Walker County Commissioner Shannon Whitfield on Tuesday filled two positions in his administration and named himself chairman of the Walker County Water & Sewer Authority.
Whitfield named Robin J. Rogers of Trenton as the new attorney for Walker County government. Rogers is also attorney for Dade County and has a private practice in Dade.
Rogers, who will work part-time on an as-needed basis, is replacing full-time county attorney Don Oliver, whose last day on the job was Dec. 31.
"I've met with (Rogers) several times," Whitfield told a pack room during a special called meeting Jan. 10 at the commissioner's office, "and I have been impressed with his level of knowledge about county government and he comes highly recommended by the commissioners of Dade County. So I feel like he will be a great attorney for Walker County and we look forward to working with him as we go into this year."
Whitfield said Rogers would work on an hourly basis, as needed, at a rate of about $125 per hour. Oliver was making $125,000 per year, plus he had benefits, county vehicle and cell phone. Oliver also employed a full-time female assistant, who retired at the end of the year.
"We are not going to replace her either, so it frees up not only his (Oliver's) cost to the county, but also his assistant's cost that worked directly with him," Whitfield said.
During the campaign Whitfield repeatedly said Walker County did not need to employ a full-time county attorney.
New county clerk
Whitfield also named Rebecca S. "Becky" Wooden of Rossville as the new county clerk. She will be replacing longtime clerk Bridget Garrett.
"To stay in compliance with Georgia state law, we have got to appoint a county clerk," Whitfield said.
Whitfield said Wooden would be earning far less income than her predecessor.
Wooden will officially begin work with the county on Jan. 19.
Culpepper's resignation accepted
Whitfield accepted John Culpepper's resignation from the Walker County Water & Sewer Authority board. Culpepper was chairman.
A letter from Culpepper to Whitfield reads, "Due to the politically charged atmosphere surrounding Walker County Water & Sewer Authority, at this time, I think it is the best interest of the authority, its customers and employees, that I resign my position on the board of directors of the Walker County Water & Sewer Authority, where hereby you take your seat as the board of director table."
Culpepper also wished Whitfield luck in the future and offered his assistance if needed.
Culpepper, a longtime supporter of former Commissioner Bebe Heiskell, officially resigned from the Water Authority on Jan. 4, shortly after Whitfield accused Heiskell of trying to get a job with the Water Authority upon her exit as commissioner.
Heiskell, during her last commissioner meeting, appointed "longtime supporters" Bill Cooke, Michael Haney and Annette North to the Water Authority board, Whitfield said.
Whitfield alleged that the appointments gave Heiskell the needed votes to create the scheme for a pathway to be employed at the Water Authority in the newly created public relations position. Whitfield said the board appointments would have blocked him from having the opportunity of serving on the Water Authority board until the next term expired; but given Culpepper's resignation, this allowed for Whitfield to appoint himself as chair of the Water Authority Board.
Whitfield then read a letter dated Jan. 10 that he sent to Culpepper accepting his resignation from the Water Authority board and thanked him for his many years of service to the board.
Whitfield then appointed himself as the new chair of the Water Authority board, based on the Enabling Act of 1977, which allows a commissioner to appoint himself to the board as chair.
"Any questions, comments?"
Whitfield asked if there were any questions or comments.
One concerned citizen said, "As a taxpayer and voter in Walker County, in light of the overwhelming support that you received in the election, I think it was pretty dirty for the outgoing commissioner to fill up these boards and, in my opinion, they should voluntarily resign and allow you to appoint new people."
Another citizen asked if a petition for their removal from the board would help, to which, Whitfield replied, "I guess they serve either until the term that they are in expires, or unless they just decide to resign on their own. But they have to be able to fulfill those terms. I can't remove them from those boards and reappoint someone. They would have to resign."
One citizen asked what the public can do to submit suggestions on how to help the county save money. Whitfield replied, "Sure...The best way is to communicate by email and so I am using the email address that was used by the commissioner before and it is firstname.lastname@example.org. That is the best way to get a hold of me with suggestions or something you want to send to me in writing. ... That would be great, because we are definitely looking for areas to save and cut costs."
Whitfield closed the meeting to attend a Water Authority board meeting in Flintstone as the new chair.
Josh O'Bryant is a general assignment reporter and covers the Walker-Catoosa County area. He can be reached at the Walker County Messenger office at 706-638-1859 and by email at email@example.com.