Commission looks to fill vacancies, consider changes to campground ordinance

Published 9:22 am Monday, April 18, 2016

Members of the Carter County Commission will once again attempt to fill a vacant seat in their ranks when the group convenes its regular monthly meeting on Monday.

Last month, commissioners grid-locked on picking a replacement for former Commissioner Robert Gobble to represent the county’s 8th District. Gobble resigned from the Commission in February of this year citing health reasons.

During the March meeting, commissioners were presented with four applicants to choose from. On Monday, the group will have three applicants before them — two of which will be familiar faces.

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Before reaching a grid-lock last month, the Commission had narrowed the appointment down to two candidates — Kelly Collins, a teacher for the Carter County school system, and Rick Richardson, a retired advertising executive.  On Monday, Collins and Richardson will be joined by Travis Eggers, owner of Doe River Taxi and a property manager.

Two votes came in as 11 for Collins and 10 for Richardson. A third vote saw Collins capture 10 while Richardson received 11 votes. Under Commission by-laws, 12 votes would be required for a majority.

After the three rounds of votes in the March meeting that failed to show a clear majority preference between Collins and Richardson, Carter County Mayor Leon Humphrey called a recess to the meeting to confer with County Attorney Joshua Hardin regarding the issue.

When the meeting reconvened, Humphrey said he and Hardin had spoken with Carter County Administrator of Elections Tracy Harris regarding what needed to be done.

“The short answer is we don’t know,” Hardin said. “We are in unchartered territory here.”

When asked if the Commission could simply leave the seat vacant until the county’s General Election in August when it will appear on the ballot, Hardin said that was not an option.

“We are too far away from the August election,” he said. “You have to fill the vacancy within 120 days of that resignation.”

A fourth vote was then held which once again showed no majority with Collins receiving 10 votes and Richardson garnering 11.

After the Commission deadlocked on the vote again, Humphrey declared the matter would be postponed and proceeded on with other items of business.

If a replacement is appointed on Monday, he or she will serve to represent the 8th District until Sept. 1. On Sept. 1, the winner of the county’s general election in August to fill the unexpired term will take office. Of the three applicants the Commission will consider on Monday, only Collins and Richardson filed paperwork and qualified to be candidates in the election.

Members of the Commission will also consider a resolution to change the county’s zoning regulations regarding campgrounds.

The proposed changes were considered by the Carter County Regional Planning Commission over a period of several months and were sent to the County Commission with a recommendation for approval.

County Planning Director Chris Schuettler has previously voiced his support for the changes, calling the county’s current ordinance too restrictive to allow development of new campgrounds.

Members of the Commission will also consider the appointment of a new judicial commissioner, consider a resolution governing the use of county right of way by utility companies and vote on a resolution to designate Old Highway 143 in Roan Mountain as “Durward Julian Drive.” The naming of the road is in honor of Durward Juilan, who will turn 100 years old later this year, and has spent his life as an active member of the Roan Mountain community.