ELECTION 2017: Meet Murphy's town council candidates
There are eight candidates for Murphy Town Council in the general election Tuesday, Nov. 7.
The candidates include four incumbents and four new candidates. Their profiles are listed in alphabetical order.
Jodi Alverson grew up in Cherokee County and his lived in the Murphy city limits for 43 years. She retired as assistant superintendent of Cherokee County Schools in 2013 after 27 years working in education.
“I was asked by several people to run for city council,” she said. “I thought that if I am ever going to do it, now is the time. I want to do something productive for the town and county.”
Alverson, a Democrat, graduated from Murphy elementary and high schools, as did her four kids and husband, David. She was a classroom teacher for 15 years and worked with the gifted program involving K-12 students at Hiwassee Dam School. She taught social studies at Murphy High, then became the special education teacher. She also taught middle-grade language arts.
In 2002, she went to Central Office, where she was director of exceptional children, director of curriculum, career, technology education and human resources. She became assistant superintendent of the school system in 2008 and still held former duties.
Alverson also was in charge of several budgets. Since retiring in 2013, she has worked part time, including as a substitute teacher.
Alverson said she supports youth, and wants to see the town and county cooperate in recreation and parks. She also wants to help the fire and police departments thrive.
“I would like to see us pursue some grants, even if they are small grants,” she said. “I did a lot of grant writing with the school system.”
Alverson also wants to ensure that the water-sewer system is properly maintained and functional before facilities are expanded.
She wants to work and cooperate with business and property owners to fill empty storefronts. She is on the board of directors of the Cherokee County Chamber of Commerce, which has more than 400 members.
Alverson does not support a tax increase. She said the town can do what it needs to do with the present tax rate.
“I am a hard worker and will serve the town well,” Alverson said. “I am a stickler for detail. I follow legal, ethical and moral guidelines.
“If people know my work ethic and me as a person, I hope they will support me. I will do the best job I can and spend money wisely and listen to you in a fair and honest way.”
Frank Dickey sees three major longtime pillars of the Murphy Town Council ready to exit on Dec. 1, leaving him as perhaps the veteran leader of the next board if he is re-elected.
Dickey, a Democrat and lifelong resident of Cherokee County, is seeking a fourth term. Fellow council member David Hilton, Mayor Bill Hughes and Town Manager Ann Payne are all retiring from public service.
“We’re close to completing a lot of things,” Dickey said. “We just grant money for GPS on the sewer systems, and that affects future generations. We’ve got professionals in all our divisions, including two paid positions in our fire department, which they told me when I got on council that we would never have.”
Dickey has never missed a meeting. He relishes the chance to guide the next board and its new faces.
“Bill and David are leaving, and (town manager) Ann Payne is retiring, too, so we’re going to be in flux a little,” Dickey said. “When I first ran there was a lot of turmoil, and I think I was able to help put water on the fire. We got better parking, new street lights, new traffic lights downtown.”
He cited Payne’s departure as particularly significant for the town going forward.
“She runs the town right now, she does the hiring and firing,” Dickey said. “It’s a big decision for the new council to make who is going to fill that spot.”
He acknowledges there are traffic issues in town.
“Everybody wants speed bumps on their roads now,” Dickey said. “The traffic downtown is more of a DOT problem. We had a study a few years back to change it to two lanes with a turn lane, but the recession hit and they didn’t have as much cash for those sort of things as they did before.”
Dickey hopes to also tackle difficult projects, like getting more restrooms downtown or moving the police and other town vehicles to electric cars.
“Those are projects that can come with time, but one guy can’t make those things happen,” he said. “You have to build a consensus.
Dickey said he may be heading into his last term if elected, but he still has work to do.
“I’m so proud of the progress we’ve made,” he said. “The time I have been on the board, I think we’ve had success. I’ve had a good experience with it. I would like to see the transition to the next group.”
Barbara Hughes has never held public office, but she has been a force behind Murphy for decades.
Voted the Best Volunteer in Cherokee County for 11 years in the Cherokee Scout’s annual Readers’ Choice contest, she has made great contacts by accompanying her husband, Bill, to governmental training sessions and other official business. Bill is stepping down this year after serving 20 years as mayor of Murphy.
Hughes, a Democrat, grew up in Murphy, graduating from Murphy elementary and high schools. She held many different jobs in Cherokee County Schools, worked extensively with special needs children and started a homebound program for pregnant students. She also headed the Special Olympics for the western end of the state.
“I brought soccer to Cherokee County because it was a Special Olympics sport,” she said. “I worked with the school system for 32 years and loved it.”
Hughes’ light really shined as a volunteer. She founded the 501(c)3 Heritage Partners of Cherokee County in 2000, which included creating the Murphy RiverWalk, Piney Knob Hiking & Biking Trail and Payne Street Boat Ramp.
One reason she is running for a council seat is because she wants to ensure that funding for the RiverWalk continues.
“I am so devoted to that,” she said. “We are building the most beautiful section now – up to the high school.” She would like to see the walk extended to eventually join with Andrews.
Other public activities for Hughes include being a Cherokee County Chamber of Commerce ambassador, helping raise $1.2 million for the American Cancer Society as Relay for Life co-chair for 15 years and being president of HouseRaising Volunteers.
Hughes was involved with REACH, then realized something was needed for families, so she helped start Family Resources. She was involved with March of Dimes, plus helped developed the annual Kids Fair and former Spring Festival.
“It is huge now,” she said of the Kids Fair. “It takes up the entire Konehete Park.”
Hughes is actively involved in developing a Downtown Murphy Business Association.
“We have been meeting for two months,” she said. “We are building it the correct way. That is super important. They can talk of ways to grow the town.
“I want to see the town have its own group, like the county’s economic development group. We don’t want to bring industry to town but business.”
Hughes also wants to do something about voter apathy in Murphy. Her signs include the date of the election and state, “Please go to the polls and vote.”
“After having lived with Bill in his 20 years as mayor, I have a lot to pull from,” she said with her familiar smile.
Barry McClure, a Republican, enjoyed his first term on the Murphy Town Council, and now that he’s retired has plenty of energy to devote to a second term.
“I have enjoyed being on the council,” McClure said. “I love serving the Town of Murphy and giving back, and now that I am retired, I have more time to do that. I have time in the mornings to get out and walk, and see if there are any potholes or anything that need to be fixed.”
McClure, longtime principal of Murphy Middle School, has enjoyed working with the board and would like to see the harmonious interactions continue.
“David (Hilton) was talking about that the other night that if we have had a disagreement, I can’t think of anything,” McClure said. “If there is, we discuss it and work out a solution.”
A major issue citizens have brought to his attention is traffic.
“One thing we need to look at is parking downtown with the extended vehicles,” McClure said. “We have to do a study to see what we can do. When you go through town, you have to be so careful. I don’t know if that’s something can be done. DOT owns that street, so we will have to work with them.”
He praised the way the town maintenance staff has made downtown look, and added that water-sewer maintenance is important going forward.
“As things get older, we need to use the grants we’ve got to keep our water-sewer system up,” McClure said. “Our maintenance crew has done an excellent job.”
He also praised the police and fire departments for their work, calling them “among our greatest resources.”
“I think Chief (Justin) Jacobs and Chief (Al) Lovingood have been fantastic for this town, and I enjoy working with them,” McClure said.
He added that he has learned a lot and can be even more effective in a second term.
“I’ve learned what it is like to be financially responsible for people’s money,” McClure said.
Gail Walker Stansell
Murphy is where Gail Walker Stansell grew up, and it’s where she plans to spend her retirement years.
The retired school teacher is a Republican running for a spot on the Murphy Town Council in the general election Tuesday, Nov. 7.
“I always loved this little town,” Stansell said. “I thought I might be able to do something to help make the town more vibrant and attract more people.”
Stansell’s father ran Walker Body Shop downtown. Her mother, Ruth McNabb Walker, taught at Murphy Elementary School. Stansell graduated from Murphy elementary and high schools.
Stansell’s career was teaching biology and anatomy-physiology in the Gwinnett County (Ga.) School System. All but two years were at the same school.
“Teaching ran in my family,” she said. “I loved that career. When I get someplace, I stay. I plan to stay in Murphy – no question. This was my home as a child, and it is my home as a retired adult. I live in my childhood home.”
Stansell’s husband, Bill Stansell, died in 2014. She moved back to Murphy four years ago.
Stansell believes more attractive signage is needed on major thoroughfares to attract visitors downtown. The beautiful town emblem on city hall could be utilized. She said Murphy should be publicized more in magazines such as Southern Living and Our State.
“There are far too many empty storefronts,” she said. “If more companies and people knew about Murphy and its uniqueness, I believe they would want to bring their business here.”
Stansell believes we need to study parking versus traffic downtown.
She wants to see a Town of Murphy loop as part of the RiverWalk. More attractive benches in pocket parks and in front of benches would be helpful.
Another need is downtown restrooms, which is very noticeable at every Art Walk. In addition, she said the town’s infrastructure should be brought up to date.
Stansell strongly supports bringing an excursion train to Murphy. If that happens, some kind of trolley car to transport train riders from the L&N Depot through downtown would be needed.
If the excursion train doesn’t work, Rails to Trails should be explored, she said. That would turn the rail paths into walking/biking trails. She also wants to talk with local business owners to determine what they want.
“I can work with anyone – citizen or elected official,” Stansell said. “We all grew up together.”
Noland Smith said he brings business experience to the table in his run for a position on the Murphy City Council.
“I have handled thousands of business transactions,” the longtime local attorney said.
Smith, a Democrat, said he grew up in Murphy, the son of John Smith, a commercial contractor, and the well-known Dr. Helen Wells Smith. He graduated in 1975 from Murphy High School, where he was an All-Conference center on the Bulldogs’ state 2A football championship team.
Smith graduated from the University of North Carolina in 1979 and earned a degree from the Wake Forest University School of Law in 1982. He worked as an attorney for 25 years with McKeever, Edwards, Davis & Hayes. For the past 11 years, he has been with the firm of McKeever & Smith.
He has served on numerous boards, including the N.C. Community Foundation Board, Pacesetters Board and Valley River Mountain Pool & Wellness Center Foundation Board. Smith also is a member of the Murphy Zoning Board and was a Cherokee County commissioner in the 1990s.
Smith has been married for 33 years to Charlene Smith. They have three children.
“I have been to most older homes in Murphy,” he said. “When I was little, I often went with my mother on house calls. I live in the same house I grew up in.”
Smith doesn’t believe there will be a train in Murphy because of the high cost. Therefore, he wants to use the lakes and rivers to “create our own atmosphere.”
He wants to a boat dock at the L&N Depot so people using the Valley River, Hiwassee River and Hiwassee Lake can travel by water to the train depot, then walk around town. He also wants to see more town fairs and possibly a fishing tournament.
“I have seen a lot of changes to the town,” Smith said. “When I was growing up, I was allowed to go to the Henn Theater, but not on the other side of the street because it had pool halls and was considered rough. Peachtree Street from the courthouse on up was all residential except for Providence Hospital, where the funeral home is now.
“I had a number of people ask me to run for the council. David Hilton told me he wouldn’t run this time and would like me to take his seat. Most people on the council are educators. I know all the candidates and like them all.”
Sandy Sumpter, a Democrat, has built up a lot of love and stability in the community, strengths she said makes her a good choice to return to the Murphy Town Council for a fifth term.
“I want to see through what has been done,” she said. “We had lots of room to grow when I first started. We’ve had a long line of citizens who have worked hard to help the town and the area. I think a lot of people have worked hard.”
Sumpter wants to lean on her experience on the council to help get Murphy to another level of growth.
“I think my observations of the way we’ve done things, the way we are doing them now and, of course, the future,” she said. “If we don’t look to the future, we won’t be worth a hill of beans.”
Sumpter wants to see police officers and firefighters get a pay raise, along with having money to make infrastructure fixes, but there are finite funds available.
“We’ve been working for a couple of terms on infrastructure,” she said. “We’re obviously going to need money, and we are trying to keep taxes as low as possible. We’re going to be asked for more services, and even though we have been very lucky about financing things through state funds, we are going to eventually run out of funding.
“It’s going to be a challenge. I don’t want to see politics get in the way of what we can do with what we’ve got, and that takes cooperation.”
Murphy’s recent history of fiduciary stability bodes well for keeping the core of the current board intact, Sumpter said.
“When we had the financial downfall, we had better disclosure of our finances than our country, our state and other towns this size in the area,” she said. “I think we were doing something right, and I would like to see us grow some more.”
At the end of the day, Sumpter said being true to yourself and the people is paramount in public service.
“You can’t please everyone all the time, but if you’re honest with them and you’re doing your best for them, I think people will realize that situation,” she said.
Karen Watson, a Democrat, has been on the council for seven years, starting as a replacement member in 2010 before being elected to her first full term in 2013. She is one of four incumbents running to fill another four-year term.
“I’ve still got a lot to learn, but I enjoying helping the town and serving,” Watson said.
The longtime teacher and coach at Murphy High School is looking beyond day-to-day economic issues for her goals in the next council term.
“We have a major issue with drug problems in our town,” Watson said. “I feel like our police department is doing a great job, but they are undermanned. I would like us to get a handle on this. I don’t know that it will ever go away, but I think we can make a difference if we have more police and more people aware of what is going on.”
She cited infrastructure as being important to the town.
“We’ve had concerns about our water and sewer lines,” Watson said. “We’ve replaced a lot of the lines. Right now, we’ve got a $2 million grant to do the project on Regal Street, which is needed. So we’re getting there, but there’s more work to be done.”
Watson said a key part of her service on the council is to be available for citizens who have a concern.
“I feel like I am a good choice because I am fair and I will listen to the concerns of the citizens,” she said. “Anyone can come to me if they have a question.
“I will not always have the answers, but I will find the person who does.”