BLOUNTVILLE — Next week the Sullivan County Commission will consider appointing an interim Commissioner of Highways.
The person chosen will be appointed to serve until voters elect a new highway commissioner in August.
Being an incumbent officeholder, even an appointed, interim one, has long been held to give a candidate a leg up on the competition.
At least nine men have expressed some level of interest in having the $101,000 per year job.
It is open now due to the retirement last month of Terry Shaffer — appointed interim highway commissioner by the Republican-controlled Sullivan County Commission three years ago after Allan Pope, a Republican who won the office from a longtime Democratic incumbent in 2006, was indicted on theft charges related to work performed by the county highway department.
Shaffer announced his retirement a couple of weeks before he departed in December.
At the same time, the district attorney’s office confirmed an investigation into alleged improprieties within the highway department was launched more than two months ago.
Shaffer told the Times-News his stepping down had nothing to do with the TBI investigation, but rather his more than 32 years of employment with the county.
He declined to comment on the TBI probe.
Of the nine men who have expressed interest in becoming the county’s next highway commissioner, one has a college degree in engineering and is registered as a professional engineer by the state of Tennessee (as well as by several other states).
Several of them work at the county highway department.
One is a county commissioner.
To be able to hold the job, or be on the ballot, a person must be certified by a statewide board.
Six of the nine have received that endorsement. One has been denied that endorsement. That board meets at least one more time before a Feb. 6 deadline to attain that certification in order to be on the ballot.
For an expanded version of this article, please see Friday's print edition or our expanded electronic edition.