Carrol Mitchem was elected as the new chairman of the Board of Commissioners.
(Lincoln Herald Staff Photos)
Wayne Howard Staff Writer
Most savvy observers knew that things were going to be different when Bill Beam and Martin Oakes became members of the Lincoln County Commission. The two took the oath of office Monday night (Dec. 1st), then elected Carrol Mitchem to replace Alex Patton as chairman.
After they moved from the James W. Warren Citizens Center auditorium to the Commissioners meeting room on the third floor following a reception honoring retiring Commissioner Carl Robinson, they wasted no time fulfilling campaign promises that things were going to be different.
First, they discussed the changes in the county's solid waste disposal program that had taken place in July. Martin Oakes made a motion to have Don Chamblee, Director of Public Works, gather a week's worth of information about what was happening at the convenience sites--what was being brought there, who was being turned away and told to go to the landfill, etc. His motion failed on a 4-1 vote.
Then Bill Beam made a motion that the construction and demolition (C&D) boxes be returned to all convenience sites "just like it was before July 1st." That motion passed 4-1 with former chairman Alex Patton the only no vote. As for when that was supposed to happen, chairman Mitchem said, "tomorrow." That initial response was softened to as soon as possible.
The solid waste department is a self-sustaining operation and the concern from Chamblee that prompted the changes was that the program was not going to be able to sustain itself without them. Mitchem said no one knows if keeping the change that has the county charging commercial trash haulers will alone be sufficient to operate the program--"you don't know, I don't know, nobody knows," he told Chamblee. In addition to restoring the C&D boxes at all convenience sites, Mitchem instructed Chamblee to bring back a plan that would have all convenience sites open on Sunday afternoon.
The Commissioners approved allowing the expenditure of up to $50,000 for a study about what needs to be done to restore the exterior walls of the Citizens Center and the building that houses the Tax Office and Register of Deeds and do some emergency repairs to the walls. They also approved a contract with an architect as the first step toward moving the County Health Dept. to the old Lincoln County Hospital building.
As the last items of the meeting, Commissioners went into two closed sessions to discuss personnel. After the first session, they voted 3-2 to fire County Manager Tracy Jackson. Beam, Oakes and Mitchem voted to terminate Jackson's employment; Patton and Cecilia Martin voted no.
After a second closed session, the Commissioners voted 4-1 to hire Kelly Atkins. Patton cast the only no vote.
Jackson, who came to Lincoln County from Iredell County where he served as Deputy County Manager, had only been on the job since September 2013. He said he has no immediate plans, implying that his dismissal may have come as a surprise.
Jackson worked for Iredell County for nearly 13 years, starting out there as that county's Director of Emergency Management.
In 2011, Jackson would almost certainly have been the frontrunner for the Iredell County manager’s job when longtime Manager Joel Mashburn retired, but he decided not to apply for the position. Instead, it was offered to Ron Smith, who had only recently been elevated to the post of assistant county manager after having served as the county’s planning director.
Atkins is no stranger to Lincoln County or to Lincoln County government. He was born at Crowell Hospital; he graduated from Lincolnton High School in 1988. He got his associate degree in Criminal Justice from Gaston College and worked as a patrol officer with the Sheriff's Department from 1991 to 1994. He then worked in code enforcement with the planning department, became a building inspector in 1996, became Director of Planning & Inspections in 1998 and kept that job until 2012. Since then, he has been the Chief Financial Officer for Denver Construction Company.
Atkins got his Bachelor of Science degree from Western Carolina University. He is married to Amy Atkins, who serves as Clerk to the Board of Commissioners. They have three children: a 17-year-old daughter, a 13-year-old son and a 9-year-old daughter. They live off Asbury Church Road. Atkins said he is looking forward to the new challenge and has the advantage of knowing most of the people who work for the county and much about some of the jobs because he has worked in those jobs.
While the Commissioners took no other actions involving personnel at Monday night's (Dec. 1st) meeting, many political observers believe that several more county employees will likely lose their jobs in the near future.
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