The Loudon County Economic Development Agency Board of Directors named Jack Qualls as the office’s new director last week following the retirement of longtime Executive Director Pat Phillips.

Qualls, a community transportation planner with the Tennessee Department of Transportation, will take over the full-time position July 11 at a base salary of $84,000. His wage will increase to $88,000 at six months before going to $90,000 after a year on the job.

“Initially it was $82,000 to start and top out at $88,000 with the move,” Loudon County Mayor Rollen “Buddy” Bradshaw said. “That was over an 18-month period, and so I spoke to Mr. Qualls this morning. He is very ultra confident that his family will relocate here into Loudon County. I think the timespan’s going to be a little bit shorter, but still we’ll get something hashed out.”
Qualls will have one year to move to the county. The board approved a $1,500 allocation for Qualls’ moving expenses. He currently lives in Powell.
The board also considered awarding Qualls a three-year contract as per his request, but the motion failed. Board member Harold Duff cast the lone “yes” vote.
The failed vote on the contract was not a “deal killer,” Bradshaw said.
Board member John Evans opposed contract discussions, noting that contracts can restrict employees from earning more for improved performance.
“That probably comes from my working in the private sector my entire life,” Evans said. “I think there are folks in the public sector that sometimes expect a contract, but I think job performance and someone’s ability will keep them in a job. So, I’m not a proponent of contracts.”
Qualls’ experience in the public sector helped make him the top candidate, according to board members.
“We tend to look at transportation and economic development as two separate things when really they’re not — they’re not at all,” Amber Scott, Lenoir City administrator and EDA board member, said. “They go hand in hand, and so Jack seemed to know how those two play in. I say it all the time: If you don’t know how to put infrastructure in and you don’t have infrastructure in your county, in your community, then you cannot — it’s impossible to have economic development. Industries will not locate here.
“Manufacturing companies will not locate here if you’ve not got transportation infrastructure,” she added. “You can’t get commercial development (or) residential development. It’s impossible to do that without the transportation infrastructure, and that’s something that he’s very familiar with, as well as planning.”
Qualls was one of two final candidates the board considered last month. The other candidate, Jason Lambert, serves as dean of workforce innovations and economic development for Southwestern Community College in Sylvia, N.C.
“If you look at all (his) experience with TDOT, and transportation is such a huge aspect of this job,” Bradshaw said about Qualls. “I think Jack was — of all the candidates, he probably had the most transportation experience. He’s got great connections throughout the state, including inside Nashville, and so just through this process he just continued popping up and (we had a) great interview with him. (He was) just a logical choice.”
Phillips will remain in place on a part-time basis through the end of the year, Bradshaw said. The former director is limited to working 960 hours in a 12-month period as per the Tennessee Consolidated Retirement System.
Qualls said he did not want to comment on the new position until he completed his duties with TDOT.