logo


no avatar

UPDATED: Sullivan County commissioner appointed to serve as property assessor

J.H. Osborne • Jun 26, 2017 at 11:06 AM

BLOUNTVILLE — Despite a tearful plea from the widow of Ron Hillman to appoint a long time member of his staff as his successor as property assessor, the Sullivan County Commission voted this morning to appoint one of their own — Robert White — from a field of 16 seeking the $94,000 per year job.

Hillman died June 5. He was 64.

During public comment prior to the commission's vote on his temporary replacement (the appointee serves until voters go to the polls in August 2018), Hillman's widow, Geegee, mentioned early on that she is a Republican and she and Ron were married 44 years and she knew he had been training Donna Whitaker, an employee of the assessor's office for 16 years, to take over the top spot whenever he retired. Her voice broke multiple times as she said Ron's commitment to the assessor's office had dominated much of his life and he had worked hard. She said she wanted his legacy to be preserved.

Whitaker is Geegee Hillman's niece.

Of the 16 applicants for the job, only five spoke on Monday.

Whitaker spoke on her own behalf, also stating early on that she's a Republican and wanted to carry on the hard work and direction for the office established by Hillman. She has been a deputized assessor for 15 years.

As mandated by state law, Hillman’s chief deputy assessor — County Commissioner Randy Morrell — has been performing the duties of assessor since Hillman’s death. Morrell also sought appointment to the position. He, too, had nothing but good things to say about Hillman. Morrell has worked at the property assessor's office for 38 years. From 1979 to 1996, he was a field appraiser. In 1996, he became chief field appraiser-field supervisor. Since 2013, he has been chief deputy.

Robert White lauded the team of workers in the assessor's office, saying they need and deserve a strong leader — and he could be that leader.

Others job seekers who spoke, besides Morrell, Whitaker and White, were Eastman retiree and community activist Julie Byers and real estate broker and businessman John H. White.

Only county commissioners may make nominations, and after public comment ceased, the floor was opened.

Commissioner Mark Vance nominated Whitaker. Commissioner Sherry Grubb crossed party boundaries to nominate Morrell, pointing to his years of experience and the fact he had been doing the job already. Commissioner Dennis Houser — the only non-Republican on the 24-member commission besides Morrell — nominated Robert White.

With two commissioners running, that dropped the number of eligible voting members to 22, meaning 12 "yes" votes would be the simple majority required to win the appointment.

Someone asked if the vote could be by anonymous ballot. The answer: no.

In a roll-call vote: Morrell received three votes (Darlene Calton, John Gardner and Grubb); Whitaker received five votes (Michael Cole, Baxter Hood, Pat Shull, Angie Stanley and Vance); and White received 11 votes (Mark Bowery, Larry Crawford, Terry Harkleroad, Mack Harr, Houser, Matthew Johnson, Bill Kilgore, Kit McGlothlin, Bobby Russell, Cheryl Russell and Eddie Wlliams). They reached the magic 12 needed when Joe Herron changed his initial "pass" to a vote for White.

White was the only one whose resume was not made available to all prior to the vote.

But last week, Sullivan County Commission members received a letter from longtime GOP precinct Chairman Ron Grubbs calling for Robert White's appointment to the assessor's post.

Grubbs' letter said he has been precinct chairman for Y-9 Slater Center in Bristol since 1973, and he and his wife, Sandra, visited commissioners in person at the commission's work session last week.

Asked about his resume by the Times-News after his appointment, White said not everyone had been given a copy. He later shared a portion of a letter-like resume with reporters.

It detailed an early career in pharmaceuticals after completion of a bachelor's degree in biology at King College and being sales manager for a Virginia-based corrugated packaging business for the last 15 years or so. White was in his second term as a county commissioner. A state law required he resign immediately upon his appointment as property assessor.

White said he has no plans to change anything, including staff or duties, in the property assessor's office.

Asked if he planned to give up his sales job to run the property assessor's office, White said he did not know but would be discussing that decision with his employer and his family. White said he does plan to seek election by the public in the August 2018 race.

 

ORIGINAL POST: 

BLOUNTVILLE — Despite a tearful plea from the widow of Ron Hillman to appoint a long time member of his staff as his successor as property assessor, the Sullivan County Commission voted this morning to appoint one of their own - Robert White - from a field of 16 seeking the $94,000 per year job.

White was the only one whose resume was not made available to all prior to the vote.

In his second term as a county commissioner - a seat state law requires he resign immediately upon his appointment as property assessor - White is a salesman for a Roanoke, Va. based corrugated container company.

Asked if he planned to give up that job to run for the property assessor's office when his interim appoinment is over, White said he did not know but would be discussing that decision with his employer and his family.

White was appointed to serve as property assessor until voters elect someone in August 2018. White said he plans to seek election at that time.

Kingsport Times News Videos