The Upper Cumberland Development District has a new executive director. The embattled organization went outside, rather than hiring from within.
White County financial director Mark Farley was hired last week to take the place of Wendy Askins, who resigned amid a firestorm of controversy regarding improper spending.
“I’ve not had a chance to get a full grasp on the situation yet,” said Farley, when questioned about his goals. “However, I will say that this organization provides a lot of wonderful services in the Upper Cumberland and one of my goals will be to restore the confidence people once had in it and assure state agencies that we have funding going in the right direction.”
McMinnville Mayor Norman Rone believes Farley can do just that.
“I believe we chose the right person for the job,” said McMinnville Mayor Norman Rone. “I wanted someone who had a strong background in finance and business. That’s what the agency needed in the worst way. That’s how I turned the city around financially and that’s what UCDD needs now.”
Farley was selected from a field of 32 applicants to be one of five finalists. The five finalists were interviewed July 31.
To be hired, a candidate had to receive 12 votes by the full board, which constituted a majority vote. Farley received 13.
Along with Rone, Farley received “yes” votes from Warren County Executive John Pelham, Warren County industrial representative Marvin Lusk, state Rep. Charles Curtiss, state Sen. Charlotte Burks, Cannon County Executive Mike Gannon, Putnam County Executive Kim Blaylock, DeKalb County Executive Mike Foster, Smith County Executive Michael Nesbitt, Jackson County Executive John Cason, Gainesboro Mayor John Fox, and White County Executive Herd Sullivan.
With the hiring of Farley, White County will be without a financial director. In an interview with the Expositor, a newspaper in White County, Sullivan asserts Farley was an asset to the county and will be difficult to replace.
“I sure hate to have to go through the process of replacing Mark,” Sullivan said. “It’s going to be hard to replace someone as good as Mark. He really has done an excellent job. The county finances are in great shape, and probably in better shape than any other county. I really hate to lose him.”
Rone says he hopes the organization can now move forward in a positive direction.
“On the surface, this man looks like an excellent candidate,” Rone said. “We were presented with the resumes of all the finalists. They were all qualified, but he looked like the one who could do what needed to be done to turn this organization around. Maybe now we can move forward.”
Among Farley’s first duties will be to hire an assistant director.
“When it comes to appointing an assistant, I need to determine my path first,” said Farley. “Once I know what that will be, I want to hire a like-minded individual who will work with me on that path. Anyone who is interested in the position will be allowed to apply, not just current employees.”
Farley’s official start date is this Wednesday, Aug. 15. His beginning salary has been set at $90,000.