Long-time Elon mayor Jerry Tolley won’t seek re-election

Long-standing Elon mayor Jerry Tolley announced Tuesday night that he will not seek re-election as his term ends this November.

Tolley, 78, made his announcement in the final minutes of this week’s regularly-scheduled board meeting, explaining, “My total service to the town is 38 years, so I’m stepping away.”

“I’m sure we’re going to have some good candidates step forward,” he added. “We’ve always had a good board, and I’m sure we’ll continue that. I appreciate everybody’s support here.
“It’s an amazing place to be mayor, an amazing town, and I look forward to many years of being here,” he concluded.

Responding to the mayor’s decision, mayor pro tem Davis Montgomery joked, “Mayor, we refuse to accept.” After garnering laughs from those on the board and in town hall, Montgomery said of the mayor’s long tenure, “Congratulations, that is remarkable.”

Tolley’s service to the town began in 1980 after he was recruited by then-mayor Beth Schmidt to apply for the town’s new appearance commission. Tolley’s time with town hall even briefly coincided with his tenure at Elon University as a football coach, where he served as an assistant coach from 1967 to 1976 before rising to the head coach position in 1977 and staying until 1981. After his time as coach, Tolley’s 31-year career with the university included holding other administrative positions.

After spending a few years on the appearance commission, he ran for the board of aldermen, served six years, then served as mayor for two terms.

Upon completing his second term, he recalled Tuesday, “I thought I’d given it all up, then I had another call from Beth Schmidt wanting me to chair the parks and recreation committee.”

By 2005, Tolley was ready to return to the dais as mayor. He was re-elected that year, and has served four consecutive terms since to date.

Tolley and wife Joanie have two adult sons and four grandchildren.