goals that the board can come up with then they should work to get those goals accomplished,” Willis said.

Willis, who chose Canton as the place to raise his family, wants to see the town develop in a positive way.

Metcalf said he thinks the most recent board has done “a pretty decent job,” but he would not care if the whole board were replaced.

He would like to see more local people get involved, he said.

Currently, the Board of Aldermen holds its meetings at 10 a.m. on the second Tuesday of the month and 7 p.m. on the fourth Tuesday of the month. Metcalf said he wants to change the time to make it more convenient for local residents to attend.

The incumbents running for re-election pledged to continue on the same course.

“For me and Jimmy and Kenny, we’ll continue working together (if we are re-elected),” Underwood said. “We haven’t kicked the can down the road.”

“I think we’ve been very progressive,” Flynn added.

Underwood said there is more they would like to accomplish, however, after coming on the board just two years ago.

“You couldn’t do everything in two years,” Underwood said.

The board began and will continue its sidewalk and street repair work, said Underwood and Flynn.

This board has spent more money on roads, fixing potholes and paving, than any other board in the past 10 years, Flynn said. It has cut expenses, held the tax rate steady and combined staff positions when an employee retired or quit to save money, he said.

The town has also begun replacing the sewer line along Champion Drive around exit 31 off Interstate 40. The line was undersized and as a result, lacked capacity for new businesses. Replacing the line had been a top goal of aldermen who were elected two years ago.

Kenneth Holland, a current alderman who is also running for re-election, did not return multiple calls requesting an interview.

 

Alderman: pick four

 

Ed Underwood, 62, retired army lieutenant colonel and retired state prison guard, current town board member

• Continue street and sidewalk repairs

• Clean up the town, including façade improvements

• Replace the pool

 

Jimmy Flynn, 61, safety director for Buckeye Construction Company and retired assistant town manager, current town board member

• Create a recreation capital reserve fund

• Establish a business association

• Keep tax rates down

 

Phil Smathers, 64, retired fireman and building inspector

• Start a downtown business association

• Improve local recreation, including adding more paths for pedestrians and cyclists and lighting at the ballpark

• Beautify downtown Canton

 

Cecil Patton, 84, retired Army sergeant

• Offer more activities for the elderly and children

• Maintain current local tax rates

• Work to keep businesses in Canton

 

Stanley Metcalf, 54, owner of Metcalf and Associates Lawn Care Services

• Make Canton more business friendly

• Change the board’s meeting time to promote more resident involvement

• Award contracts to in-state businesses

 

Patrick Willis, 31, historic interpreter at Thomas Wolfe National Historic Site

• Improve the town’s website

• Increase communication between businesses and local officials

• Market the town’s assets to draw new residents and businesses

 

Kenneth Holland, 64, retired pharmacist, current town board member.

• Holland did not return phone calls requesting an interview.

 

Mayor: pick one

 

Mike Ray, a former Canton alderman, is running unopposed. Current mayor Pat Smathers is stepping down after 12 years.

Too fancy or just right?

Waynesville has spent $7 million over the past four years building a new fire station, police station and town offices — projects that have come under fire by some challengers for the town board.

Opponents point to the architecture — the brick towers on the fire house, the wood timber frames over the police department entrance — and question how much they added to the price tag.

“I think it is a little extravagant,” said Hugh Phillips, who is running for mayor.

“They may be just a bit more than we really needed,” said candidate Sam Edwards, calling the buildings too fancy. “It certainly helped prettify things, but I don’t know if that was what we should be doing right now.”

But the incumbents say the attractive building design added little to the cost and was worth it.

“I am proud of those things, and if they want to rag on me for that, guilty as charged,” said Waynesville Mayor Gavin Brown.

Mary Ann Enloe, a challenger in the race, lauded the buildings and doesn’t consider them extravagant.

“I think the designs are beautiful,” Enloe said. “Why didn’t we make the justice center look like that?”

Alderman Gary Caldwell said the town actually scaled back some elements of the building design.

“It could have been far more fancy than what it is now,” Caldwell said.

The new police department on Main Street also houses the town planning office where developers and entrepreneurs come for their building permits and business licenses. It was important for it to look nice, Brown said.

“You are trying to create atmosphere when they come in to town they are impressed, that they are in a progressive arena, a place where people are doing things,” Brown said.

Criticism of the town building projects has originated from a political action committee called the Waynesville-Haywood Concerned Citizens. A web site by the group cites the “ostentatious” police department and “extravagant” fire station.

The web site questions a few others town spending priorities as well, but one of the chief examples is inaccurate. It blasts the town for spending money on fancy downtown art. However, no town tax dollars went for the public art pieces. They were funded entirely with private donations.

Meet the candidates: Who’s who in Waynesville’s race

Waynesville mayor: Pick one

 

Mayor Gavin Brown, 64, attorney. Mayor for four years, town alderman for eight

Every morning Mayor Gavin Brown dons his town of Waynesville pin on his suit lapel before heading out the door to his law office. If he forgets, his wife never fails to remind him.

Brown makes a habit of strolling Main Street almost every day. He sticks his head in businesses to say “hello.” If he sees tourists taking pictures, he offers to step behind the camera so the whole family can be in the photo. If he sees men loitering on benches while their wives shop, he stops and hands out his mayor’s business card.

“I say ‘I have a few minutes, I’m the mayor, what do you want to know?’” Brown said. In exchange, he queries them on where they’re from and why they chose to visit Waynesville.

“It’s fun for me to do that,” Brown said. “I am nondiscriminatory … I talk to anybody.”

Those who know him wouldn’t doubt it. He even carries a list of all the downtown eateries to offer tourists wondering where they should eat.

Earlier this summer he noticed an elderly lady on Main Street who was feeling faint. He helped her inside the nearest business, LN Davis Insurance agency. He asked the employees to get her some water and offered to call her a medic.

“I really feel that my job is to be the head cheerleader for the people of Waynesville,” Brown said.

Brown’s four years of mayor have been devoid of controversy, scandal or dissent, giving him a clear leg up against his challenger.

Low voter turnout is a fear among the incumbents, however. If voters happy with the direction of the town feel the current leaders are a shoe-in and stay home on Election Day, a minority of voters with an ax to grind could swing the race.

 

Hugh Phillips, 50, co-manager at Bi-Lo grocery

Hugh Phillips ran unsuccessfully for mayor four years ago, but undeterred, he is back for another bid. Phillips said that people might not have taken him seriously last time. After all, he jumped right into politics for the first time in the mayor’s ring, rather than wading in as a town board candidate first. But there’s a reason, he said.

“If I ran for alderman and got elected, I don’t know if I could get along with the rest of the people on there. I think we would have butting heads,” Phillips said.

Of course, even as mayor, Phillips would still have to sit shoulder to shoulder with the other board members in meetings, and his vote doesn’t count any more than their votes on the issues. But he thinks he would get to control discussion more, he said.

“I said if I was going to do this, I was determined to make a difference, so that’s why I am running for mayor and not alderman,” Phillips said.

Phillips said he has been to one or two town board meetings, and none since signing up to run for election.

As a manager of Bi-Lo, customers are constantly bending Phillip’s ear, and not just about what aisle the bread is on.

“People tell me the town board is not approachable. They aren’t in touch for the citizens of Waynesville,” Phillips said. “If you are elected to office you should be working for the people. That’s my first and foremost.

“People’s got to be able to talk to you. It’s who you work for is the people of Waynesville,” Phillips said.

Phillips said the biggest thing that motivated him to run is the town’s development standards, which he said are too strict and are deterring new business.

Phillips was not aware that the town board relaxed some of the standards earlier this year in response to complaints from the business community.

 

Waynesville town board: Pick four

 

Alderman Wells Greeley, 59, president and owner of Wells Funeral Homes and Cremation Services. Alderman for three years

Wells Greeley was appointed to the town board to fill a vacancy left when former Alderman Kenneth Moore died three years ago. It wasn’t exactly new to him, however. He’d been on the town board in Canton for four years in the early 1980s. Both his father and grandfather were town aldermen as well.

Greeley said serving on the Waynesville town board has been an “enjoyable and rewarding experience.” The board is professional, courteous and thoughtful. The board is devoid from petty politics that plague some small towns. There are no entrenched camps, no staking out of sides before meetings.

“Everybody is an individual,” Greeley said. “It was a pleasant surprise to me to know that everybody’s voice was really heard. We didn’t always agree, but at the end of the day, we came away with a respect.

“I was fortunate to come on board and inherit such a good team. I want to try to continue the great work we are doing,” he said.

Greeley credits the board’s demeanor, in part, to Town Manager Lee Galloway. It’s why finding the right replacement for him when he retires next year is what Greeley calls “Job One.”

“That is going to be the most critical issue that the new elected town board will face,” Greeley said.

The town has hired a consultant to aid with the search. A glutton for public input processes, the town has asked the consultants to include community leaders in crafting a vision for what skills and traits the next town manager should possess.

Greeley believes he is well suited to the important task. He was on the UNC-Asheville board of trustees when it conducted a search for a new chancellor. And as a business owner with 15 full-time and 20 part-time employees on the payroll, he is no stranger to hiring.

 

Leroy Roberson, 67, owner of Haywood Optometric Care. Alderman for four years

Leroy Roberson has been an eye doctor on Main Street for 35 years and remembers all too well the days when downtown wasn’t the vibrant place it is now. More than a quarter of the storefronts were shuttered, and buildings had fallen into disrepair.

“Slowly but surely with the efforts of the Downtown Waynesville Association, it has come back and it has become a model for other downtowns. Statewide people know Waynesville,” Roberson said. “It has shown us what can be done when there is a public and private synergy. The amount of money the town has put in to streetscapes is small compared to the private investment, and the result is you have some very viable businesses.”

Roberson considers the town’s investment in downtown “less than a drop in bucket” compared to the benefits it has reaped.

The success story shapes Roberson’s philosophy for the town now. Take pride in the town, invest in it, make it attractive, and prosperity will follow.

“You can take pride in Waynesville now because of what’s been done,” Roberson said.

Roberson, who previously served on the Waynesville town board in the 1990s, has also learned the worth of local business owners who are vested in their community. While some opponents in the race complain the town’s development standards don’t accommodate chain store style architecture, Roberson places a higher value on local businesses anyway.

“If you spend $100 in a local restaurant, $68 of the revenue will be circulated through the community. If you go to a chain like Cracker Barrel or Sonic or anything like that, $45 recirculates through the community. Which would you rather have? For me it is a no brainer,” Roberson said.

Roberson said an important goal for the next four years is creating a vision and plan for South Main Street, the corridor around Super Wal-Mart. He doesn’t want it to become another Russ Avenue, but instead wants the town to lay the groundwork for a pedestrian-friendly, aesthetically pleasing mixed-use district.

 

Gary Caldwell, 58, production manager at Cornerstone Printing. Alderman for 12 years

When Gary Caldwell first ran for office 12 years ago, his platform was recreation, namely pushing through a town recreation center.

Little has changed, at least as far as his platform is concerned. The recreation center, a crown jewel for Waynesville, is now built. But Caldwell’s got other projects he’s pushing for. He’s the chief advocate behind a skateboard park currently under development. The town has put in $80,000, and gotten $80,000 in grants. That’s only half what’s needed, however, and Caldwell is working on fundraising.

Caldwell also wants to nurture recreation offerings at the Waynesville Armory, which has blossomed lately as a senior recreation center, from bridge games to the new Brain Gym.

“The big thing down there now is pickle ball,” Caldwell said. “You can’t hardly get a parking space.”

Caldwell wants the town to buy a neighboring vacant lot to create more parking for the Armory, and then build sidewalks and plant trees along the street leading to the Armory from Frog Level.

This ties in with his other pet project: revitalizing Frog Level. Caldwell works in Frog Level, and has been active in forging a path from the forgotten side of the tracks to a flavorful downtown business district.

“They call me the mayor of Frog Level,” Caldwell said.

He is brokering a deal now among Frog Level merchants and the town to install street lamps in Frog Level, borrowing from a similar project on Main Street years ago. Businesses raised money for the lampposts, while the town streets and utility workers provided the labor to install them. Caldwell remembers the lamppost project on Main Street nearly failed.

“We just kept bearing down on it,” Caldwell said. And that is his motto for the next four years.

“We just got to keep going on the same track that we are going,” Caldwell said.

 

Mary Ann Enloe, 70, retired Dayco senior purchasing agent

Mary Ann Enloe is a well-known local politician. She was a county commissioner for eight years and the mayor of Hazelwood for 12 years, its own town prior to merging with Waynesville.

Her heart is in town government, she said. She grew up immersed in it: her father was mayor in Hazelwood for 27 years.

“I have the experience. I have the interest. I have the time,” Enloe said. “If I have a platform, it’s common sense. My daddy taught me that. If all else fails common sense will carry you through.”

Enloe also believes she can bring representation to the Hazelwood area and west side of town.

“Historically people look to me to be their voice when they think they don’t have a voice,” she said when asked who her constituents in politics have been.

Enloe won’t say anything negative about the current town board, however. She has had a bird’s eye view of town government for the past year as a correspondent covering the town for The Mountaineer newspaper.

She quit being a correspondent for the paper after announcing plans to run, given the obvious conflict of interest. But she kept right on going to the twice-a-month town meetings all the same.

That, coupled with her years in town and county government, means she won’t have a learning curve if elected, she said.

She knows the town’s tax rate to the 100th of a penny — 40.82 cents. She can recite how much profit the town made selling electricity last year — $1.2 million. She knows how much debt the town has now, how much will be paid off this year, how much a penny on the property tax rate raises.

“I have a lot to offer,” Enloe said.

As for her view of elected leaders?

“We work for close to 10,000 people,” Enloe said of the town’s population. “We have 10,000 bosses.”

 

Sam Edwards, 57, substitute teacher and GED instructor

Sam Edwards is conservative by any standard. He believes in not just small, but extremely small government. He believes in only the bare minimum of regulations, preferring for government to get out of the way of business.

Edwards helped start a group called the Waynesville-Haywood Concerned Citizens, which shares many of the ideas and philosophies of the Tea Party.

“There is cross fertilization,” Edwards said of his group and local Tea party followers. The concerned citizens group has registered as a Political Action Committee to donate to town board candidates and take out political ads for candidates.

A web site created by the group blames the town for driving away new businesses with its too-strict development guidelines — guidelines that mandate sidewalks, require so many trees in parking lots, limit the height of signs, and lay out architectural standards.

Edwards said government shouldn’t intervene in such things. If a business wants to build, don’t tell them where or how. Business sense should dictate they build something that looks decent.

“I do not think a responsible business is going to trash the neighborhood they are moving into because they know it is bad for business,” Edwards said.

Edwards admits the metal warehouse design of new Dollar General’s cropping up in the county or the cinderblock architecture that was a hallmark of Walmart in days-gone-by wasn’t particularly pleasing. Nonetheless, he doesn’t like government intervention when it comes to what gets built on private property.

“You have to trust people to make decisions that are good decisions and allow them to be adults and occasionally make mistakes and fail,” Edwards said.

Edwards said government can’t be the problem solver for everything. If kids need a skate park, then private enterprise, not the town, should step up to the plate.

 

Julia Boyd-Freeman, 44, director of REACH, a domestic violence nonprofit

Julia Boyd-Freeman made an important choice when she moved back to her hometown of Waynesville in her mid-20s.

“The people make the town. It has such a personality of its own that is unique in a way that you don’t see in many areas, and the natural beauty is just incredible.”

That same passion for Waynesville has motivated her to seek a seat on the town board.

“I have a fresh perspective that I think could bring some positive solutions to the challenges we are going to be facing and opportunities coming down the pipeline,” Freeman said.

Freeman was working as an interior designer when she landed the role of REACH director 15 years ago. The organization was between directors, and Freeman, who was on the board, stepped in to serve as an interim but never left.

Freeman is billing herself as a pro-business candidate.

Freeman is one of three challengers in the race criticizing the town’s development standards as too strict. Despite an overhaul of the standards over the past year, a process driven by a blue-ribbon committee comprised mostly of businessmen, Freeman believes the town’s ordinances need to be loosened even more to remove “undue burdens” on business.

“I think it is a priority to start that review process again,” Freeman said.

Freeman is one of three candidates being supported by the conservative group Waynesville-Haywood Concerned Citizens. Freeman, a Republican, does not share all their views, however. She does not believe the town’s new fire and police department are extravagant, nor does she believe the town has been wasteful in spending.

As part of her pro-business platform, Freeman also wants to develop a new road plan for South Main Street that will make the corridor more fertile for business growth. She is concerned about the ability of the town’s aging sewer lines to serve business expansion and wants to perform an assessment of the system.

 

Coming next week: Did Cracker Barrel really walk away from Waynesville?

Waynesville’s elected leaders believe the town is on a progressive track, one that has made Waynesville one of the most prosperous and desirable towns in Western North Carolina for business and tourists.

The town has been a magnet for development despite the recession, from giant chains such as Best Buy, Staples and PetSmart, to local entrepreneurs opening upscale restaurants, microbreweries and art galleries.

But opponents claim that town leaders have been unfriendly to business, imposing costly development standards. Aimed at improving the aesthetics of commercial districts, the town standards are too arduous and have deterred business from locating here, they say.

The Smoky Mountain News will investigate the truth behind these claims next week.

Table is set for Sylva town election

This November, Sylva residents will elect three commissioners, deciding who will control the majority on that five-member board. All three incumbents are running for re-election, plus two challengers.

In the next four years, it’s likely that Sylva’s chosen leaders will help decide what should be done, if anything, to the main commercial and commuter artery of N.C. 107. They might pick a new town manager, if a permanent one hasn’t been selected before then by the current board.

In other words, this selection of board members could have ramifications for Jackson County’s largest town for years, if not decades, to come.

N.C. 107, a busy stretch of highway south of town that has in the last decade or so seen the addition of a Super Walmart and a Lowe’s Home Improvement, has proven controversial in Jackson County. The N.C. Department of Transportation has proposed massive widening, which could displace many businesses, or possibly building a by-pass around it, which could level a number of homes out in the county.

A bypass between N.C. 107 and U.S. 74 doesn’t much seem to excite anyone running for town council. Most expressed worries that such a bypass could divert traffic not only around town, but also away from the town’s businesses. But something, each agreed, probably needs to be done to alleviate the growing traffic problem on N.C. 107.

A new town manager is also in the headlights for Sylva. The town board forced former Town Manager Adrienne Isenhower to resign in September. The commissioners, citing personnel laws, did not make clear their reasons for demanding the resignation.

Dan Schaeffer, the town’s public works director, is serving as a stopgap manager.

 

Commissioners, pick three

John Bubazc, 44, owner of Signature Brew Coffee Company

Bubazc is running as a candidate because he wants to provide voters “a moderate, flexible, informed decision maker.”

He also wants to help the town of Sylva work with Dillsboro to redirect thru trucks around the two towns, unless the truckers have business in the downtowns. Too many concrete trucks and delivery trucks heading for Walmart or the university or elsewhere are thundering through, he said.

“It’s really dangerous with cars having to back out into traffic,” Bubazc said.

Bubazc said his overall solution to N.C. 107 hasn’t been settled on, because there’s a committee made up of various stakeholders studying the issue now. “Why would we ignore their recommendation?” he said rhetorically.

Bubazc, a member of the Downtown Sylva Association board, wants the group to become 100-percent funded again, and for the DSA board to hire and oversee its own director. This does not necessarily negate the need for a town economic development director, who was hired recently in a dual role overseeing DSA, he said. Until then, DSA had its own director, which is what Bubazc is pushing for again.

The coffee roasting company owner has clear ideas about the type of individual he’d like to see hired as the town’s manager: “Someone who is experienced, who knows how to deal with groups of people and who is good at interagency communications, and who is sensible enough to work in a small town.”

 

Harold Hensley, 74, retired maintenance supervisor for Jackson County Schools

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, after being appointed to replace the outgoing Sarah Graham, who resigned after moving out of the town limits.

“I think, really and truly, that I have tried my best to be a voice for all of the people of Sylva,” Hensley said, adding that there are ongoing town projects such as additional sidewalks and the police department’s move to the old library he’d like to see through.

“I think there are some good things going on,” he said.

Hensley believes that the solution to N.C. 107 traffic problems lies, at least in part, with undoing “the bottleneck” that exists at an intersection where hospital and other business traffic dumps into the highway.

“That’s where the traffic backs up at,” he said, adding that in such sour economic times he doesn’t believe Jackson County will get millions of dollars to fix the problem — the solutions must be smaller, such as relieving the pressure at the intersection.

Hensley, too, knows the type person he wants to see as the town’s new manager. They need the necessary qualifications, and people skills, too, he said.

“I would look strongly at some local person, if you get the (proper) qualifications,” Hensley said.

 

Ray Lewis, 68, retired Sylva police officer

If reelected, Lewis will serve his third four-year term as a town board member. He said the actual job of commissioner “isn’t really a political thing, but I’ve always been interested in politics — and if I can help the people out, that’s what I want to do.”

Lewis is the only member of the town board to flatly support building some new roadway to alleviate traffic pressure on N.C. 107. But his idea echoes one made by SmartRoad proponents in Sylva a few years ago. That of building, or in many ways connecting existing roads, to create a “service road” running behind businesses along the highway, giving some relief to traffic congestion, Lewis said.

Like Hensley, Lewis would like to see a local person hired as the town’s new manager. Someone, he explained, who knows, understands and cares about the community.

 

Christine Matheson, 52, owner of a gift shop in Cherokee

Matheson, like Hensley, gained her seat on the board via an appointment. The former assistant district attorney stepped in when Mayor Maurice Moody was elected, leaving a commission seat vacant.

“I feel like I’ve made a contribution to the town for the last two years, but I feel like there’s still more to do,” Matheson said. “I love Sylva. It is my home and my heritage.”

Matheson, like Hensley, wants to help see the new police department built, which will require extensive work to the county’s old public library on Main Street. And she wants to help mold the DSA and town relationship.

“That relationship is growing and defining itself,” Matheson said. “We are meshing two entities.”

Matheson is serving on the committee studying what best to do to “fix” N.C. 107.

“I think the committee needs to do its work,” she said, adding that there’s seemingly no clear solution that won’t adversely impact someone.

Matheson wants a town manager who is willing to learn, who has good communication and management skills, is personable and who isn’t afraid to not know something because they are willing to learn and research to find answers. Most importantly, it must be “someone who loves the community” and is willing to be part of the community, Matheson said.

 

Lynda Sossoman, 64, owner of Radio Shack in Sylva and Cashiers

Sossoman isn’t a newcomer to the town politics — she served a four-year term on the town board in the late 1990s. Sossoman said several people in the community have asked her to run again.

“I really care about my community, and I want to give back to it,” said Sossoman, who is an active volunteer in Jackson County.

Owning a business on N.C. 107 has given her a unique perspective on the problem of what to do to ease congestion.

“I’ve thought about that a lot — the road just doesn’t have very far to grow,” she said.

Perhaps a traffic circle at the intersection where Radio Shack is could help, Sossoman said, who worries that a connector could pull business away from downtown.

Sossoman is deeply concerned about downtown. Radio Shack used to be located there, and she helped form the group that evolved into DSA.

“I want to make sure the downtown stays strong,” Sossoman said, adding that she wants a continuation of downtown events, though she also gave a strong nod to extending the strength of the downtown outside of its traditional limits.

Concerning a town manager, Sossoman wants someone with an education, the proper qualifications and who “is able to communicate with everybody in the community, and with the town board.”

Collective discontent bonds candidates

Three candidates running for the Maggie Valley town board with a similar message have buddied up in the campaign and chosen to run as a slate.

They claim the current town leaders discourage new ideas and fail to bring residents and business owners to the table to solve the town’s problems.

“This present regime has really closed out any other ideas other than their own,” said Ron DeSimone, a challenger for mayor. “They are not very open. They have allowed that podium to be used for vile personal attacks while limiting the voice of other people.”

DeSimone has joined forced on the ticket with town board candidates Phillip Wight and Phil Aldridge. They partnered by putting all three of their names on both yard signs and brochures.

“The main reason I am personally running is I think it is the people’s seat and I don’t think it has been represented properly over the years,” Wight said. “I really hope I can help solve problems and reach across the isle.”

Both Wight and DeSimone ran for town board two years ago unsuccessfully. Aldridge has been on the board for eight years, but is a self-described “odd man out.”

“I have been a lone voice on that board for many years,” Aldridge said. Aldridge said he hasn’t been able to bring about the change that he hoped.

“I had the same ideas then that I have now as far as trying to bring this Valley together,” Aldridge said. “We want to invite the public and business to share their ideas and bring them forward to us. That is not happening right now.”

That’s why he needed to run as a team with Wight and DeSimone.

Challenger Danny Mitchell is not part of the slate but shares some of the same views.

“My main concern is that everybody needs to get along and have professional meetings and not argue and fuss,” Mitchell said.

Two incumbents running for re-election — Mayor Roger McElroy and Alderwoman Danya Vanhook — disagree that there is widespread dissatisfaction. Critics have been a near constant element in Maggie’s small town politics, and the town has tried to reach out to them over the years but can never seem to satisfy them.

“I think a good majority of the people are pretty much happy with what is going on in town,” McElroy said, despite what he called “a faction in town that has felt differently for a long time.”

McElroy said despite his 30 years on the board, he is open minded to new ideas for the town.

“If an idea comes up you can’t say we tried that and it didn’t work because situations change. Something that didn’t work 10 years ago might work now, and I’m aware of that,” McElroy said.

Vanhook said being impartial and open-minded is her forte as a former judge. Vanhook joined the town board just six months ago. She was appointed after another an alderman who stepped down and left a vacancy.

At first, she didn’t apply because Maggie politics were known for being contentious but thought her skills may be of use on the town board.

“Someone who is a former judge, who can be fair, has an open mind, who hasn’t even involved in local politics before,” Vanhook said. “I was used to being very neutral and I thought that would serve Maggie Valley well, who would make decisions in the best interest of residents and businesses and didn’t have an ax to grind.”

Vanhook said she isn’t in one camp or the other.

“I certainly don’t vote in lock step with anyone,” Vanhook said.

Vanhook said Mayor Roger McElroy is in a tough spot as the moderator of town meetings. Maggie’s town meetings seem to have the best attendance per capita than any in the region. And, those interested enough to come often want to weigh in from their seats.

When McElroy calls on people in the audience, or lets people speak past their allotted time at the podium, people complain he isn’t keeping order and doesn’t know how to run a meeting. When he limits public input, he is accused of shutting them down, Vanhook said.

“I think he has always erred on the side of being inclusive,” Vanhook said. “I assure you every single person who comes to the meeting is heard.”

Vanhook said the town is better off for debating issues but wishes the debate was more cordial.

Until a few months ago, the town had public comment at the end of the meeting. The odd placement meant people were often commenting after the board had already come to a decision rather than before, so it was moved to the beginning as with other towns and counties.

 

Musical town board members

The election aside, the town has already seen two newcomers join the board this year. Two aldermen have resigned over the past six months. One alderman resigned after a political falling out with other board members. The second resigned because his motel business was struggling, and he decided to move elsewhere.

Two new board members were appointed to fill the seats.

One is Vanhook, who was appointed in March and now must formally run to keep her seat. The second is Michael Matthews, who was just appointed in September. His seat isn’t among those up for election.

Prior to being appointed, however, Matthews had signed up as a candidate in the fall election and his name will still appear on the ballot, even though he now already holds a seat on the board.

Matthews said he threw his name in the ring after witnessing a “huge disconnect” between the town leaders and the residents and business owners of town.

“I want to get everybody on the same page. I want everybody to start working together,” Matthews said.

While everyone seems to have good intentions — namely wanting the best for Maggie Valley — dueling personalities seem to get in the way, Matthews said.

Matthews considers himself neutral and says he isn’t aligned with either of the feuding camps that have marked Maggie Valley politics.

“People need to put the past in the past and start moving forward,” said Matthews, who works across the mountain at Harrah’s Cherokee Casino and Resort.

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