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County glaring at high turnover
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Warren County government is looking at a major transition in a matter of months with five new County Commissioners already guaranteed to take office.

Along with new commissioners, the office of County Executive will change hands and administration is losing two long-term employees in key positions. Finance Department director Linda Hillis and County Executive administrative assistant Carol Cantrell have both announced their retirement.

“I’m leaving at the end of this term,” said Cantrell. “My last day will be Aug. 31.”

The situation is creating what could be very high turnover when new officials assume their duties Sept. 1.

“A big turnover could be good, or it could be bad,” said Commissioner Gary Martin, only one of three current commissioners guaranteed to return. “Hopefully, we can keep some individuals who have experience. Those people can help guide and level everything out.”

Commissioners Charles Morgan, Wayne Copeland and Terry Bell decided to not seek re-election in their districts, ensuring three new officials would be seated. Then Commissioners Morris Bond and David Rhea were defeated in the Democratic Primary in May, bringing the total to five.

In addition to Martin returning, Tommy Savage and Phillip Stout are the other two commissioners guaranteed to keep their seats. The county elects 24 commissioners, two from each of the 12 districts.

Stout is running unopposed in District 6 with newcomer Deborah Evans. Savage and Martin both won in the Democratic Primary in District 7 and don’t face further opposition in August.

Savage urges voters to look at qualifications. He says even with the possible high turnover, there is no reason to panic.

“There are a lot of good candidates running,” said Savage. “Look into the candidates and see what their qualifications are. This county will still be running. We have laws intact to make sure everything continues to run the way it should.”

Martin agreed.

“We’ve got a lot of good, quality people running for office,” Martin said. “We won’t know until August what’s going to happen.”

Stout was appointed in January 2017 by the full Warren County Commission to complete the unexpired term of Billy Earl Jones. This will be Stout’s first four-year term.

Savage said the last four years have prepared him and Martin for their next terms.

“I think we are more prepared now than we were four years ago,” said Savage. “Nothing will prepare you for the next four years like the past four years. I wish we would stagger the terms, 12 and 12. Only 12 commissioners up for re-election every two years. It would prevent a huge turnover at one time.”

Martin said newcomers need the guidance and expertise from returning commissioners.

“I was new,” said Martin. “I needed guidance. Thankfully, there were people who had experience and people who I trusted. I valued their wisdom and experience. I leaned on that. Those returning to office will have that added responsibility of providing that to any newcomers.”

It is yet to be decided who will fill the appointed positions of Hillis and Cantrell. County Executive will be elected with the other county officials Aug. 2. Early voting begins July 13.