01/03/06 — Former town board member isn't ready to slow down yet

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Former town board member isn't ready to slow down yet

By Bonnie Edwards
Published in News on January 3, 2006 1:48 PM

MOUNT OLIVE -- Former town commissioner Paul Smalley said he is staying plenty busy since leaving his board seat late last year.

After six years of service, Smalley said he is trying to head back into private life, which gives him time to look back at what he and others accomplished in the village this past year.

But that doesn't mean this 70-year-old is giving up community service -- or slowing down.

Smalley said he enjoyed being on the board, but he doubts he will run again. He has new priorities, he said.

He jogs five miles six days a week, unless he has a night meeting that day or he is cooking peanuts with the Methodist men.

"Cooking peanuts is enough exercise for this old man," said Smalley, who turned 70 in December.

He said he really is slowing down, and he's not out of the house as much.

But his wife, Lula, reminded him he had still had four night meetings to attend that week.

Mrs. Smalley encouraged her husband to run for a seat on the town board when they returned to Mount Olive to spend their retirement years here.

The idea to run for the town board came as a result of finding retirement left a lot of free time, she said.

"I didn't think I'd win, to tell the truth," Smalley said.

Six years later, Smalley admitted the job was often time-consuming -- although rewarding. Much of the work did not get publicized, and a lot was accomplished behind the scenes, he added.

His wife said the job of a politician, if it's done right "is almost like being a missionary."

Long hours, late night phone calls and being stopped at the local grocery store were part of the job description, she said.

"If a storm would come, people would come here to the house before they'd go downtown," she said. "He went to the homes of elderly ladies and pulled limbs out of the street."

The town commissioner job was the first time Smalley had ever been on a town government board. It was different than the other boards he had been on back in Connecticut.

The Smalleys lived many years in Waterford, Conn., where Smalley retired from 25 years with a company that makes nuclear generating plants to produce electricity. He started at Millstone Point as an equipment operator and advanced to top management in corporate communications.

While he was with the company, Smalley started a non-profit organization that teaches unemployed and underemployed people skills to help them find good jobs. He said the organization sent him to every major city in the U.S. and even sent him to Africa to set up a program there.

With all this, he was still active in his community.

"The man was into everything and he still went to all our daughter's tennis games," Mrs. Smalley said. "He went to his sons' basketball games, and when they went to college, he was there about every weekend. Our daughter, Pernell, was a model and in some movies in California, and he was out there, too. We were glad to sit down."

The sons, Kenneth and Patrick, are still up north, but Pernell came from Los Angeles to visit her parents one day and met a local man. They married and moved in around the corner from her folks.

Mrs. Smalley said the attic in their house is full of boxes holding her husband's plaques.

"If it was me, I'd put them on the wall," she said. "I'm more excited about them than he is."

"Lula was good to me when I retired," Smalley said. "I retired early. I was only 58. We made an agreement when I retired we'd come back south."

The American Indian Marine from Connecticut met the young Faison woman during the mid-1950s in Jacksonville.

He was stationed at Camp Lejeune. She was baby-sitting for her sister who was living in Jacksonville.

But Smalley seemed too good to be true.

His wife said she was afraid to trust him at first.

She was the baby in the family, and her brother-in-law followed the couple north to make sure Smalley treated his new bride right.

"He gave me a dime and said, 'Call me if he ever hits you.' I must have cried a whole week," she said.

Moving away wasn't easy.

"I missed my home, my family," Mrs. Smalley said.

But after almost 50 years of marriage, her husband is still "so sweet, sometimes I think he must be too good," she said.