Mayor Daniel Evans has announced he will not seek another term.
Earlier this year, Evans was noncommittal about his political future, saying he needed time to think about it. But on Tuesday, he broke the news, saying he wanted to make his decision now so others could make plans before the election filing period opens in July.
“I just wanted to get it out there so people could go ahead and start thinking about what positions they’d like to file for,” he said.
Evans said he was proud of the town’s accomplishments during his tenure, and he said would remain involved in town affairs.
“I will continue to serve and give back,” Evans said. “I encourage the council to look forward to serving a great community with a great people.”
After the meeting, Evans said he wanted to dedicate more time to his family and his business. The job of mayor, he said, was demanding more of his time than ever.
Evans estimated that he spends 20 to 30 hours a week as mayor. That includes staff meetings, constituent meetings and a steady flow of ribbon-cutting ceremonies.
“This past week, I had six ribbon cuttings and four meetings, all during the day,” he said. “After a period of time, I need to get back to my family and my needs.”
Councilman Emery Ashley said he appreciated the amount of time Evans invested in the job. He was always accessible to the citizens, Ashley said, and he loved being the public face of the town.
“Whoever decides to run, they’re going to have big shoes to fill in terms of the amount of time and effort he put in with the citizens,” Ashley said.
Councilman Charles A. Williams said Evans was a great force for economic development. The next mayor, he said, would have to continue down that path.
Evans said he had a “laundry list” of achievements he was proud of, including projects to fix water and sewer infrastructure in East and South Smithfield, reducing electric rates and reducing the amount of money the town transfers from the electric fund to the general fund.
“We’re making the hard decisions of having to do business the way we should do business,” he said.
But not everyone is pleased with the job Evans did as mayor.
Former councilman Clayton Narron said Evans could have handled the investigation of the 2011 pay-raise scandal better.
Evans was on the council when it quietly decided to settle with former town clerk Debbie Godwin, one of the employees implicated in the scandal. The council agreed to allow her to keep her retirement benefits after her 21 years of service. In return, she agreed to step down, and both side agreed not to talk about the other.
Narron said Evans and the council were too quick to settle with Godwin. What they should have done, he said, was suspend her and conduct a full investigation.
“He took control of the situation and acted too quickly,” Narron said. “I think it’s suspicious.”
The next mayor, Narron said, would have to heal the rifts among the council, town employees and citizens. “I think all that needs to be healed,” he said. “Whoever runs for mayor needs to be a peacemaker.”
Evans said he felt the council had handled the scandal reasonably well, although he added, “You could always say that hindsight’s 20/20.”
Evans said he thinks he’s leaving the town in better shape than he found it after 16 years of service. “If people look at (the negative) rather than the accomplishments, I don’t really have any control over that,” he said. “I think the good really overshadows the bad.”