The town of Sylva has struggled this year with balancing its budget and keeping businesses filling its downtown storefronts.
Going into next year, those same problems will likely continue to challenge town leaders, and whoever is elected as mayor and to the Sylva town board this November will have to grapple with how to overcome them next year.
As the Maggie Valley Board of Aldermen called its monthly meeting to order, it was the last item on the list that had town hall overflowing — a call for a hearing to consider the mayor’s alleged misconduct.
A candidate for Maggie Valley alderman was indicted this month on eight felony charges, including forgery.
The July 19 indictment alleges that Joe Maniscalco forged documents and knowingly tried to pass them off as valid records in an attempt to get out of paying town property taxes.
The Maggie Valley Board of Aldermen have been mired in gridlock for nearly nine months.
With only four town board members at the moment — instead of the typical five — stalemates have ruled the day. From major issues to petty ones, the board has been marked by tie votes and split opinions. Infighting has become the typical interaction at meetings these days.
A heated argument and near fight between two Maggie Valley residents — one of whom is banned from town hall — disrupted the town’s board of aldermen meeting last Tuesday.
The Maggie Valley Board of Aldermen is at an impasse.
Town leaders met Monday in hopes of appointing someone to fill an open seat on the board, which was vacated last month by an alderman who moved away. But, the four remaining board members could not agree on a replacement, meaning the controversy-laden process will continue for at least another three weeks.
Longtime alderman and Maggie Valley resident and business owner Phil Aldridge resigned from the town board last week.
Aldridge was a staple around town and owned Phil’s Grocery on Soco Road — the only grocery store in the valley for years. He was elected to the town board nine years ago and was currently serving his third term.
Barbara Hamilton participated in her first Sylva Town Board meeting last week after being newly appointed to fill the vacated seat of Stacy Knotts, who resigned to move with her husband to South Carolina.
Hamilton was one of three candidates who applied for the vacant seat and was unanimously appointed by other town board members earlier this month.
The Sylva town board has lost what was arguably its most progressive member with the resignation of Stacy Knotts, who is following her professor husband Gibbs Knotts to the College of Charleston in South Carolina.
Canton’s elected leaders could find their two-year terms of office doubling if voters support a proposed change to give the mayor and board of aldermen four years in office.
The town board will hold a public hearing at 6 p.m. on Feb. 28 to gauge residents’ feelings about shifting from the current two-year terms to four-year, staggered terms.
“I think it would behoove our community to make that decision,” said Mayor Michael Ray.
Ray said he did not think that adding another two years to the terms would make much difference.
Unlike most towns, Canton’s mayor and four aldermen have to run for election every two years. Every other town board in the region, as well as county commissioners, serves four-year terms.
While Canton’s town board has long toyed with the idea of switching to four-year terms, it would mark a change for Canton voters who are likely accustomed to the more frequent election cycle. The town board discussed the issue at their meeting last week and decided to leave the final decision up to voters.
“It’s been the way it is for a long time,” Alderman Ed Underwood said of the two-year model. “That is what the people have got used to. I think having their input is going to be very important.”
Because the entire board and the mayor run for re-election every two years, a perfect storm of circumstances could saddle the town with a completely new board and mayor, and institutional knowledge could disappear with the previous leaders.
“We were worried about the possibility,” said Alderman Patrick Willis.
Fellow Alderman Jimmy Flynn first broached the idea during his last term but no action was taken.
“I’ve been pursuing that ever since I got re-elected,” Flynn said. “If you do the staggered terms, you don’t run the risk of the whole board coming in new.”
In 2007, Canton saw three of the five seats on the board flip in a single election. And again in 2009, three of the five seats flipped. A wholesale change of the board hasn’t taken place in at least four decades, however.
Two extra years would also allow leaders to tackle longer-term projects more easily.
“I’m sure it would give anyone who is elected a longer time to complete things,” Ray said, adding that candidates would realize personal savings because they would not have to spend on campaign materials every two years.
However, a longer term is also a bigger commitment from the candidate’s standpoint.
“It’s seemed a long time since I’ve been elected, and that was only three months ago,” joked the newly elected Willis.
Although the board is required to hold a public hearing before switching to four-year terms, the law does not require residents to have a vote. The town has elected to make it a ballot issue in November.
“I feel this should be put before the people,” Ray said. “The electorate might like the possibility to have a quick turnaround.”
In addition to four-year terms, the proposal would also institute staggered terms, meaning only part of the board is up for election every two years.
If the new terms are approved, the two aldermen who receive the fewest votes in the 2013 town election would serve for only two years and then have to seek re-election again in 2015 before going to a permanent four-year cycle. The two aldermen and the mayoral candidate with the most votes during next year’s election would begin serving four-year terms at that time.