Zehner's Out

Loudon County Administrator of elections, Dana Zehner, is out of a job. Tuesday night, the new Loudon County Election Commission met in their first meeting since the appointment of the three new republican members.

The first order of business was the election of  new member Mary Sue Jordan (republican) as the chairperson and returning member, Betty Brown, (democrat) as secretary.  Jordan asked that the matter of the administrator of elections be moved to the top of the agenda. With that new member Jim Davis (republican) made a motion that the board extend an offer of employment to Susan Harrison to be the administrator of elections. His motion was seconded by new member Darlene Shrub (republican) and the vote was taken. Davis, Shrub and Jordan all voted for Harrison's recommendation. Brown and Sue Jane Hartsook voted no. The motion passed.

At this point Zehner pointed out to the board that they could not offer employment to anyone else unless they removed her as the administrator of elections first. At that point Shrub made the motion to remove Zehner. Davis seconded the motion. The vote again fell along party lines with the three republicans voting to remove Zehner and the two democrats voting no. Jordan then recommended that other business be postponed till the next meeting at which point the board adjourned.

Zeaner flanked by several supporting coworkers immediately went to her office where she had already packed her belongings. With the help of the coworkers and others she rolled her belongings to her truck in the parking lot.

If she accepts the offer of employment from the board, the new administrator of elections will be Susan Harrison. Ms Harrison currently works for the Loudon County Sheriff's Department as administrative assistant to sheriff Tim Guider. It is unknown but expected that Harrison will accept the position.

Video Harrison Vote

Video Zehner Removal Vote

Video Zehner Interview With News Herald

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Election Commission administrator forced out after Republicans take control
 Greg Wilkerson News Herald

The Loudon County Election Commission is temporarily without an administrator after the board voted to remove Dana Zehner from the position Tuesday night and offer the job to Susan Harrison, who currently is employed with the Loudon County Sheriff’s Office.

Three new Republican members, Marysue Jordan, Jim Davis and Darlene Shrub, were sworn in by County Mayor Doyle Arp at the beginning of the meeting. Jordan was then appointed to chair the commission with  the two Democrat representatives, former chairperson Betty Brown and Sue Jane Hartsook voting in opposition to the change.

With Republicans taking control of the Tennessee General Assembly in November, commissions in every county are shifting in power to three Republicans and two Democrats. Likewise many commissions are changing to a Republican administrator.

Hartsook and Brown also voted against a motion to offer the administrator position to Harrison.

Zehner informed the board the position needed to be vacant before it could be offered to someone else and so another 3-2 vote was cast removing Zehner who promptly stood up and left the meeting still in progress.

She then went to her office and collected her things, which were already in boxes, turned in her keys and left the building.

After the meeting adjourned the commissioners spent several minutes discussing the actions taken and generally agreed to work together in the future.

Jordan said, when asked after the meeting, she didn’t expect Zehner to leave immediately.

“It was our understanding she would stay on and help transition the next person into the office, but she chose differently,” Jordan said. “There’s a vacancy until Susan can work her two-week notice and start.”

Jordan said the toughest part of the transition is through and she expects the group to work together well. 

“I think everybody on the commission wants to work together in a bipartisan way,” she said. “We’ve got a good group of people that fully intend to work together.”

She also said there was some animosity in the group over the change in administration, but anyone who is in the position should know it is temporary.

Zehner said, after the meeting, she fully expected to be removed and there has been talk “all over town” about the action taking place.

“What’s done is done,” she said. 

She also said she doesn’t have any plans for what’s next in her career.