ROGERSVILLE – Second term Hawkins County Commissioner Rick Brewer was elected commission chairman Monday evening by a single vote, but an attempt to give him the power to appoint committees was defeated.
After Mayor Jim Lee was elected last year he opted to break with tradition and not serve as chairman of the County Commission, as his predecessors had.
Previously, the commission’s local rules listed the chairman of the commission as the person with the power to appoint committees, because it had been anticipated there would be a time when the mayor wouldn't be the chairman.
As a result, the commission voted last year to give the county mayor the power to appoint committees.
Brewer, a former Bean Station mayor who has been on the commission for five years, was elected chairman on Monday by a vote of 11-10 over second year commissioner and Church Hill Alderman Keith Gibson.
Commissioner Jeff Barrett was elected chairman pro-tem (vice chairman) 13-8 over Commissioner Hannah Speaks, who was a surprise nominee by previous pro-tem John Metz, who decided to withdraw from consideration.
Following the vote on chairman and pro-tem the commission approved two resolutions submitted by Metz rescinding the previous rule of appointing committee members for four-year terms, and authorizing the mayor to change committees “to ensure increased knowledge and experience.”
Mayor Lee is expected to submit a revised list of committee members for one-year terms to the commission at the Oct. 28 meeting, with those committees to be renewed annually.
During the discussion on those two resolutions, former Commission Chairman Mike Herrell made a motion to give newly elected Chairman Brewer the authority to appoint committees.
“So now we're going to go back to the way it was before because a few don't like the way things are done so they're going to take their ball and go home,” Metz said. “Real professional. We're out for a fun year, fellow commissioners.”
Metz suggested that Herrell's motion was motivated by a “personal vendetta.”
Metz added, “The citizens of Hawkins County selected Mayor Lee as CEO of the government body of Hawkins County. In any organization that individual is solely responsible to determine how his team functions. And if it's bad, if they don't do a good job, guess what. The shareholder — the residents of Hawkins County — get rid of him. That's the way the game works. That's how it's supposed to work.”
Herrell replied, “We've had committee meetings and the mayor has showed up to some of them. Some of them he hasn't. If we're not going to have a mayor who is going to support us in the committees, we ought to be doing this all ourselves. As he said once before, it's our commission, not his, and we ought to be doing it.”
Commissioner Larry Clonce said he doesn't believe in changing the rules, “every few days”.
Clonce added, “We either have the rules or don't have the rules, and I'm not for changing them just to be changing them. That's no way to run the commission.”
Herrell's motion failed 13-6 with two abstentions.
Among the commissioners who voted in favor of the change were Herrell, Danny Alvis, Syble Vaughan-Trent, Hannah Speaks, Raymond Jessee, and Donnie Talley. Brewer and Barrett abstained.