Unicoi Town Recorder resigns, mayor addresses turnover

Sue Guinn Legg • Updated Apr 4, 2019 at 11:31 PM

UNICOI — For the third time in as many years, the town of Unicoi is in search of a new top administrator.

Town Recorder Michael Borders confirmed Wednesday he is leaving Unicoi for the town administrator position in Pittman Center in nearby Sevier County.

Nearing the the end of his two-week notice, his last day on the job in Unicoi is Friday. But Borders said he will remain available by email to help Unicoi through the transition.

Former town recorder Larry Rae will serve as interim recorder until Border’s replacement is hired, as Rae did for several months before Borders went to work for the town in February 2018.

Mayor Johnny Lynch said the recorder’s job has been advertised and applications will be accepted through April 12. Four applications have been submitted and Lynch said he expects several more will be submitted before the application period closes.

Border’s predecessor in town recorder’s office, Mike Housewright, also resigned after less than 18 months in Unicoi to take a job as city manager in the neighboring community of Mount Carmel. Housewright replaced Rae, who retired in 2016 after several years in the town recorder’s office.

In the No. 2 position on Unicoi’s small staff, Communications and Programs Director Ashley Shelton has been on the job less than two weeks and is also the third person to fill her office in as many years.

Shelton replaced Ashley Cavander, who resigned in February after about six months on the job. Cavender replaced Sarah Jennings, a former Johnson City park and recreation programs director who left Unicoi after less than 18 months on the job to take a position in a larger Tennessee city.

In her letter of resignation, Cavender expressed several concerns she said contributed to her leaving, including a lack of “defined job descriptions and duties and clear structure for communications.”

Cavender specifically cited “poor communication and lack of structure led by the mayor” for creating a work environment that she said will continue to cause turnover in the communications office if not corrected.

Lynch responded with a letter to Cavender in which he said he would consider each of her concerns but defended his communication with the staff and cited several specific instances in which he was not pleased with her work in town communications.

Lynch told the Johnson City Press on Thursday he will not discuss specific personnel issues but believes several years of harsh scrutiny by critics of town government have made the staff uncomfortable.

Lynch said it is also not unusual for young people in administrative government jobs to leave for better paying positions and noted several applicants for top staff positions in Unicoi have spent less than two years in their current jobs.

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