Winning trio promises change in Maggie ValleyWritten by Becky Johnson
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.
Ron DeSimone 215
Roger McElroy (I) 137
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
Latest from Becky Johnson
- Waynesville rolls out compromise in ongoing food truck debate
- Haywood’s dropout program rescued
- Obscure budget stats a ‘bellwether’ of economic recovery
- Making the grade: Educator reinvents dropout prevention, but budget cuts jeopardize program
- Caught in life’s crosshairs, students struggle not to dropout