Jack McElroy: Maybe good ol' nepotism just a habit

By Jack McElroy knoxnews.com
Did Black Monday darken Loudon County?

Last Monday night, the Loudon County Commission picked George M. Miller to replace George M. Miller, who had resigned as trustee.

The new Miller, known as "Chip," is son of the old, who'd served 20 years as county mayor and was elected trustee in 2010.

The choice was made 21 days into a 120-day decision period. A couple of commissioners wondered what the rush was.

"We need to take some time and use some common sense," said Commissioner David Meers. He wanted to hold a workshop to discuss the appointment before naming a candidate at the February meeting.

Commissioner Bob Franke was afraid Loudon County would end up "looking like Knox County," a reference to the "Black Wednesday" meeting in 2007 during which commissioners filled 12 offices in a blitz of backroom deals that later were ruled illegal.

At the time, Knox Commissioner Diane Jordan famously declared her intention to "keep the paycheck in the family" by having her son fill her seat.

It doesn't appear the Miller family paycheck was ever in danger. Six commissioners shot down the idea of waiting, even until an absent commissioner could get back from holiday vacation, and chose Chip to follow in his father's footsteps.

The new trustee had managed his father's Subway and Baskin-Robbins restaurants before moving into Knox County and real estate a few years ago. Last year he became chairman of the Loudon County Chamber of Commerce.

He won the job over accountant Sherry Colvard, who had run for trustee in 2010 carrying Tellico Village, and Loudon Councilman Mike Cartwright, who got 20 percent of the vote in the 2010 race.

Was the fix in for Miller as it was for so many on Black Wednesday?

It certainly seemed like the majority of the commission might have done a bit of behind-the-scenes deliberating in violation of the Sunshine Law.

But who knows? Nepotism and the ol' boys' network may just be a habit in Loudon County.

One of the commissioners voting for Miller was Rosemary Quillen, who also is chairwoman of the Lenoir City school board and daughter of Lenoir City Councilman Buddy Hines. Another of his votes came from Earlena Maples, who works for the Lenoir City Utilities Board, where her top boss is LCUB chair Tony Aikens, also chief deputy sheriff and Lenoir City mayor.

Three more Miller votes came from Commissioners Harold Duff, who works for the Loudon County Juvenile Department; Brian Jenkins, a Loudon police officer; and Steve Harrelson, Lenoir City director of Parks and Recreation.

Harrelson's employees include William Jenkins and Bobby Johnson Jr., members of the Loudon County school board. Bobby Johnson Sr. is on the Lenoir City school board and the Lenoir City Council, which also includes a seat on the LCUB board.

Anyway, one advantage of Chip Miller's appointment is that there'll be no rush to change the stationery, signs, website and the like. They already read "George M. Miller, Loudon County trustee."

Out with the old and in with the new.