Two vacant county positions will be discussed and filled at the Hawkins County Commission’s Jan. 25 meeting.
The Commission is expected to select a candidate for the Property Assessor, a position vacated by the unexpected Dec. 20 passing of Jeff Thacker, and the Veterans Service Officer (VSO), a position vacated when Danny Breeding retired in late 2020 after 12 years.
A total of three candidates have come before the Commission’s Personnel Committee to express their interest in the Property Assessor position, and two candidates have come before the committee to express their interest in the Veterans Service Officer position.
Doug Cook seeks Veterans Service Officer
Cook spoke before the committee on Jan. 19 and noted that he is a disabled veteran who just recently moved back from Germany. He lives in District One of the county, which encompasses the Allendale and Mount Carmel areas.
Veterans Employment Outreach Specialist Jason Clevinger, who represents the Tenn. Department of Labor in Johnson City, attended the Jan. 19 meeting to speak in Cook’s favor.
“I’ve been working with Cook for some time, and I am here to lend my support for him,” Clevinger told the Committee. He also noted that he plans to attend the Jan. 25 Commission meeting to again speak in Cook’s favor.
“I know that I am qualified, and some people may think that I am over-qualified with my resume,” Cook told the committee. “The reality is that I am not. There is a VSO school that you have to go to in order to be trained and qualified. It’s a long process, so I’m more than understanding of coming in on entry level pay, because I’ve got to go to the school, I’ve got to take the test, and pass the test. But, as far as the other part of my background, working with a VSO as I have, because I went through the process as a 100% disabled service connected veteran, I know the process.”
Jason Mooneyham seeks Veterans Service OfficerFormer Staff Sgt. Jason Mooneyham, who served in the Army for 13 years, spoke to the committee on Dec. 30.
Dennis Elkins, who is the commander of the Rogersville American Legion Post 21 also attended the meeting and noted that his Post members along with all three of the county’s VFWs have already interviewed Mooneyham and approve of him for the VSO position.
Since the Dec. 30 meeting, new committee Chairman Larry Clonce has submitted a resolution to nominate Mooneyham for the position.
Clonce noted on Jan. 19 that, in addition to Elkins, he has consulted the State representatives for Hawkins County, representatives from CTAS (County Technical Assistance Service), and researched the requirements for the VSO position.
Debate over Veterans Service Officer Pay
Clonce’s resolution also specifies that Mooneyham should receive a starting salary of $38,290, which is the same amount Breeding was making when he retired. The county salary scale calls for a starting pay of $33,000.
At the Dec. 30 meeting, then Committee Chairman Mark DeWitte, noted that the salary scale rules dictate that no new hires can be paid more than Step 4 on the scale, which is $33,000.
“Are we going to do that with every position?” DeWitte asked. “If a clerk leaves in the county clerk’s office, are they (the replacement) going to get the salary that person was making? They could walk in there with no experience, on the basis of what Commissioner Clonce is saying, and be making more than somebody else that’s been there for years.”
DeWitte also expressed his concern that, if the commission changes its salary scale rules for one position, people in other positions will expect the same treatment.
The county mayor can, however, can request that the Personnel Committee reclassify the position on the salary scale to a position where Step 4 is $38,000. DeWitte said on Dec. 30 that he will plan to bring the Mayor into a committee meeting to discuss putting this in motion.
However, Clonce noted on Jan. 19 that DeWitte had called the salary scale a “living document,” which can be subject to change.
“I feel, myself, and the Veterans of Hawkins County feel that whoever is elected to this position should start at the same pay that Mr. Breeding was paid,” Clonce said. “The duties and responsibilities haven’t changed.”
He also noted that, according to CTAS, the average pay for this position is $44,711 and that he stands by his resolution.