After nearly six months of searching nationwide, Waynesville found a new town manager close to home from the town of Black Mountain.
Marcia “Marcy” Onieal recently inked a contract with town leaders to become Waynesville’s new town manager, the first female to hold the job.
“I hope that I will be a good fit with the community,” said Onieal, who listed her past experience in local government and her familiarity with mountain culture as strengths that she brings to the position.
She beat out more than 60 other applicants in a lengthy and comprehensive search to replace Lee Galloway, an admired and respected town manager who has led the town for the past 17 years.
Onieal had been the town manager of Black Mountain — a town very similar to Waynesville — since 2008.
Black Mountain and Waynesville are both quaint towns with progressive feels, sporting vibrant and picturesque downtowns. Both have a healthy tourist trade, without being strictly “tourist-towns.” Black Mountain’s population is 7,800 year-round residents compared to Waynesville’s 9,900. Both are also home to a large community of retirees.
“I like the small town character,” Onieal said.
Onieal said she was attracted to Waynesville because it is a progressive and well-managed town.
“I am so pleased to be coming into an organization that has been so well managed,” she said. “Not every town has a vision, and this town does.”
The Waynesville’s location will also allow her to indulge in some of her favorite activities.
“I love to hike and ski,” Onieal said. And “I’ve always been into art in some way.”
Onieal and her husband James Lamm, an architect and engineer, live on a small farm in Madison County where they care for three rescue horses. When Onieal became town manager of Black Mountain, she was not required to live within the town limits so she decided to rent a condo there and keep her farm.
However, the couple now plans to sell the farm, find the horses a new home and settle down in Waynesville.
As of yet, she has not had much time to see Waynesville’s sights since most of her time in town has been spend house hunting. However, that will quickly change when she assumes her new roles.
Onieal resigned as the town manager of Black Mountain in December, following a change in the make-up of the town board there in last fall’s election.
Although the search process spanned nearly six months and required applicants to undergo intense review, the time between Onieal signing the contract last week and her start date is fleeting. Her first day is March 29.
Onieal will earn $102,000 initially. In October, she will receive a 5 percent raise — bringing her annual salary to $107,100. Thereafter, Onieal will obtain raises equal to those of other town employees. Current town manager Lee Galloway earns $114,091 a year.
The mayor and Board of Aldermen took time Wednesday after announcing her appointment to praise and congratulate Onieal.
“She will be an asset in the community,” said Mayor Gavin Brown.
The newest Waynesville alderwoman, Julia Freeman, agreed, saying she is confident that Onieal will do a great job.
“We look forward to your new ideas,” Freeman said.
Onieal will replace Lee Galloway, who has served as town manager for about 17 years.
“It’s a joy to walk in behind someone who has done such a great job,” Onieal said. “I am looking forward to every single day I walk through the door.”
During Wednesday’s announcement, town leaders thanked Galloway for his many years of service.
“We were very fortunate. Lee (Galloway) has been outstanding as everyone knows,” said Alderman LeRoy Roberson.
Although he is anxious to begin his retirement, Galloway will continue to work for the town until the end of June.
“I don’t feel like I will be left hanging,” Onieal said. “I am grateful that Lee will be around.”
During the next few months, he will help finish next year’s budget and start passing on some his vast institutional knowledge to Onieal.
“My first weeks on the job will be a whole lot of listening, learning and meeting people,” Onieal said. “I have a natural interest the history of the town itself.”
Once she settles into her new position as town manager, Onieal said one of her main focuses will be economic development. And, although the goal is to bring new businesses to town, Onieal said the integrity of the town’s appearance should not be sacrificed for the sake of progress.
And, although he will no longer work for the town, Galloway does not plan on becoming a stranger.
Galloway said he is excited to retire and plans to take six months off to relax and enjoy retirement. He also plans to be an active volunteer, possibly working on trail maintenance, or with Habitat for Humanity or the Red Cross.
“Personally, I’d like to learn more about photography and read more,” Galloway said.
Eventually, he plans to work part-time as an interim town manager for destinations that are in between managers. But, Galloway said he will continue to live in Waynesville.
“Why would I go somewhere else?” Galloway said. “It’s a great community so I’ll be around.”
A Tennessee native, Marcy Onieal moved to Asheville at age 13 when her father, a vice president at American Enka Corporation, was transferred there. Onieal has lived in Western North Carolina ever since.
A University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill graduate, Onieal earned a bachelor’s degree in political science and master’s degree in public administration. She was a Morehead and National Merit scholar. Upon graduation in 1992, Onieal became assistant town manager in Wilson, N.C. She left that position in 1999 to become a partner at Design Group Associates, a family-owned design and consulting firm.
She is also heavily involved in civic and volunteer organizations, including the United Way, Habitat for Humanity, Girl Scouts of WNC, the Black Mountain Emergency Homeless Shelter, Rotary International and Buncombe County Rape Crisis Center, among others.