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Briggs Commission 5-C choice

Dr. Richard Briggs is the new commissioner in seat 5-C, at least until August, when he will face Independent Don Sproles in the General Election.

Eleven county commissioners appointed eight interim commissioners to the seats left vacant after the state Supreme Court upheld the county charter last year, ousting the commissioners who had exceeded their term limits. Commission also named appointees to four other vacant County offices at the specially called Feb. 20 meeting.

The new appointees will vacate the seats in September, after the August election winners take office. Six of the 12 appointees are running on the ballot in August, including Briggs, who won the Republican Primary Election last month with 42 percent of the vote.

“With your qualifications, I’m surprised you’re not running for senator or president instead of County Commission,” Commis-sioner Tony Norman said to Briggs, “But I’m in favor of this caretaker role and I will be voting for [Pamela] Treacy.”

Treacy applied for the interim position to encourage commissioners to appoint a caretaker to the post instead of a candidate who would be on the ballot in August. “I believe in the democratic process,” she told commissioners.

A number of commissioners, including Mike Hammond and Scott Moore, claimed to have promised to appoint those who won majority votes in the Primary Elections. However, Hammond seemed aware of Treacy’s worries that being the appointee would give Briggs an unfair advantage in the upcoming election. “Every vote, every decision will be under scrutiny,” Hammond said.

Commissioner Greg “Lumpy” Lambert joked with Briggs, calling out, “I talked to my mother yesterday and the valve work [Briggs is a heart surgeon at St. Mary’s] you did is holding up.” The commissioners appointed Briggs in a vote of 9-2. Treacy received votes from Commis-sioners Mark Harmon and Tony Norman.

“I was disappointed, because although the 5th District is primarily Republican, in my talks with people I found that a lot agreed with me about the caretaker role,” Treacy said.

“And so I’ve already started organizing three forums that we’re probably going to have to have them [Sproles and Briggs] debate. I think we really need to make a big deal about the election because people in the 5th District seem to be a lot of new residents to Knox County. And so they really don’t seem to have the history and the background to know what’s important in making those voting decisions,” she added.

Besides commission seats, the commissioners appointed interim positions for the offices of register of deeds, trustee, sheriff and county clerk.

Sherry Witt was appointed as interim register of deeds and Fred Sisk was appointed to trustee without any debate. No one else applied for the positions and no nominations were made from the floor. Craig Leuthold recused himself from voting for Trustee because he works in the Trustee’s office.

The sherriff’s office appointment was not strongly contested either. Only Mark Harmon voted against Jimmy “J.J.” Jones for sheriff.

Tom Pressley, the other sheriff nominee, told commissioners, “I’ll take the job for $12,000 … I’ve got 37 years on the [Knoxville City] police force and I’m a crimefighter. And that’s what I’ll do. I don’t play golf. I’ll be on the job.

“We will take care of the Sheriff’s Office until the people of Knox County decide who they want in office,” he added.

In the County Clerk appointment, commissioners voted four times before appointing George Stooksbury to the position.

Hammond said, “I believe that stability now is paramount in that office. The voters will decide in August, but in the meantime [I’ll] vote Stooksbury.” Stooksbury has been in charge of the office since October, when last year’s appointees were ousted.

Amy Henley-Vandergriff, who won 60 percent of the vote in the Democratic Primary, said, “It’s not hard to do the right thing when the right people step up. The only reason I would not seek the appointment is self-preservation. Self-preservation is the good ol’ boy way of thinking.”

Henley-Vandergriff worked in the clerk’s office but was fired on the same day she named a treasurer for her campaign. She applied for the interim position at a Saturday candidate forum nearly a week after the deadline to turn in applications.

“My phone has rung off the hook with people asking me to run,” she said, “This is on the front page now and everyone is watching. I’ll do the right thing now and when no one is watching.”

Billy Tindell also was nominated to the position by Commission Chairman Thomas “Tank” Strickland and received several votes. Commissioner R. Larry Smith, who nominated Carol Ellis, said, “Tindell was our most senior member and we moved him over to another department and I believe the public was outraged by that maneuver.”


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