Some Sullivan commissioners eye hiring professional county administrator

J. H. Osborne • Feb 9, 2013 at 10:35 AM

BLOUNTVILLE — Some Sullivan County commissioners have begun debating the potential for shaking up county government by hiring a professional administrator to run the county — possibly cutting back on the role of an elected county mayor, and/or expanding the responsibilities placed on the position now called “budget director.”

The subject was among hot topics during a roughly two-hour discussion last week by the County Commission’s Administrative Committee.

County mayor is an elected office included in “constitutional officeholders” spelled out in Tennessee law. The county is required to have a budget director under the 1957 state law which governs the county’s accounting system. Sullivan County has been without a permanent budget director since Larry Bailey retired last April. Payroll Manager Gayvern Moore has been serving as interim budget director — in addition to her regular duties.

When questioned by county commissioners in public meetings last week, Moore said she and other staff in the accounting office will continue to give it their all and get the job done — but she also said it’s time to get someone in the budget director’s job full time.

County Mayor Steve Godsey has publicly said the state comptroller’s office has urged the county to fill the position soon.

Law gives the county mayor the authority to appoint a budget director — but the county commission gives final approval of that appointment.

In recent weeks, county commissioners have been critical of Godsey’s handling of the lack of a budget director — questioning Godsey’s method, or lack thereof, in conducting a search for a candidate.

Last month Godsey presented his choice for the job, with no prior discussion on notice, and a majority of county commissioners said they didn’t have enough information to vote that day. That candidate has since withdrawn his name from consideration.

Administrative Committee members said they’d like to see Godsey submit a plan of action before the budget development process begins for the upcoming fiscal year.

Some pointed out if something isn’t done soon, it could be the second year in a row that the commission has struggled through a difficult process with no budget director.

At one point in the committee’s discussion last week, Commissioner Dwight King said one scenario could be the county would continue to have an elected mayor, but also hire an experienced professional administrator who would manage day-to-day operation of the county.

And that person would be hired by, and answer to, the full County Commission.

That would require a change to or exemption from state law which currently governs the county’s accounting system.

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