Passing the hammer: unofficial mayor of Hazelwood drops the mantle | News
It was a daring daydream for a little girl in the 1950s, but Mary Ann Enloe always knew she would one day be mayor of Hazelwood.
It was in his blood after all. She grew up listening to her father talk about city politics in the living room, on the porch or in the aisles of Ralph’s Cash Grocery.
“Dad always said it was the best place in the world to play politics,” recalls Enloe, whose father was mayor for 27 years, until the day he died.
What she didn’t know, of course, was that she would wear the hat for four decades, long after Hazelwood’s merger with Waynesville.
While Hazelwood ceased to be his own town in 1995, Enloe continued to wear the mantle of unofficial mayor – whether it was an institutional knowledge repository for the town’s seal keeper still in his possession. .
Now, at 81, she has decided it is time. It’s time to pass the torch to the next generation. And she couldn’t have found a better champion to lead Hazelwood into a new era.
At the bar “
Alex McKay may only be 34 years old, but he’s already known as Haywood County’s greatest historian. He is a prolific private collector of historical documents and tangible artefacts, but more importantly, a collector of stories, amassed for countless hours sitting with elders, soaking up their stories of life at the time.
McKay’s roots run deep in Hazelwood.
“All of my family have been here for generations,” he said. “They knew everything about everyone and everything that was going on. “
As fate willed it, he became a neighbor of Enloe a few years ago. The two soon found themselves spending afternoons on Enloe’s Porch – the same porch where Enloe’s father courted as a child.
“They often came to see Dad to discuss business. That’s what whetted my appetite for politics, ”recalls Enloe.
McKay had previously taken on Hazelwood’s lead role, ranging from personal wrapping streetlights with corn husks in the fall to heads of Waynesville speaking nicely for new strings of Christmas lights.
Most importantly, he’s a champion of maintaining Hazelwood’s identity.
“I want to live in a strong community. I know Hazelwood is that, it’s always been that, ”McKay said. “All these years since the merger, and we still feel like we are our own people.”
Last month, Enloe decided it was time to pass the unofficial gavel of the mayor to McKay.
“It’s exciting to see what he does and how well he does it. He’s what we need, ”Enloe said. “His heart is in it. “
Enloe’s political career did not end when Hazelwood closed its doors as a town. She then reported to State House, County Commissioner and Alderman for Waynesville.
She won some and she lost some. But she never stopped fighting, getting up the day after an election defeat and stepping straight back into the ring.
“I always saw myself as a voice for those who thought they had no voice. People have always been my priority, ”said Enloe.
Enloe wasn’t the type to mince words and wasn’t afraid to rock the boat when needed. Intrepid to be the only woman at the table, her presence commanded and people listened when she spoke, even if they didn’t like what he had to say.
She attributes her strength and resilience in part to her father, Dutch Fisher.
“I was my father’s son,” said Enloe, who was one of the three sisters.
Yet the glass ceiling was omnipresent.
“My campaign slogan as County Commissioner was ‘the best man for the job is a woman.’ But some of them couldn’t handle it, ”she said.
Her husband died when her daughter was only 5 years old and she never remarried. As mayor, Enloe often had Libby chasing her at city council meetings, where she sat quietly in the audience while her mother ruled the city.
“There were people who I later found out that they didn’t approve of a woman doing this sort of thing,” Enloe said.
Enloe didn’t wear a tie, of course, but instead flaunted her femininity with an elegant fabric bodice on her lapel – a plethora of them to coordinate colors with any outfit. The signature look matched her larger-than-life personality and followed her throughout her political career, first as mayor of Hazelwood and later as county commissioner.
“The night I was sworn in as mayor, someone sent me an orchid to wear. I decided it was a good look for me, ”said Enloe. “I still have a big, full picnic basket. “
A born fixer
While it has always been in her blood, Enloe was drawn to local politics sooner than she imagined. She was working at Dayco as a single mother in the early 1980s when whispers of corruption at City Hall landed on her doorstep.
Someone need to make Something, people implored him.
“So I answered the call,” Enloe said. “After I was sworn in, the first thing I did was take all the books and paperwork home and lay them out under my grand piano. I got under that piano and started looking and it just didn’t suit me. I quickly understood what I had found.
She forwarded the findings to the district prosecutor, which led to charges and a criminal conviction – including jail time for the author.
“To this day people still hate me because he was a boy from his hometown,” Enloe said.
However, Enloe’s skin is thick like a rhino. Once, at a Candidate Commissioners Forum in the 2000s, Enloe unabashedly told the crowded audience: “Some of you love me, and some of you wouldn’t mind if I fell. died here on the spot. “
Enloe never encountered a problem that she did not want to solve. In third grade, she began to wonder why the Hazelwood School didn’t have an American flag on its pole. It didn’t seem fair.
“So I did some research, I talked to people and I said, ‘How do I get a flag? “They told me to write a letter to the Woodmen of the World,” Enloe said.
The school soon had its flag.
“If I saw a problem, I wanted to fix it,” Enloe said. ” I’m always like that. It’s hard for me to tell that something is not in my boat.
The best of times, the worst of times
Enloe fondly recalls her childhood in the heyday of Hazelwood’s blue collar workers, when factory whistles rang out across town.
“I absolutely lived in the drugstore,” Enloe said. “We used to always say ‘You can do anything in Hazelwood except be buried.’ We don’t have a graveyard, but other than that we had everything you could want on Main Street.
She still remembers her first salary at Dayco.
“The first thing I did was go to Ms. Byson’s fashion store and open an account,” she said.
During Enloe’s tenure as mayor, however, Hazelwood had some tough times. The buzz of the main factories in Hazelwood began to die down and the backbone of the city collapsed.
“You couldn’t run a city on our tax base. There were times when I couldn’t meet the payroll, ”Enloe said.
The merger with Waynesville was the only way forward.
“Dad told me shortly before he died, ‘The day will come when Hazelwood will have to come under the wings of Waynesville,'” recalls Enloe.
Of course, she hadn’t realized at the time, in 1972, that the day would come on her watch. It was a tough pill to swallow, and a solution some still blame him for.
“There are still people in Hazelwood who don’t understand why I did what I had to do,” she said. “We just didn’t have the money. “
The rebirth of Noisetier
Hazelwood has experienced a resurgence over the past decade. The storefronts are full again, the sidewalks are bustling, and he’s even brought back his own Christmas parade.
Merchants of course played a vital role, but so did McKay. He never misses a meeting of Waynesville City Council, its silent presence bridging the gap and calling back ‘the other side of town’.
“He knows who to talk to to get things done,” Enloe said.
In typical Haywood County fashion, the two are linked. The two claim ancestry from the surnames of the Hazelwood mainstays – the McKays and the Fisher – who married along the way.
“My grandmother Fisher and her great-grandfather McKay were brother and sister. Guess that makes us second cousins? »Said Enloe.
“Second cousins twice distant,” McKay interjected.
As the two swap stories about Hazelwood’s early days are passed down from loved ones, McKay prefaces them with things like “his grandmother and my great aunt.”
The two first met at a family funeral.
“Alex’s mom made a point of finding me and said ‘I want you to meet my son.’ I was just tickled. He was so handsome, ”Enloe said.
McKay, who is always on the hunt for historical puzzles, will call on Enloe for his institutional knowledge. Only, he does not call, still believing in the lost art of going to visit.
“Normally I just ran over there,” McKay said.
“I love it when Alex comes to see me,” added Enloe, who has outlived all of his close family. “We can just talk about Hazelwood forever. “