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News Sylva’s Board of Commissioners in search of new membership

During their June meeting, Sylva's Town Board said good-bye to two-term Commissioner Stacy Knotts. Knotts, who informed the board in January she would be leaving in June, is leaving the board to move with her husband Gibbs Knotts who accepted a position as a Political Science Department Chair at the College of Charleston.

“I want to thank my fellow board members, the outstanding staff at the Town of Sylva, and the residents of Sylva for the support,” said Knotts. “It has been an honor to serve in this position.”

According to Knotts, she first campaigned to work toward making Sylva an even better place to live, work, and raise a family. “I accomplished many of my goals during my time in office,” said Knotts. “My three proudest accomplishments were the roles I played in getting curbside recycling, the much needed sidewalk from Sylva to Dillsboro, and the Bridge Park, which has been a great gathering place for the community.”

Moving forward, Knotts believes that the board’s biggest challenge will be balancing difficult economic times with promoting the development of Sylva. “I look for many good accomplishments from the board in the future. The biggest challenge is stimulating economic development in Sylva,” said Knotts.

The remaining members of Sylva's Town Board are now charged with voting in a replacement.

Since learning of Knotts' departure and advertising for the vacant seat, the Town of Sylva has received three applications from individuals vying for the position. The three Sylva residents who have applied are Mary Kelley, Russ Harris and Barbara Hamilton.

According to Town Manager Paige Roberson, the board plans to replace Knotts as quickly as possible. “Originally they had planned to fill the vacancy at Thursday’s meeting but Commissioner Danny Allen isn’t able to attend,” explained Roberson. “Since this is a situation all board members should be present for, it may now be filled as late as the first meeting in August.”

Sylva's Mayor Maurice Moody stated that he anticipates the board will be ready to name a replacement during the first meeting in August and hopes the town can find a replacement that has a progressive view for the town. “Stacy was an asset to the Sylva Board of Commissioners and to the community. In addition to serving on the board of commissioners she also served on the Tuckaseegee Water and Sewer Authority Board of Directors,” said Moody. “I hope they appoint someone who is progressive, has a sincere interest in the town and is willing to provide the necessary leadership to move us forward.”

“The replacement should be proactive and goal-oriented, just as Commissioner Knotts was,” said Roberson. “I’d like the new commissioner to be invested in the community and the overall wellbeing of Sylva and someone that will help instill public confidence in citizens.”

The mayor believes that whoever is appointed to the board will need to begin working with other members on important ongoing tasks. “Our immediate focus is to carry out and complete on-going projects,” said Moody. The completion of our new Police Department is a high priority.”

Roberson stated that she believes the town's greatest challenge is to find a replacement that is able to fit into the board's already existing dynamic. “I think the challenge will be the impact on the group,” said Roberson. “On a council of five people, changing one person impacts the dynamic of the group. The board must adapt to this new dynamic in order to move forward.”

The applicants

Russ Harris, who moved to Sylva ten years ago with his wife and children, moved to Jackson County and lived in a tent until they were able to find jobs and a home. He wants to serve on the board because he feels like it his is his duty. Harris works for Western Carolina University as an Outreach Counselor.

“I have lived in Sylva with my wife and our two daughters for the last 10 years. I have a bachelor’s degree in marketing from James Madison University and a Masters in Education from Radford, Va.,” said Harris. “I have worked for Educational Talent Search at Western Carolina University for the last eight years. We work in six counties with 750 students to help underserved populations go on to college after high school. I am also a member of the Sylva Community Garden and I serve on the board of the Community Table.”

Believing it is his duty to serve the community that accepted him 10 years ago, Harris has two areas of concern if elected to the board. “I love this area and feel strongly that we all have some duty to serve our community,” said Harris. “There are two main issues that concern me. The first is that we will work to take care of our greatest assets, which are our location and our natural beauty. We want to grow as a town, but I think it is important to be real intentional about how we do that so that we still be the kind of place that people want to live and visit thirty years from now. The second is that we need to be looking down the road at some factors that are going to affect our budget and make sure that we are taking measures to increase our revenue as a town without over-burdening our community members with taxes.”

Harris, who considers himself fiscally conservative, believes a balanced budget is a top priority for any form of government. “Where I fit politically depends on the issue at hand,” said Harris. “In my personal life, I am fiscally conservative and believe that it is important for us as a town to balance our budget. On other issues likes the environment, I swing a little to the other side. I don’t see any reason why Sylva can’t be known as the ‘greenest’ town in the Smokies.”

Barbara W. Hamilton, who is a retired Registered Nurse from Harris Regional Hospital, stated on her application for the town board that she wanted to serve because of her family’s deep roots to Jackson County. “We have been residents of Sylva since 1971. We raised our family here and now enjoy grandchildren,” reads her application. “We love this area and have been very blessed. I would like to advocate for all the citizens of Sylva in the same manner that I always advocated for my patients for 38 years. I want a good quality of life and many opportunities of employment and advancement for the people of Sylva.”

Hamilton started the first outpatient surgery department at Harris Regional and was an outpatient surgery coordinator and worked in the recovery room for many years. Since her retirement, she has remained active in the community by volunteering for organizations such as REACH, Social Services, the health department, the Community Table and Harris Regional Hospital.

Hamilton serves as an executive committee officer and had been the treasurer for the Jackson County Democratic Party for six years. This experience of submitting accurate and detailed reports, she believes will carry over and be beneficial if selected to serve on the town board.

A native to Jackson County, Mary Kelley, has grown up in and around Sylva. Kelley is the daughter of Livingston and Linda Kelley, owners of Livingston's Photo, which has been operating on Sylva's Main Street for 41years. “I've worked for several local businesses within the Sylva limits,” said Kelley. “An active member of the community, I've served on the Town of Sylva Planning Board, am a member of the First Presbyterian Church of Sylva and was the 2007 event coordinator for Greening up the Mountains. My husband and I are proud property owners in the heart of downtown Sylva.”

According to Kelley, she wants to serve on the board as a supporter and voice of the Sylva residents, businesses and tourism opportunities. “I would like to encourage a broader tax base through economic growth with the hopes of lightening the burden on current tax payers,” said Kelly. “I am particularly interested in continuing to make Sylva a green community. I hope to have an opportunity to serve Sylva as a commissioner.”

Moody believes that all of the candidates who have applied are qualified individuals and stated that he hopes whoever the Town Board selects will be ready to go to work for the people of Sylva.


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