A solemn oath

Commissioner wives discuss home life, politics
By Vicki Hyatt | Dec 04, 2012
Kevin and Alice Ensley used a Bible belonging to their daughter, April, when he took the oath of office as a county commissioner Monday. April died in a tragic car accident in 1998.

Two veteran Haywood County commissioners were sworn into office Monday after winning re-election in the November election.

Both Mark Swanger, the current board chairman who was re-elected to the chairman post, and Kevin Ensley, the lone Republican on the county board, took their oaths of office administered by Superior Court Judge Brad Letts.

Both had their their spouses by their side holding their family bibles.

The Bible the Ensleys selected for Monday’s ceremony had special meaning. It belonged to their daughter, April, who died in a car accident in 1998 when her car plunged over the bridge at Lake Junaluska. She was 16 at the time.

“April would have been 31 now,” Ensley said, and the couple noted they think of April daily, as well as their first-born child, Levi, who died at age 5 months of a congenital heart condition.

Using April’s Bible, a well-used paperback, was a choice that both made sense and made the Ensleys happy as their reflected on their daughter’s boisterous, though short-lived time.

“Everything she did was larger than life,” Alice Ensley said as she expressed pride in the public service work done by her husband done throughout his eight years in office.

“It’s not my thing,” she said of the county’s business that keeps her husband busy far more than the two times a month meeting schedule would suggest. “He spends a lot of time at home on the computer working on things related to his county job. He also serves on five different boards, which keeps him away from home, but I do kind of enjoy an evening with a book.”

Alice Ensley said she and her husband share many similar views and noted that county issues do come up during dinner table discussions.

“At home, you talk about life,” said Alice, who manages the thrift store at the Open Door in Waynesville. “He tells me about his work and I tell him about mine. I’m very proud of my husband and I’m a good listener, but I don’t get too excited about the issues.”

Susan Swanger, who is a professor and director of the master of accountancy program at Western Carollina University, said while county issues often come up at home, the discussions aren’t overwhelming.

“Mark is able to compartmentalize his life,” she said, crediting his former career as a Federal Bureau of Investigation agent. “Me, I bring everything to the dinner table, but he’s much better at not doing that.”

Susan Swanger said her husband takes his job as a commissioner “very seriously,” and has no hidden agenda other than to serve.

As the Swangers are talking about county issues, there’s not always total agreement.

“I will voice an opposing view or elaborate on someone else’s opposing view,” she added.

As Ensley and Swanger head into another four-year term, they’ll tackle new issues that arise, and several old ones that were part of the campaign.

Discussions are underway on merging the social services and the health departments, and both cited the need to create more jobs and to address education funding concerns as priorities.