By Dave Russell
Newly elected Sylva town board member Ben Guiney, 51, was not at the Friday election canvass at the Board of Elections. He learned by text he won the seat via a video of the tie-breaking coin toss.
He went on a pre-planned vacation to Florida with his wife, Melissa Madrona, and 5-year-old daughter, Vivian, he said Monday. The family lives on Ridgeway Street.
Guiney said downtown safety and walkability are high on his list of issues to bring to the board.
“I live downtown, and I walk everywhere, and sometimes I don’t feel safe using the crosswalks there,” he said. “I’m a big proponent of bike lanes and sidewalks and making sure folks can safely walk to their local businesses or restaurants and people can go jogging or push kids in strollers. I’m an ER doctor and I see these folks who get hit by cars and all the fender-benders that come in.”
Guiney rides his bike to his job at Harris Regional Hospital every day, he said.
He applauds the work the current board has done to make Sylva more walkable.
“The town is going to have to foot part of the bill to put the sidewalk on Skyland Drive,” he said. “That’s a huge thing. It’s going to be awesome to have a sidewalk going in there.”
He is familiar with some of the projects the board is working on.
“I also really support what David (Nestler) is doing with Scotts Creek, and Greg (McPherson) cleaning up downtown, making it look nice and bringing a lot of art in,” he said.
As for the impending construction on N.C. 107, Guiney wants to make sure bike lanes and sidewalks are safe, he said.
“The road project is a big topic,” he said. “But it’s not something the town board has a ton of say over. There are going to be small things we can do.”
Guiney has enjoyed his three-year stint on the town planning board.
“It has been fun,” he said. “I love the nuts and bolts of the local small town stuff. If you need a new speed bump, the town board votes on it. And it’s great because you know where it is, you know the people it will affect.”
Guiney knows everyone on the board already, he said.
“I think it’s going to be fun,” he said. “The board is a good group of folks who are moving Sylva in a good direction.”