New director to start work Monday at Sullivan Animal Shelter

J. H. Osborne • Jul 25, 2019 at 9:38 AM

BLOUNTVILLE — Cindy Holmes is the new director for the Sullivan County Animal Shelter. She begins work Monday, July 29.

The shelter’s board of directors announced Holmes’ hiring on Wednesday, describing her as a “competent, professional, and experienced candidate for the position.”

“Holmes brings a wealth of knowledge and experience relevant to the position, such as previous in-house veterinary technician training and operations management for a brick-and-mortar humane society; human resources and employment experience with the city of Kingsport; and strong management skills along with a master’s of science degree that will allow for a more in-depth understanding of current research to ensure the animals of Sullivan County receive the very best care,” the board’s announcement read, in part. “Holmes will provide the needed direction and management to the shelter.”

Board member Gena Frye told the Times News Holmes is not a newcomer: she personally directed the recent successful renovation of the “cat room” at the shelter which had a twofold purpose. It allows for a more appropriate quarantine of incoming animals, and it acts as a friendlier space for potential adopters to interact with adoptable cats outside their enclosures.

In a one-on-one interview with the Times News, Holmes said she understands the value of volunteers as well as the need for improvements in the way the shelter operates both physically and in the community.

“We have an amazing volunteer community,” Holmes said. “Some of the best. We need to structure things to utilize them as the wonderful asset that they are. If they have skill and are willing to volunteer, we need that. I think it’s wonderful. But we have to have structure. We have to have policies. We have to repair our standing in the community.You have to do things a certain way. You are stewards of the taxpayers’ dollars. I’ve been involved in animal (care). I understand the concept of what it takes, what a shelter takes to function. You have to do things a certain way. We have to show that we do things in an appropriate manner. You have to have a plan. You can’t just say, ‘We’re going to do this. Give us some money.’ That we have policies and procedures in place that benefit the animals and the residents of the county.”

Holmes is no relation to Cindy Holmes-Drury, a former board member.

The shelter is open for adoptions, but it has been closed for intakes since a parvo contamination earlier this month. Shelter employees and volunteers have since been trained by the University of Tennessee’s School of Veterinary Medicine on proper guidelines to help prevent future cases of disease being spread by new arrivals in the animal population. Holmes said the shelter could reopen for intakes as early as next week.

Holmes said the board has a set of immediate goals: stabilize daily functions at the shelter, getting policies and procedures in place, and get the appropriate staff in place that needs to be there.

Community outreach is the next step.

“We’re headed in a good direction for the first time, I think,” Holmes said. “We have people on the same page that want the same thing.”

In just the last year, Holmes has participated in multiple fundraisers for local animal-related nonprofits, such as te Drinkin’ Wine and Feline Fine fundraiser for spay/neuter of community cats, and she is assisting in the preparation for the Kitten Conference featuring Kitten Lady Hannah Shaw in September benefiting Neonatal Kitten Rescue and Washington County Johnson City Animal Shelter, according to the board’s announcement. It noted, “Her professionalism and highest ethics will provide donors the confidence that their donations will be utilized as the donor intended, and her work with multiple organizations in our region will ensure a more open and community approach as our shelter embarks on this next chapter. We are confident a more qualified candidate with her community standing could not be available. We have a long road ahead, but this was an important first step in the direction the board wishes to see the shelter grow.”

Holmes said that beginning Monday, she will be the go-to person for questions about the shelter, and she hopes anyone — including volunteers — will bring any concerns to her first.