Cody becomes county's first finance director

By Thomas Wilson

   Carter County has a new money man.
   Jason V. Cody was selected by a 4-3 vote over Carter County Schools Budget Director Jerome Kitchens to become the county's first finance director by the Carter County Financial Management Committee (FMC) on Wednesday.
   Committee members Adeline Hyder, R.L. Miller, Truman Clark and JoAnn Blankenship voted for Cody while Highway Superintendent Jack Perkins, county schools Superintendent Dallas Williams and Harry Sisk voted for Kitchens. Williams was also one of three personal references submitted by Kitchens in his application.
   Committee chairwoman JoAnn Blankenship informed Cody of the decision via conference call.
   "I definitely want to accept that and I look forward to working with you," Cody told the committee.
   His first day on the job is expected to be Sept. 16 or Sept. 23, depending on his timetable for relocating to Carter County, he told the committee. Cody's selection is contingent on a background check that is being conducted through the county school system.
   "The background check most of the time takes up to four weeks to get the results back," Williams told the committee.
   Cody currently works as a senior financial analyst with Fidelity Investments in Covington, Ky. A certified public accountant (CPA), he graduated with honors from Berea College with degrees in Business and Economics. He also holds a master's of Business Administration (MBA) with a concentration in Finance from Xavier University in Cincinnati.
   Kitchens has served as finance director for Carter County Schools since 1998. He holds an MBA from East Tennessee State University and previously served as an accountant with a private company during the mid-1980s. He has been employed by the county school system since 1988.
   State law specifies that the county's finance director can select a deputy finance director and other personnel tasked under his office.
   In other counties that have enacted the 1981 plan, the deputy director has often been the finance director of that county's school system. The payroll coordinator for a county's highway department also frequently rotated into the county finance office in other counties operating under the plan.
   The county's bookkeeping department will lose two of its three employees to retirement at the end of August. That will likely leave one person to handle the county's entire payroll process until Cody arrives.
   Clark said he had formed a generalized budget with a director's salary of $45,000, but had not set specific funding parameters for the new department.
   "The budget is in place," he said, in response to a question by Hyder of how the county was going to fund the new position. "I took the salary of the two people that are retiring and $25,000 which leaves him enough to hire someone when he comes in."
   The county's financial management duties had previously been conducted through the county executive's office. The county executive's salary supplement of approximately $7,600 in 2001-2002 will come to an end with the new director's position.
   The committee voted 7-0 to set a salary of $47,000 annually for the director's position on a motion from Hyder.
   The committee narrowed their search to the two finalists after interviewing five candidates earlier this month.
   Four of the seven committee members who made the decision will end their term on the FMC in September. Hyder, Miller and Sisk were defeated in re-election bids for county commission. Clark did not run for another term as county executive.
   The county's 11 new commissioners will be sworn into office on Sept. 9. The new commission may appoint up to four new commissioners to the FMC in September.
   The county adopted the state's 1981 County Financial Management plan to select a finance director.
   Under the plan, the finance director is required to have a minimum of a bachelor of science degree and at least eighteen (18) quarter hours or equivalent semester hours in accounting.
   The director's duties include installation of a purchasing, payroll, budgeting, accounting and cash financial management system for the county.
   Once the director is hired, the financial management system is required to be proposed by July 1 of the following year. The system must then be implemented by August 1 of the following year.
   The deputy finance clerk will be recommended by the director and approved by the committee to serve as deputy director of finance. The deputy clerk is responsible for responsibilities as assigned by the director.
   The county's Budget Committee, in conjunction with the director shall, on or before February 1 of each year, prescribe the budgetary procedures, forms, calendar and other information as may be necessary to implement the budgetary procedures contained in this chapter.