Sylva has a new town manager. Paige Roberson, 25, was promoted last week by the town board to the top leadership position.
Roberson has clearly impressed the town after stepping in to a part-time job as the director of the Downtown Sylva Association last summer.
Mayor Maurice Moody said that he believes Roberson will do an outstanding job for the town.
“I think she’s very well qualified — she’s a smart young lady,” Moody said. “The entire board is satisfied with this selection.”
Roberson, who last year graduated from Western Carolina University’s master in public affairs program, grew up in Sylva. Her mother was a long-time elementary teacher at Cullowhee Valley. Her father inherited the family’s hardware store, Roberson’s Supply, which was started by her grandfather. The family closed the store upon learning Lowe’s was coming to town. It had already been struggling since Walmart had opened, and the family decided surviving in Lowe’s shadow would be near impossible.
Roberson has a fierce appreciation for small businesses. Helping the business community of Sylva is going to be one of her passions.
Roberson hopes to bring a long-range approach to all of the town’s affairs. Lately, the town has been managed from year to year, without enough attention to where it is headed.
“We need to take a long-term approach to everything — projects, budgeting, ordinances,” Roberson said, identifying that as the town’s biggest challenge. “You have to plan with foresight. I think part of that comes from living here as long as I have. I think I am able to see the long term. ”
Moody said Roberson’s ties to Sylva “give her a leg up.” That, however, was not the deciding factor in her selection, he said.
“She does have a relationship with the community, but I think qualifications are more important than being local, though being a local individual does help.”
For her part, Roberson described herself as excited to be serving her hometown, although she admits she never thought when pursuing a career in public policy she would find herself at the head of her own hometown.
“I’m eager to do it,” she said, adding that she doesn’t feel apprehension about her lack of experience because the town has other veteran department heads.
The former town manager, Adrienne Isenhower, was forced to resign in September of last year after just a couple of years on the job. The town had brought in an interim town manager, Mike Morgan, who had recently retired from a long tenure as the town manager of Weaverville. Morgan was able to step in quickly to the role, but was commuting from Weaverville and was not interested in the job on a permanent basis.
Roberson will attend county and city manager training for eight months through the N.C. School of Government, one week a month, starting in September. During that time Morgan will continue as a consultant to the town to help bridge the gap.
Before taking a fulltime position with Sylva, Roberson worked in the Jackson County Planning Department.
Roberson went to undergraduate school at N.C. State, where she majored in economics. She planned to go to law school, with the intention of going into public policy. But during college, she interned three summers for N.C. Rep. Phil Haire, D-Sylva, in the General Assembly in Raleigh, and decided not to go to law school but instead get her masters in public affairs. She went through the two-year masters program in public policy and public affairs at WCU.
Her final semester, she was involved in the Cashiers comprehensive community planning project as an intern for the Jackson County planning department. In a case of opportune timing, she graduated just as the town was looking for a part-time director for the Downtown Sylva Association. The DSA had just been brought under the auspices of the town, and she was given a part-time job with the county planning department and worked for both the town and county.
In short order, however, the town promoted her to the role of assistant to the town manager and made her fulltime, before eventually selecting her as its new manager.
Roberson, in addition to her town manager’s duties, will continue in dual roles as Main Street director and head of economic development for the town.
“As a manager I hope to be proactive, fair, and consistent,” Roberson said. “By doing this and keeping the future in mind I will be able to serve Sylva effectively. I’m honored to be hired for this position. I love this community. I feel that my community knowledge and experiences being raised here will give me a good starting point.”