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Hall to get assistant administrator in next 10 days
Commission to vote to extend Connells contract 90 days
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Hall County Administrator Randy Knighton said he will appoint an assistant county administrator within the next 10 days and that person will also oversee a county department.

"It will be someone who has served the citizens of this county well," he said.

Appointing an assistant director who also serves as a department head will save the county money, Knighton said, though he was not sure exactly how much.

He added that the appointment could be announced at tonight's county commission meeting.

The position has been vacant since Phil Sutton, Hall County's former assistant administrator, was fired in January along with County Administrator Charley Nix and Finance Director Michaela Thompson.

Commissioners said at that time they would eliminate the assistant position.

Knighton said in a county as large as Hall County, an assistant administrator is a necessary position.

Commissioner Billy Powell said he has always believed the role of assistant county administrator needed to be filled, even though it has been vacant for more than seven months.

"I never felt like it was a position we could eliminate. It's pretty vital," he said.

Chairman Tom Oliver also said he supported the decision to appoint an assistant administrator.

Commissioner Craig Lutz, who voted against Knighton's appointment, said he wanted a department head to fill the role of assistant administrator so the county wouldn't have to increase the employee head count.

He added the position would widen the base of knowledge of the department head, which would be a benefit to Hall County government.

"This title is being delivered as an opportunity to develop somebody, broaden their experience and make them more capable of, in the future, stepping in for the county administrator as needed," he said.

In January, Lutz said he was in favor of eliminating the assistant administrator's position to save money.

Lutz told The Times, "it was my feeling going forward that both of those functions would be better off consolidated in one person."

But Lutz said he approved this appointment, since it won't increase the number of government employees.

Knighton said he plans to work with the assistant county administrator to "take a look at the organizational structure as it exists and determine if and how departments can be condensed."

Commissioner Scott Gibbs was also in favor of eliminating the position in January so the county could afford to pay severance packages to the officials who were fired.

Gibbs has since said he approved of the appointment because he has been assured the county will be able to continue paying those severance packages.

He added he believes the county needs an assistant administrator because of conversations he has had with interim County Administrator Jock Connell.

"I think we need this position because the current interim has told me repeatedly that it's just hard to be everything to everybody and everywhere," Gibbs said. "He needs somebody that can step in for him."

The commission will also vote today to extend Jock Connell's contract for 90 days.

Connell will act as a part-time consultant on administrative matters at a rate of $115 an hour.

Connell said he will probably fill the position one or two days a week but will leave the decision-making to Knighton. Connell's last full-time day is Aug. 7.

Connell added he will assist Knighton in projects that need "some explanation, some background and some context."

"This was an idea that came up the night that Randy was appointed," he said.

On Monday Knighton will release 30-day and 60-day plans for the future of government in Hall County.

The 60-day plan will include a search for a new finance director. Knighton said the search may include candidates from inside and outside Hall County.