Loudon commissioners vote against cutting their own pay

By Hugh G. Willett

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

The Loudon County Commission on Tuesday voted 7-2 to reject a proposal that would have cut commissioners' pay almost in half.

The vote came several months after the commission's budget committee first recommended that commissioner pay be cut from about $8,000 to about $4,000 per year.

The committee recommendation followed data provided by Commissioner Don Miller that showed Loudon commissioners are paid about twice as much as any similar-sized county in the state.

Resident Richard Truitt pointed out that Loudon commissioners, who manage a roughly $60 million budget, are paid more than Davidson County commissioners, who manage a budget of $600 million.

"No one should have the ability to set their own salary," he said.

Tellico Village resident Pandora Vreeland thanked the commission for having the discussion and asked them to consider their position and pay against fair market value to be determined by comparing commission pay to other commissioners in similar-sized counties, she said.

Commissioner Sharon Yarborough's motion to reduce commission pay by 50 percent was quickly seconded by Miller, who asked to amend the motion.

Miller told the commission that he keeps track of his time and estimated that he invests about 1,000 hours per year on commission business. At $8,000 per year, he figured the job worked out to paying about minimum wage.

"I don't think you could find someone in the private sector to do the job," he said.

Miller acknowledged that his research showed that the pay for commissioners of similar-sized counties would be about $4,000. He made a motion to reduce pay to about $4,800 per year, or 6 percent of the county mayor's salary. The commission had previously been paid based on 10 percent of the mayor's salary.

Chairman Roy Bledsoe's call for further discussion before a vote was met with silence from the rest of the board.

Miller and Yarborough voted for the cut. Commissioners Earlena Maples, Bob Franke, Steve Harrelson, Bledsoe, David Meers, Harold Duff and Brian Jenkins voted against.

Yarborough said she was disappointed in the vote and the fact that most of the commission did not engage in the discussion.

Loudon Tea Party leader Wayne Schnell said he was also disappointed that the commission did not discuss the issue.

Franke said he thought the issue was more complex than presented. Making comparisons between different counties did not take into account that Loudon has 10 commissioners; some counties have 20 commissioners.

"It's hard to make an apples-to-apples comparison," he said.