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John Thompson

Elizabethton Bureau Chief
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Meet your neighbor: Lynda Vaughn crunches last number at Carter finance dept.

June 29th, 2014 9:40 pm by John Thompson

Meet your neighbor: Lynda Vaughn crunches last number at Carter finance dept.

Lynda Vaughn poses with her two grandsons, Tee and Jaxon, during a visit at the Carter County Courthouse. (John Thompson/Johnson City Press)

ELIZABETHTON — Monday marks the final day of service for Lynda Vaughn. For 24 years she has been an integral part of the Finance Department of the Carter County government.

Vaughn has seen a lot of changes during her more than two decades with the county. She has seen the financial organization evolve from being directly supervised by the county executive to having a county finance director oversee the budget. Four mayors, Truman Clark, Dale Fair, Johnny Holder and Leon Humphrey, have headed the government during the time she has worked there.

“I enjoyed working with each of them,” Vaughn said.

She said she has gotten along well with all of her coworkers also, and with citizens who have come to her office to talk about the county’s financial condition.

“Sometimes they have come in angry, wanting to know what happened to the money, but after we talk for a while, they come to understand there is no money missing,” Vaughn said.

Vaughn has spent her whole life living and working in Carter County and understands the citizens’ concerns. While she has worked in county government for 24 years, she had previously worked in private business as a bookkeeper and as a mother and housewife.

She was born Lynda Ensor and started school at the old Midway Elementary School near the head of Stoney Creek. She graduated from Unaka High School in 1970.

She married Tom Vaughn and the couple soon had two boys, Tommy and Kevin.

She worked at several jobs in the private sector. In September 1990, Vaughn was working as a bookkeeper at Blue Ridge Fabricators when she had a conversation with Joanie Smith, who was County Executive Truman Clark’s secretary. Vaughn had known Smith since they had both been in the PTA at Unaka High.

Smith told Vaughn there was a temporary vacancy in the Finance Department and asked her if she was interested in it. Vaughn went for an interview with Clark and he placed her in the temporary job while the regular employee was gone.

Vaughn got along well with everyone in the office, and when the regular employee returned, Vaughn was kept and transferred to an opening in Circuit Court Clerk Luther McKeehan’s office.

Vaughn said she spent a few months there. One of her jobs was to work with Sessions Court Judge Richard Gray on billing for court.

Not long after that, there was another vacancy in Clark’s finance office and Vaughn was brought back and has remained in that office.

Vaughn said there was a lot to learn in her role of keeping the financial books for the county, but her fellow employees helped so much. In addition to Smith, they included Judy Johnson and Roma Peters.

She was with the department when the county made the big change from having its finances managed directly by the county mayor to having a finance director. That came at the end of Clark’s tenure. That transition was one of the most difficult times for Vaughn because the County Commission did not place the consideration of the new budget on the agenda until after Clark was gone. The new finance director, Jason Cody was not yet hired and the new mayor, Dale Fair, had not gone through the budget-making process with the Budget Committee.

That left Vaughn to discuss the recommended budget to the County Commission.

“I don’t like public speaking,” Vaughn said. Her deep understanding of the budget meant she was able to provide all the information the commissioners needed to make their decisions and the budget was approved without a problem that year.

Another major challenge was the 1998 Doe River Flood. She said there was so much paperwork with Federal Emergency Management Agency grants for the disaster that the entire office worked for days on end to make sure it was all done in a timely fashion.

“We all worked together and we worked hard,” Vaughn said. She is proud of the way the office was able to get help to the many flood victims during that time and how all the money was properly accounted for, but “I don’t want to go through that again.”

Actually, she had a small repeat just a few weeks later when a major blizzard paralyzed the county.

While the department now works under a finance director, Vaughn said most of the work hasn’t changed that much over the years.

“We get the next year’s budget done earlier than we used to do,” she said.

Another big change is the county is more financially stable. In her first days, she said the county had to borrow money through “tax anticipation notes” to meet all its bills and payroll until the property tax revenue started coming in. Vaughn said the county has not had to do that in many years.

There is another unofficial ledger sheet Vaughn also takes pride in. “I don’t think there is a single person in the courthouse that I haven’t been able to get along with. I think I am leaving here as a friend to everyone.”

County commissioners may still argue and struggle over setting a budget each year, but Vaughn has some new priorities in her happy life.

Humphrey said “she is certainly going to be missed. Where else can you get this kind of experience? She has been my guide on more than one occasion.”

“I have enjoyed working for the county, but the time has come for me to move on. I want to give more of my time for others,” Vaughn said. A lot of that extra time will be devoted to her church family at Pleasant Beach Baptist Church; her husband, Thom; her two sons, Tommy and Kevin; and her grandchildren: Tee, Carter, Jaxon, Callie, and her granddaughter by love, Audrey.

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