|Lenoir City's recent decision to leave the Loudon
County Planning Department and handle their own planning services has
raised the hackles of mayor Brookshire. Brookshire made no attempt to
hide his displeasure with council's decision to hire additional staff
for the codes office or the amount the council has agreed to pay her.
It is unknown if Brookshire's dissatisfaction with
council's decision to hire additional staff was concern for the cost or
the fact that they didn't hire who he wanted.
Report Assistant Codes Enforcement Officer Hired!
Lenoir City hires planner
Brandon L. Jones News Herald
Beth E. Collins was approved for hire by the Lenoir City
Council Tuesday and will assist Codes Enforcement Officer Leslie Johnson
in the city’s future planning. Lenoir City leaders recently decided to
end their relationship with the county’s Planning Commission to do that
work in-house through the codes enforcement office.
Collins most recently served as the codes enforcement officer of
Sweetwater — a role in which she has resigned, according to officials in
Sweetwater. She was recommended by the city’s personnel committee during
council’s special called-meeting Tuesday morning.
Johnson and Collins have worked together in a similar capacity before.
Johnson was also previously the codes enforcement officer in Sweetwater
before being hired by Lenoir City in February. Collins was Johnson’s
assistant for four years, taking over the responsibility upon Johnson’s
When asked whether Collins’ hiring was discussed before the planning
office’s services were disposed of, Johnson said, “No.” She further
explained, “We knew in the future that I was going to have to have some
help as far as administrative work, but when we actually put the
advertisement out that we were looking to hire an assistant codes
enforcement officer that’s when it was brought to my attention that she
could be interested.”
According to Lenoir City Mayor Matt Brookshire, however, she approached
the personnel committee “months ago,” saying she knew of someone who may
be interested, though he does not know exactly what was discussed during
those initial conversations.
When asked whether this decision had something to do with the city’s
action against the planning office, the mayor said, “Because I have been
left out of those discussions, I really don’t know the answer. Could
somebody connect those dots? I think a person could connect those
dots. Sure. And if it wasn’t intentional, if that was not the plan, it
was certainly done in a way that would leave that idea open to people.
Even if it was not intentionally done, I could certainly understand how
someone could get that impression. But, again, because I was left out
of so many of those discussions — they were deliberately scheduling
meetings at times when I could not be there — I really don’t know if
that was part of the discussion or not,” he said.
The committee began advertising for the position in November. Twelve
resumes were received. Brookshire questioned where the applicants came
from and the availability of local candidates Tuesday.
Out of state mostly, he was told by Bobby Johnson Sr., representing the
committee. Brookshire further questioned how many people were
interviewed, which Johnson said was only one.
Leslie Johnson interjected, saying that many of the potential candidates
were contractors and lacked the appropriate inspection and plumbing
certifications, which were specified as being required. Collins offered
the “complete package,” she said.
Though he stated in the meeting that he had “heard nothing but good
things” about Collins (who was making $33,500 per year in Sweetwater),
Brookshire was not pleased with her salary. “Paying someone in an
assistant role $35,000 suggests to me that they had to offer that to her
in order to get her here, that we weren’t trying to find a good
assistant that would fit within our budget. They were going to offer her
whatever it took to get this one person, which — in my opinion — the
whole process was in bias. Out of 12 candidates, they interviewed one?”
Discussions veered to insurance costs, but nobody further addressed her
salary before a motion was made to approve the hire. It was seconded,
followed by a unanimous vote. Benefits for city employees range in the
ballpark of 45 to 55 percent of one’s salary, Brookshire noted.
The city’s portion of the interlocal agreement with the planning office
to handle county planning was $21,200.
Following a city hiring freeze, employee insurance increases and more,
“You’re looking at $140,000 to $150,000 we already know will be an
increase in this year’s upcoming budget,” Brookshire said.
Collins is a level-one certified erosion prevention and sediment control
inspector and a state-certified mechanical and plumbing inspector.