'Mayor Phyllis' steps downLong-time Waynesville town clerk retires
If one needs to buy a cemetery plot or look up something in Waynesville's official minutes books, the familiar face of the person who's been doing that since 1994 won't be at the Municipal Building to make it happen. She may be fishing.
Waynesville's "Mayor Phyllis" is retiring Jan. 30. Certified Master Municipal Clerk Phyllis McClure has decided to do something new.
"I have nine grandchildren with another one on the way and they like to visit me," said McClure whose maiden name was Rich, one of the earliest families of Maggie Valley. "I want to do some fishing with them. Some of my best memories are of fishing with my dad. One granddaughter likes to make jewelry, so we've already started on our jewelry project. And I may start playing the piano again. It's just time to do some other things."
McClure likes to talk about walking down Rich Cove Road to the Maggie Valley Elementary School — now Maggie Valley Town Hall — because the gravel road was too steep for school buses. That road, which has been in the news recently because of landslides, is the steepest state-maintained road in North Carolina, said McClure.
Though McClure's name has never been on a ballot, the municipality's top elected leader Gavin Brown long ago dubbed her "Mayor Phyllis."
"I don't even remember when he started that," said McClure Monday in the spacious corner office which recently became hers after a renovation of the Municipal Building.
She has worked with four mayors — Henry Clayton, Ronnie James, Henry Foy and Brown — and is the longest-serving town clerk in Waynesville's history.
"Our records go back 90 years, and I've been clerk 21 of those years," said McClure who served as deputy clerk before she became clerk. There were 18 clerks before McClure, who started working for Waynesville in 1979 in the license plate office when the town contracted with the state to sell tags.
Said current mayor Gavin Brown: "Waynesville has been lucky and honored to have had 'Mayor Phyllis' serve as clerk all these years. The clerk is the one who takes the brunt of unhappy residents' attacks. Phyllis has that uncanny ability to transform anger into understanding and acceptance. I often joke with her that only she knows where 'all the bodies are buried.' Waynesille is not only losing a great employee, it is also losing a guardian angel."
Alderman LeRoy Roberson dropped by during the interview to pick up some paperwork and said that McClure keeps him in line.
"That's just part of my job," said McClure with a laugh.
In North Carolina, towns and cities are required by law to have town clerks. Their responsibilities are set out by state statute. McClure goes above and beyond those requirements.
"I like taking care of others. That may go back to my early interest in nursing," said McClure. "And it's critical that minutes of the board meetings are accurate. One wrong word can change everything. There is power in words. Those minutes are the official records of the town and they have to be right."
McClure is custodian of town records and takes that job seriously. She has some advice for the person who will come in as the new town clerk:
"Take care of and respect those records because they are history," McClure said as she showed a visitor the vault where minutes books are housed. One shelf is dedicated to the records of the town of Hazelwood which, after 50 years of talking about it, worked out an agreement in 1995 to merge with Waynesville which surrounded it.
"And always treat others the way you want to be treated," said McClure.
"Mayor Phyllis" has mixed feelings about leaving: "I've spent more than half my life here," she said. "The mayors, boards, managers and employees have been wonderful to work with. I feel very blessed that I became Waynesville's clerk and had a part in writing history. But it's time to do something else now."
Folks are invited to a retirement reception for McClure Tuesday Jan. 29 from 4 to 6 p.m. upstairs in the Police Department Building in the foyer adjacent to the new town hall meeting room.