Hall County Planning Director Randy Knighton was promoted Thursday to the county's top job.
By a 4-1 vote, the Hall County Board of Commissioners appointed Knighton as county administrator. Knighton will begin his new position immediately.
Commissioners have asked Jock Connell, who has served as interim administrator since January, to assist during the transition.
Chairman Tom Oliver moved to hire Knighton at Thursday's commission meeting. His motion was seconded by Commissioner Ashley Bell.
Oliver, Bell, Commissioner Billy Powell and Commissioner Scott Gibbs approved the appointment.
Commissioner Craig Lutz opposed it.
Bell said Knighton had worked as Connell's right-hand man for the last six months as a de facto assistant county administrator.
"He's proved himself time and time again," Bell said.
Knighton will negotiate his contract with Powell and Bell over the next several days. The new administrator says he plans to select other upper level management to lead the county's finances within the next month.
Knighton plans to set benchmarks for the next two months that will help the county find other ways to save money in an already tight budgetary year.
"If we work with the board, work with the staff and also the citizens, we can, I believe, move the county forward and have an opportunity to maximize everything that Hall County is," Knighton said.
Just two weeks ago, the board approved a budget that did not raise taxes but cut county spending by more than $11.5 million.
"We need to assess our current governmental structure," Knighton said. "We need to determine if there are additional efficiencies."
On Thursday night, Lutz was against hiring an employee from within the county's ranks to fill the administrator's lead role.
He said the county's chief executive should have experience as such.
"My concern isn't about the person," Lutz said. "My concern is about the experience and the resume."
Still, Knighton said he has had a positive working relationship with the current board members, and Lutz wished the new administrator "the best of luck working with the board."
"A county administrator, regardless of his background, would not be an expert in every area," said Knighton said. "You have to rely on your staff, the expertise of the people around you, to assist you in making proper decisions."
Knighton earned his master's degree in public administration and a bachelor's degree in criminal justice from the University of Central Florida.
He later worked in planning departments in Orlando, Orange County and Osceola County, all in Florida.
Knighton moved to Georgia in 1999 to attend Emory University where he obtained a Master of Divinity degree.
He was Hall County's senior planner for four years before becoming the head of the county's planning department in September 2006.
Knighton and his wife Debbie live in Gwinnett County along with their two children, Randy II, 12, and Ryan, 7.