Still no alderman in Maggie

By Stina Sieg | Jan 25, 2013

MAGGIE VALLEY — It's been about five months since the Maggie Valley Board of Alderman began its quest for a fifth member. Whether it's made any headway since is hard to gauge.

The board's months-old stalemate continued at its most recent meeting earlier this month, when Alderman Mike Matthews made a motion to open the application process back up. Alderman Phillip Wight seconded the move, but Alderman Saralyn Price and Mayor Ron DeSimone roundly rejected it. A tied vote fails.

When asked if he thought the remaining three alderman and mayor could come to a consensus on the issue, Wight could only shoot the question right back.

"Wouldn't that be nice?" he asked.

But is it possible before November's election, when voters would chose a candidate instead of the board appointing one? History doesn't seem to be much a barometer on that one.

Though Mayor DeSimone originally campaigned with Wight and former alderman Phil Aldridge in 2011, the three parted ways on several issues after the election. When Aldridge left his seat last summer, the differences between DeSimone and Wight continued, often with Matthews falling on Wight's side, and Price often agreeing with DeSimone.

This apparent schism was never more evident than in the recent alderman search when, after months of discussion, the board has remained deadlocked. Price and DeSimone agreed on at least two candidates, while Matthews and Wight agreed on only one — businessman Steve Hurley. Though DeSimone had originally supported Hurley, he had backed out after a public outcry over other candidates not having been interviewed. Finally, after several weeks went by and all candidates were interviewed, neither camp was about to change their mind, and all agreed a four-person board was unavoidable.

Months later, it still seems to be. At the most recent meeting, Wight even suggested throwing names into a hat for the seat. As he sees it, that might be the only way to get a new alderman appointed at this point — unless, of course, the application pool is widened.

"The idea of opening it back up was hopefully that at least three of us can come together," he said.

DeSimone, however, was quick to stress that Wight and Matthews were against this same idea when he suggested it. DeSimone also noted that this is a much bigger pool of applicants than most alderman positions usually garner (eight, originally). Part of his reluctance to open the pool back up at this point, he explained, is that he believes Wight and Matthews will still only support the same type of candidate, regardless of the number of options available.

DeSimone wants what's "best for Maggie Vally," he explained — namely, a board he believes is balanced.

"That's the only time we do the best work for Maggie Valley, is when we represent all points of view," he said. "You're not going to do that if you've got a large portion of that board representing one point of view."

Wight seems to agree with this idea of diversity, but frames the situation differently. In his view of things, Aldridge's seat should be filled with someone of a similar mentality and a similar outlook to the longtime alderman's. After all, Wight explained, the voters chose Aldridge, who was known as a bit of an outsider on the board and was always looking for less government and smaller taxes.

"I can work with anyone, but do I want to fill Phil's seat with someone entirely different from his influence?" Wight rhetorically asked. "I don't want to do that."

And the search continues.