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SNYDER RETIRES: 'Whenever you figure out it's time to go you're already late'

Roger Snyder, one of the original leaders of the incorporation of the town of Mills River, is shown at a council meeting held outside in the town park in 2020. [LIGHTNING FILE PHOTO] Roger Snyder, one of the original leaders of the incorporation of the town of Mills River, is shown at a council meeting held outside in the town park in 2020. [LIGHTNING FILE PHOTO]

Roger Snyder, a key leader in the effort to transform the farming community of Mills River into the town of Mills River, and who went on to serve as its mayor for 10 years and on the council for 19, resigned from the board Thursday night, saying it was time to move on.

"I was in the fire department for 25 years, then got involved in the town stuff," Snyder, 62, said in an interview Friday morning. "The incorporation lasted about two years, so I've been on the town council in some form or fashion for 19 years. I figured it's just time for me to go. Whenever you figure out it's time to go you're already late."

He said no negative political factors or hard feelings entered into his decision to leave the board with almost two years remaining in his term.

"We've got a good council," he said. "Like I said (to the council), 'I'm going to leave it in your capable hands.' It was strictly voluntary."

Shanon Gonce, who was elected mayor in December, said he was stunned at the announcement.

"Total shock, honestly," he said. "I didn't know a thing about it coming into it. I reached out to him this morning and he said, 'My plate's full right now. I've been thinking about retiring and I just felt tonight's a good night.' I didn't have a clue."

"He's definitely been a major advocate for Mills River," Gonce said. "He's always looked after the best he could the town of Mills River for sure, no question about that."

Gonce said the Town Council plans an event to thank Snyder and recognize his service and dedication to the town.

Town Manager Daniel Cobb said no one had any hint what was to come when Gonce gaveled the regular meeting of the board to order.

"He came in last night and after we completed the Pledge of Allegiance Roger asked to speak for a moment and the mayor turned the mic over to him and Roger — I'm paraphrasing — he just felt like it was time for him to step away and he was going to retire from the council and that's what he did," Cobb said.

Snyder and his wife, Gayle, who has faithfully attended almost every Town Council meeting along with Snyder, walked out before council members had the opportunity to say thank you. After the Snyders walked out, he said, council members turned to one another and asked, "Did you know?"

"We were a little bit surprised by the announcement," Cobb said. "What we offered the council is to not try to solve it tonight. So I offered that I would prepare a memo on the process that we could follow and suggested that we follow the same process that we used when Richmond Meadows resigned a couple years ago." The town will announce the vacancy, accept applications from interested residents, review the applications and potentially interview them in person before making the appointment. The seat is at-large, meaning any qualified resident can fill it no matter where in town they live.

Snyder said he's proud that the town board made significant improvements while being good stewards of the taxpayers' money.

"I can look back and say, 'Roger, you served the citizens well.' Now it's time to go home," he said. "Probably the biggest accomplishment was (state Sen. Tom) Apodaca and (Rep.) Carolyn Justus streamlining our incorporation through the state. When Asheville was against us, the League of Municipalities was against us, Fletcher was against us, that's probably one of the biggest accomplishments. The other big project was building town hall. It was a 40-year loan, we paid it off in 12 years, something like that."

"That's what I'm hoping — that the town continue to be conservative with the taxpayers' money," he said. "The other thing that I tried to stress through the years is customer service. That's one of my big things. I know you can't take care of all the customers all the time but at least you can acknowledge them and say, 'I can do this, but I can't do this.' I've enjoyed it."

The council also has made numerous improvements to the town park, which has a popular dog park, tennis courts, playground, picnic pavilions, walking trails, basketball courts and a baseball field.

"I've been amazed at the number of people that use our park," he said. "We're actually having trouble now with parking. I have to admit that was not one of my priorities but after it got going I saw it was a thing that the people wanted."

Snyder served as interim mayor when the town incorporated in June 2003, then was elected mayor by the council that December, serving until 2013, when Larry Freeman became mayor.

Both retired, Roger and Gayle have been burning up the interstate highway to Duncan, South Carolina, visiting their daughter and son-in-law, Ashley and Nick Ward, and looking after their 18-month-old grandson, Easton.

"I told Gayle one time, I said, 'You know, Easton can do stuff that if the kids done when they was little, I'd be all over them,'" he said. "And she said, 'Roger, it's a grandson thing.' I said, 'You're probably right, Gayle.'"