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News Board appoints interim county manager

Commissioners pass a resolution on Nikwasi Mound.

With County Manager Jack Horton ending his 36-year career in local government administration on September 30, the Macon County Board of Commissioners unanimously voted to appoint Mike Decker as interim county manager. Decker, who currently serves as both the Human Resource Director for the county and the Deputy Clerk to the Board of Commissioners, will serve as county manager for the month of October.

“Mike will be the county manager effective Oct. 1 and if the search for a permanent replacement for Jack goes beyond that, Horton has agreed to return to the county to work on a contract basis until no later than Jan. 1,” said County Commission Chairman Kevin Corbin.

Horton, who started his professional career in 1976 in Swain County, has served as Macon County's manager twice during his 36-year career, first from October 1985 until March 1991, and most recently since 2008.

After announcing his retirement in July, the board began advertising the soon-to-be vacant position. As of Tuesday night, Corbin reported that the county had received 29 applications for the county manager position.

In order to fill the county manager position by January 1, Corbin informed the board that he and commissioner Paul Higdon had met and discussed cutting off the application process on Sept. 24.  “That will give anyone waiting to turn in an application time to do it and then will let us start narrowing down the search,” said Corbin.

County Commissioner Ronnie Beale requested that the cut off date be moved up a week in hopes of making the interviewing process a little easier around the holidays. “Is there any reason why we can't move it up a week?,” he asked. “If not, we are really getting into some trouble with getting into the holidays in November and December.”

Commissioners agreed that a week should be enough time to notify all the avenues in which  the county was publicizing the open position of the end date, and would give last minute applicants sufficient time to complete the application process.

Commissioners voted unanimously to close out applications on Tuesday, Sept. 17 and then begin the process of narrowing down the applicants and establishing interviews.

Nikwasi Mound resolution

County commissioners passed a resolution Tuesday night agreeing to work toward opening a conversation between the Cherokee Tribe and the Town of Franklin. In August, Michell Hicks, Principal Chief of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians went before Macon County commissioners requesting their assistance in “bringing the Nikwasi Mound home” to the tribe.

"The mound belongs to the Cherokee people and the deed needs to be back in our names," Hicks said in August. "It is time for that mound to come back home."

Tuesday night, county commissioners reiterated that the mound legally belongs to the Town of Franklin and any decision regarding the ownership of the mound is entirely up to the town board, but agreed to help facilitate a meeting.

“I think the county's involvement in this is solely because Hicks came to us last month,” said Commission Chair Kevin Corbin. “We all want the ultimate goal of preservation and to protect the mound to be accomplished, and anything we can do to see that, I think we should.

“It is important to remember that this board is not taking a stance on what needs to happen to the mound,” said Corbin. “We are not saying that it needs to be sold back, we are not talking about that. We just agree that we all share a common heritage and think that a conversation needs to be held regarding the mound.”

County Commissioner Ron Haven noted that as long as language existed in the resolution specifically stating that the county has no interest in making a decision or forming an opinion one way or the other regarding who should own the mound, that he would support a resolution.

County Attorney Chester Jones assured Haven that the resolution did not endorse a decision one way or the other and that he would even add additional language to specifically say the county is in no way making a recommendation on the outcome.

The resolution, which is titled, “Resolution recognizing the substantial value of a positive and continuing relationship with the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Nation and offer to assist by participating in dialogue,”  identifies the past cooperation between Macon County and the Tribe, as well as noting the importance of continuing that relationship.

“Whereas, Macon County has enjoyed and materially benefitted from its positive and continuing relationship with the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Nation and looks forward to continuing and increasing the same,” reads one paragraph of the resolution.

“Resolved, that Macon County, by and through its county manager will attempt to schedule a joint meeting of representatives of the county, the Town of Franklin and the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Nation to commence some dialogue regarding this important matter,” concludes the resolution.

Beale said he believes it to be important to facilitate a conversation to explore the various avenues toward protecting and preserving the mound and to ensure that a finial decision is reached that can be advantageous for all parties involved.

In a unanimous vote, commissioners approved the resolution which will now be sent to both the Town of Franklin and the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Indians.


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