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County Commission appoints interim assessor

Teresa Kinsler, who was appointed by the Unicoi County Commission to serve as interim assessor of property during a meeting on Monday, March 28, is sworn-in by Judge David Shults on Tuesday, March 29. (Erwin Record Staff Photo by Keeli Parkey)
Teresa Kinsler, who was appointed by the Unicoi County Commission to serve as interim assessor of property during a meeting on Monday, March 28, is sworn-in by Judge David Shults on Tuesday, March 29. (Erwin Record Staff Photo by Keeli Parkey)

The Unicoi County Commission appointed Teresa Kinsler as the interim assessor of property during a regularly scheduled meeting held on Monday, March 28, at the courthouse.

Kinsler, who has worked in the assessor’s office since 2009, will serve in an interim capacity until Aug. 31. She was sworn-in by Judge David Shults during a ceremony at the courthouse on Tuesday, March 29.

“It was surreal,” Kinsler said about being appointed by the Commission. “I am very happy that people know that I doing this job to serve the county.”

Kinsler and Alan “Rocky” McInturff, who placed second in the race for assessor during the March 1 primary, were nominated for the interim position during Monday’s meeting.

Prior to the nominations, the Commission and audience observed a moment of silence in memory of Wayne Peterson and Margaret Seward, the two candidates for assessor who died prior to election day. Peterson, who died in February, had served as interim assessor since April 2015. Seward, who died in the early morning hours of March 1, won the primary, creating a vacancy for the position on the August ballot.

The Commission then discussed the process to be used to make the appointment and decided to follow the same procedure it had used to make previous appointments. The panel chose to take nominations from citizens in attendance, which must be seconded by a commissioner. Each nominee was then allowed to address the Commission before the vote. The panel chose to vote for the nominees in alphabetical order and give the appointment to the first individual to receive five yes votes.

Kinsler’s nomination came from citizen Kyle Tipton and  was seconded by Commissioner Loren Thomas. McInturff was nominated by citizen Judy Ray, which was seconded by Commissioner John Mosley. Once nominations were closed, Kinsler had an opportunity to address the panel.

“I wouldn’t be standing here in front of you if those unfortunate incidents hadn’t have happened,” Kinsler said. “I would rather that they not have happened. … With that being said, I have been in the office. I have been doing my job and what I need to do in there.”

She also said the office has been receiving assistance from the state during the time of transition after Peterson’s death in February. Kinsler said she would not be hiring another employee if appointed as interim and would utilize herself, the office’s two deputies and assistance from the state to run the office and perform the ongoing reappraisal.

“I am here to serve my county and I am here to do the job that needs to be done,” she added.

McInturff then addressed the panel: “… My background that makes me qualified for the position of assessor of property (is) I have been a real estate broker in Unicoi County for 34 years, specializing in appraisals, both commercial, residential and estate sales. I service 11 counties here in the state of Tennessee and I am a licensed broker in the state of North Carolina. … I feel like I am qualified to be the assessor of property and that is why I am still seeking the position of assessor of property in Unicoi County. …”

McInturff also took questions from the Commission.

“Do you have any idea what the (county) Republican Party is going to do?” Commissioner Kenneth Garland asked McInturff.

“I do,” McInturff responded, “but, I am not allowed to make any comments.”

White asked McInturff about organizing the office and working with the staff. McInturff said he would emphasize cross-training of all employees.

“If I had ran for the tax assessor’s office on the Republican ticket and I was the last one standing, I would expect to be the nominee (on the Aug. 4 ballot),” White also said during the exchange. “I think you should be the Republican nominee. That’s just my personal opinion. You were in the arena. You spent your money and you campaigned.”

“I am still seeking the position,” McInturff said.

Following the procedure outlined prior to the nominations, the Commission then voted for Kinsler first. Voting to appoint her as the interim assessor were commissioners Marie Rice, Jason Harris, Bridget Peters, Gene Wilson, Garland, Thomas and White. Mosley cast the lone “no” vote. Kinsler was appointed on the 7-1 vote and the panel did not vote on McInturff’s nomination.

• • •

Prior to the vote, Kinsler told the Commission, after being asked by Commissioner Glenn White, that she would consider running as a write-in candidate for the assessor’s office in the Aug. 4 general election. She confirmed this to The Erwin Record on Tuesday.

“I am planning to seek the office as a write-in candidate,” Kinsler said.

The Erwin Record previously reported that the party’s executive committee was scheduled to meet on March 19 in order to address the vacancy created by Seward’s victory in the March primary. However, this meeting was canceled due to concerns about the process of selecting a candidate, Jim Buchanan, chairman of the Unicoi County Republican Party Executive Committee, previously said.

“Brent Leatherwood (executive director of the Tennessee Republican Party) called me and advised us to cancel the meeting,” Buchanan said.

Buchanan went on to say that the party is awaiting an opinion from the Tennessee Attorney General regarding the composition of the county’s executive committee.

Leatherwood previously told the Johnson City Press that the Tennessee Republican Party is also asking the attorney general for an opinion on the party’s bylaws regarding state election laws and “minor procedural issues,” such as the requirement that a public meeting is advertised.

“We have a few questions that we would like to have clarification about,” Leatherwood told the Johnson City Press. “It being the nomination, we feel it is best, in due diligence, we have all our questions answered before proceeding through with the nomination.

“We are seeking clarification from our own general counsel, the state Election Coordinator and the District Attorney General.”

Leatherwood also told the newspaper that the party has until 40 days before the Aug. 4 primary to nominate a candidate.

• • •

In other business, the Commission:

• Heard an update from Kathy Pierce, executive director with the Northeast Tennessee Workforce Development Board, regarding job training and assistance for displaced CSX and Regal Beloit employees.

• Passed a resolution in honor of Jacob McKinney, the 10-year-old Unicoi County student who saved his cousin from a February house fire.

• Re-appointed Mickey Hatcher and John Harris to four-year terms on the Unicoi County Audit Committee;

• Re-appointed JoAnn Cook, Jerry Ramsey and Paul Monk to six-year terms on the Unicoi County Industrial Development Board;

• Approved a resolution for a fiscal year 2015-2016 litter grant;

• Approved a list of military surplus items for sale by the Unicoi County Sheriff’s Department;

• Elected notaries.