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Cotten to stay with county
Given $20K raise and extra employee
Cotten Will Stay.jpg
Finance Department director Justin Cotten, left, and County Executive Terry Bell listen to Commissioner Scott Rubley at the county Financial Management Committee meeting Thursday night. - photo by Bethany Porter

Finance Department director Justin Cotten will now be staying with the county following a pay increase comparable to the sheriff’s and the addition of another staff member. 

At the county Financial Management Committee meeting Thursday night, the committee was scheduled to discuss the Finance Department director position. Cotten recently turned in his resignation. County Executive Terry Bell asked Cotten what it would take to make him stay.

“We got six applications, but I want to ask Mr. Cotten if we can do anything to keep him here,” said Bell. 

“Well, I mean I thought about it and have been asked this a lot the last three weeks. I think based on where I have been lately, what I would need or ask for would be pay commiserate with the sheriff’s and the highway superintendent and one additional staff member in my office,” said Cotten. 

“What is that pay right now?” asked Commissioner Scott Rubley.

“Currently it is $98,000,” said Cotten. 

Cotten currently makes approximately $78,000. He is asking for an additional employee to help take some work off of him. Cotten hopes to hire someone with a four-year degree and experience. 

“As it stands right now, I don’t have time to routinely check the budget line item by line item to be able to see those problems coming months ahead. It is not until we reach 90 percent that it is like, 'oh, we have a problem.' This would allow someone to assist one of my current employees who is managing liabilities on the GL (General Leisure) and one of the others who is managing cash,” said Cotten. 

 “I think that whomever comes on board will ask for this person anyway,” said Commissioner Christy Ross. 

“They might not the first year, but they will want it,” said Cotten. 

“That doesn’t sound like it will be avoidable going forward because if you are that bogged down then whoever we hire will ask for it as well,” said Ross. 

“It allows for me to better be available for assisting directors, other department heads and firefighting when problems show up. As it stands now, if I have to spend four hours in meetings all day for grant compliance or helping a director, that is four hours a day I am not getting to assist my other staff with a problem they have or try and run GL work or, this time of year, run the budget,” said Cotten.

Cotten explained the reason he wanted to leave the job was due to stress and an additional employee would help him a lot. 

“The reason I was turning my notice in was stress levels. By the time I get done putting out fires, I have to stay late, skip lunches or try and crash out the other things that I would be looking to give off and put on the other person. This other person will still need to be trained and go to classes. They would allow me to have a backup on staff who is familiar with what I am currently doing,” said Cotten. 

Cotten explained that this additional person would also allow him to cross-train and actually help the rest of his staff who he says gets put on the backburner a lot of the time. 

“If I am going to stay, really I am going to need more staff. No amount of money will remove the mindset when I go home at night,” said Cotten. 

“You are overwhelmed,” said Ross. 

Commissioner Cole Taylor asked if the raise would start next budget season. Cotten’s last day was going to be June 2, so his raise would go into effect July 1. 

Bell made a motion to “attach a resolution to the 81 Act allowing his salary be attached to the sheriff’s salary and go ahead and move money from what was set up for HR to allow him extra money to go ahead and hire this extra person.” Taylor seconded the motion. 

“When Justin told me he was leaving, I said will you stay for $100,000 and I was just kidding,” joked Rubley. “But talking to some people I honestly think when we started the hiring process we would see it is going to be right there and we would be hiring someone from the outside. With Justin there is continuity.”

“I don’t think people know just how much is coming through because we are trying to do the big project at the mall and we are going to have opioid money coming in continuously that actually has strings tied to it as to where it can go and what it can do. Just since I have been here, it is amazing just how many Zoom meetings we had to have over how we are going to spend money. Two or three meetings just over how to spend it. His knowledge is invaluable,” said Bell. 

Brad Hillis, Ross, Rubley, Taylor, and Bell voted in favor of the motion. Director of Schools Dr. Grant Swallows and Highway Superintendent Levie Glenn were absent.