Lenoir City Council creates full-time mayor

Jeremy Nash News-Herald.net

Lenoir City Council voted Monday to make the position of mayor full time Jan. 1.

The resolution for the change passed unanimously without discussion at the end of Monday’s regular meeting. The item, simply listed as a numbered resolution, was added to council’s agenda just before the meeting began.

The change means Mayor Tony Aikens will take on a larger role in city government. The position’s salary will increase to $68,500 on Jan. 1. Aikens currently makes $600 a month in a part-time role.
“I didn’t want to do it after the election, I wanted to do it before,” Aikens said Tuesday. “I thought it was important to send a signal that obviously we’re trying to be above the board. I didn’t want people to have any negativity out there toward it, and I thought it just looked better to go ahead and get it done and obviously it’s not taking effect until January of ’17, but ... obviously, Mr. (Harry) Wampler voted for it in the budget process and something that he wanted to see happen. I just, again, I think it looks better that we do it.”
Aikens said the position change was approved in August by the city’s purchasing committee, which is comprised of Councilmen Eddie Simpson, Mike Henline and Wampler, who died Thursday of heart complications.
Minutes from the Aug. 4 purchasing committee meeting confirm the position change was discussed and approved, with Simpson providing the motion and Wampler the second.
Qualifying for the mayoral election ended Aug. 18.
Aikens said he plans to retire at the end of the year from his job as chief deputy with the Loudon County Sheriff’s Office.
Maggie Hunt, with the Lenoir City Recorder/Treasurer’s office, said funding for the position will come from money that would have been used for an assistant for City Administrator Amber Scott.
“We’re in the 21st century and there’s some people out there, particularly businesses, that may want to come into the city, they want to talk to the mayor, they don’t want to talk to the city administrator,” Aikens said. “Again, we’re having a lot of growth and it’s a very busy place. I’ve been invited several times to attend meetings (with) mayors in the region and not being able to go due to job restraints.
“(I) still, as you know, have an obligation to the sheriff’s office and seen an opportunity to — when this was discussed at the budget committee — seen an opportunity that I thought would benefit the city and was able to retire at the end of the year,” he added.
During Monday’s meeting, Henline made the motion to approve the resolution, with Councilman Buddy Hines seconding. The vote passed 5-0. The resolution indicates the city’s growth as a factor for making the change, and stipulates the person holding the full-time mayor’s position cannot have another full-time job.
Simpson said Tuesday that the committee and council in general had considered making the position full time for “several years.”
“We have probably 8,000 residents in the city now and I just think that their city’s big enough to — especially with all the potential that we have — I think it’s the perfect time to do it, and that’s how I felt about it when I thought about doing it or had a concern about doing it,” Simpson said. “We just felt like it was time and I think the average Joe out there, our constituents, they feel the same way.”
Aikens said he wanted to get the position approved before the election to prevent residents from believing the city did anything “underhanded.”
“There might have been some negativity out there after the fact saying that, ‘Well, they was trying to do something underhanded, or if I would have known that I wouldn’t have voted him or I wouldn’t have done this,’ and we don’t want to imply that whatsoever,” Aikens said. “This way the voters know it before the election. I think the voters are very satisfied with the way city government has been ran. Honestly, it shows by not having an opponent and it shows that people are very satisfied and shows that we’re committed of doing things the right way and open and above board.”
Vice Mayor Jim Shields said Tuesday that Aikens assuming the job full time would be “good for the city.”
“I feel like it’s good for the city to have someone there full time that if there’s something going on he can attend and be there in person to represent the city and not have to send someone else to fill in for him,” Shields said. “I think the time has come that — and I think council feels the time has come to make it a full-time position. Now it was in the resolution that if for some reason it didn’t work out or we felt like it didn’t pan out or what have you that we can rescind it by two-thirds vote and put it back to part time.”