Ed Mitchell went back to work Wednesday morning.
Shawn Carter, Sr., did, too, but he was on the job less than two hours.
Carter, the District 1 Seat B commissioner, resigned shortly after a 20-minute special called commission meeting. The routine meeting resulted in Kenneth Melton replacing Steve Samples as chair, and Gary Farmer and Mike Lewis resuming duties as chair pro-tem and parliamentarian, respectively.
According to County Clerk Roy Crawford, that’s when the meeting quickly diverged from the normal routine of county business. Carter made the announcement at the end of the special called meeting and cited the Hatch Act.
The Hatch Act of 1939 prohibits federal employees from engaging in partisan political activity. Carter works for the U.S. Postal Service.
“(Shawn Carter) said he researched it and learned he was prohibited from being an elected official on a partisan basis,” Crawford said.
The county clerk said the county attorney would have to research the matter and a special commission meeting would have to be called for commissioners to name a replacement. “That replacement will serve until the next county-wide election, I believe in two years,” Crawford said.
A call to Carter’s home wasn’t returned, and he couldn’t be reached for comment.
Before the post-swearing-in fireworks, all seemed to be business as usual with appropriate pomp and circumstance at the 9 a.m. swearing-in ceremonies, which ushered in new faces on the commission and in the mayor’s office.
Mitchell went from being a retired Maryville fire chief to the new mayor of Blount County after he recited the oath of office along with 21 commissioners (including Carter), four school board members, six constitutional officers and a judge.
“The first thing I told myself was, ‘Today I go to work for 120,000 people in Blount County who blessed me with this opportunity.’ This is what the last seven and a half months of hard work have brought to me and my family,” Mitchell said following the ceremony. “Looking back, I wouldn’t change anything that has happened and the many friends I have made and the people I’ve been able to listen and talk to.”
Mitchell said his main priority is to get to know everyone on staff in the mayor’s office. “I want to sit down and talk with everyone about expectations,” he said. “It has always been my policy to treat people the way I would want to be treated.”
The chief said he is excited about the challenges and opportunities in the next four years. “I have great ideas. I just need to be careful and not overwhelm those around me or myself,” he said. “Sometimes I’m prone to have a sense of urgency when I see things that need to be done. I just need to realize good things are going to happen over a period of time.”
The mayor said he plans to hold to his policy of openness he pledged in his campaign. “I want to be accessible to everyone in Blount County, and I stand by that,” he said.
Bill Crisp, who held the position of county executive before it became known as county mayor, served as master of ceremonies. Rev. Ron Matthews delivered a brief message and Charles Staley led the pledge of allegiance.
The guests for the swearing-in included: General Sessions Judge Bill Brewer swore in Mitchell; General Sessions Judge Robert Headrick swore in the commissioners; County Clerk Roy Crawford swore in highway superintendent Bill Dunlap. Judge Dale Young, who has been in poor health, stood and swore in Judge Robert Headrick, County Clerk Roy Crawford, Sheriff James Berrong, Trustee Scott Graves and Register of Deed Phyllis Crisp.
Young praised Headrick before swearing him in. “I want you all to know how happy I am to have the opportunity to participate in this swearing in, but it is a special opportunity to get to swear in Robert Headrick. He’s a fine, fine judge, and I hope we have him for many years,” he said.
New Register of Deeds Phyllis Crisp praised her predecessor Penny Whaley. “I came in today excited because I know she laid good groundwork for me to start my duties, and I look forward to continuing good, quality service.”
Commissioner Tonya Burchfield, District 1 Seat A, said, “I’m excited to try and do another term and finish what we started.”
Commissioner Brad Harrison, District 2, Seat A, said the economy is starting to improve, “but we’ve got to control spending and keep tight budgets.”
Commissioner Mike Caylor, District 3, Seat B, said, “I look forward to doing what the citizens of Blount County and District 3 elected me to do.”
Commissioner Gary Farmer, District 4, Seat A, said the economy will present a challenge to the budget. “It will be a difficult process but looking at the possibilities, we have great opportunity in Blount County and we look for things to improve,” he said.
Commissioner Mark Hasty, District 4, Seat B, said he wants to speak with the new mayor to see what his priorities are and also he is anxious to see how the commission will gel. “The debt is still a big issue,” he said.
Commissioner Jerome Moon, District 4, Seat C, praised county employees and said, “It’s a long road out there with challenges, and there’s no road map except our oath of office. The most important thing is people working together. It’s what is necessary to get the job done.”
Commissioner Peggy Lambert, District 5, Seat A, said, “I’m looking forward to the next four years of serving with old members and serving with the new members and making this a very successful four years.”
Commissioner Jim Folts, District 7, Seat A, said the commission has a tough job in front of them to control spending and prevent a drastic property tax increase. “We’ve got to work together looking over the budget for next year if we are going to get the county budget under control,” he said. “This is a challenge, and I like challenges.”
Commissioner Tom Greene, District 7 Seat B, said he was looking forward to serving the community, listening and learning. “I want to help lead us in the right direction and do my part,” he said.
Commissioner Ron French, District 9 Seat A, said he’s looking forward to working with the new commissioners. “They’re going to bring in new ideas and those ideas may help us figure out the problems of this term.”
Commissioner Gerald Kirby, District 10, Seat A, said he plans to continue his priorities of holding the tax rate. “It’s going to be an uphill battle,” he said.
Bill Kilgore with Blount Wrecker Service said he was on hand to support his friend, the new mayor. “It was interesting to see all that happens and the process they go through to take office after they’re elected,” he said.
Businessman Darrell Tipton said, “Anytime you have a new mayor and commission, it’s an exciting time. It gives you a good feeling for the possibilities.”