Westmoreland's retirement announced

Jackson County Manager Kenneth Westmoreland will retire effective Jan. 1, incoming Jackson County board chairman Jack Debnam has told The Smoky Mountain News.

With accumulated leave, his last day in the office will be Dec. 7.

“It was his decision,” Debnam said.

Westmoreland told the newspaper he did not want to comment on matter at this time.

In addition to Debnam, who is a registered independent, Republicans Charles Elder (replacing Democrat William Shelton) and Doug Cody (replacing Democrat Tom Massie) will join current commissioners Joe Cowan (a Democrat) and Mark Jones (a Democrat) on the Jackson County board. The trio will be sworn in Dec. 6, meaning Westmoreland will spend just one day with the new board.

Westmoreland’s actions as county manager had been a campaign issue this year, particularly his role in implementing a new pay scale system that was criticized as too generous to long-time employees like himself. The pay system was approved by the elected commissioners.

His leadership during the relicensing battle with Duke Energy, which cost the county hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees, had also been criticized.

Asked point blank just after the Nov. 2 election whether Westmoreland’s job was in jeopardy, Debnam deferred to his fellow commissioners.

“It’s not going to be up to me,” Debnam said. “There are five commissioners … we are going to scrutinize several positions.”

The new commissioners have also promised to re-visit Jackson’s land-use regulations, which some blame for curtailing building activity in the county.

This marks the first time in 16 years Republicans have been able to seize seats on the Jackson County Board of Commissioners. Debnam, while unaffiliated, received support as a conservative candidate from the Jackson County GOP.

The new commissioners will be sworn in at 6:30 p.m. on Dec. 6.

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