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Halls interim finance director to leave job July 8
Connell's contract extended another month
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For the past month, the Hall County Board of Commissioners has searched for ways to fill an $11.5 million budget hole.

Commissioners hope they'll be able to bridge the gap by the end of this week with a spending plan that either raises taxes or severely cuts services in the coming year.

But as the week draws to a close, the county will soon be without its financial leadership.

Though commissioners have extended the contract of Interim County Administrator Jock Connell, Interim Finance Director Lisa Johnsa will end her term with the county July 8.

It won't be because she wasn't asked to stay on.

"I'm a retired mother," Johnsa said last week. "I like being a retired mother."

Until a permanent financial director can be found, county purchasing director Tim Sims and budget officer Jeremy Perry will lead the finance department.

"I think they'll continue to keep the ship afloat once we have a new budget in place," Commissioner Ashley Bell said.

Commissioners say they don't plan to hire a permanent financial director until they first can install a permanent county administrator.

"Those two people work hand-in-hand, and it wouldn't be fair for the next county administrator ... if it wasn't a good match," Commissioner Craig Lutz said.

At the moment, there are no candidates for that position. Lutz said one candidate who was offered the job turned it down. Since then, he said, commissioners have been "circling their wagons."

On Thursday, commissioners voted to keep Connell for another month while they get through budget deliberations and renew their search for a permanent administrator.

Bell says it would be more "fair" to potential candidates to know the county's budget situation before agreeing to take on the job as administrator.

"I think anybody who's going to take this job is going to want to know what they're dealing with," Bell said.

Connell, a former Gwinnett County administrator, was appointed to the post Jan. 7.

Commissioner Billy Powell said officials haven't advertised the position, and originally offered to keep Connell on, but he said no.

"We exhausted a little time with that," Powell said.

Connell replaced former administrator Charley Nix, who was forced to resign as part of a shakeup that also included Assistant Administrator Phil Sutton, Attorney Bill Blalock and Finance Director Michaela Thompson.

Commissioners since have rehired Blalock's firm, Stewart, Melvin & Frost of Gainesville.

Commissioners voted in mid-May to have Connell pull together a list of candidates for the county's top job. They also gave Connell the ability to use, but only if needed, the University of Georgia's Carl Vinson Institute of Government as an additional resource for candidates.

The commission authorized spending $18,500 if Connell needed to go the Carl Vinson route.