Hawkins mayor's committee appointments one vote short of approval

Jeff Bobo • Oct 30, 2019 at 9:30 AM

CLARIFICATION: Commissioner Mike Herrell served on the Budget Committee for one year, although he regularly attended Budget Committee meetings during his first four years in office. Former Commissioner Robert Palmer represented the 6th District on the Budget Committee during that time period.

ROGERSVILLE — Approval of Hawkins County Mayor Jim Lee’s committee appointments for 2019-20, which removes some of his critics from important committees, fell one vote short of being approved by the Hawkins County Commission Monday.

The vote was 10-8 in favor of Lee’s list, with two commissioners absent and Chairman Rick Brewer abstaining.

A majority of the full 21-member commission, or 11 votes, is required for approval.

As a result, last year’s appointments will stay in effect at least one more month until the commission approves a list, which will presumably be back on the agenda in November. Both lists can be seen in the photo gallery of the online version of this article at www.timesnews.net.

There was no discussion among commissioners prior to Monday’s vote, although a close look at Lee’s appointments might explain why some commissioners didn’t vote yes.

For example, last year’s commission chairman, Mike Herrell, who is in his fifth year, was removed from three of the most active panels: the Budget Committee, the Pubic Safety Committee, and the Solid Waste Committee.

Herrell has been openly critical of Lee and made a motion last month to remove the mayor’s power to appoint committees, which was defeated 13-6.

Second-year Commissioner Bob Edens replaces Herrell on all three of those committees.

Commissioner Rick Brewer, who was elected chairman last month, remains on the Budget Committee, but he was removed from the Public Safety Committee and the Parks Committee.

Syble Vaughan-Trent was removed from the Solid Waste Committee in favor of Raymond Jessee and from the Personnel Committee in favor of George Bridwell.

Commissioner Danny Alvis was removed from the Airport Committee and the Parks Committee.

Alvis told the Times News Tuesday he’s not unhappy about his own appointments, but he believes the mayor isn’t properly utilizing the talents available on the commission.

“Commissioner Herrell was on the Budget Committee for four years, and I feel like he did a good job,” Alvis said. “He asked a lot of questions and always acted in the best interests of the taxpayers. Mr. (Bob) Edens is a retired teacher and will probably do a good job, but there was no reason to remove Commissioner Herrell.”

Alvis noted that Commissioners Vaughan-Trent and Hannah Speaks are qualified to serve on the Budget Committee. Trent previously served on the Budget Committee for eight years, and Speaks is a certified public accountant.

“Syble has as much experience, if not more, than anyone on the Budget Committee, and that’s what Ms. Speaks went to college for,” Alvis said. “I feel like they were overlooked.” 

Speaks told the Times News Tuesday her “no” vote had nothing to do with the actual appointments.

“I simply don’t think the mayor should be the one to appoint committees,” Speaks said. “If he wants to appoint committees, then he should chair the commission. I’ve heard some say he’s the ‘CEO of the county,’ and others say, ‘If he was elected to that role by the people, then we should support him.’ I don’t agree. I’m not happy with his leadership, and I hear from many citizens who aren’t either. I’m not going to go along with what he says simply because he’s the mayor.”

Commissioners who voted against Lee’s appointments included Vaughan-Trent, Jeff Barrett, Alvis, Charles Thacker, Dawson Fields, Speaks, Herrell, and Donnie Talley.

Lee has two potential chances to get that 11th vote at next month’s meeting, assuming his new committee list is submitted again for approval. Raymond Jessee was absent from Monday’s meeting, and Larry Clonce left early due to illness and didn’t vote.

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