Jackson County commissioners this week voted unanimously to keep Chuck Wooten on for at least another year as county manager. Wooten will receive an annual base salary of $120,747.96, plus benefits.
County commissioners asked Wooten in January to serve as interim manager for six months or so. He retired Jan. 1 from Western Carolina University after three decades as vice chancellor for administration and finance. He once worked as county manager for Iredell County.
Since coming on as county manager, Wooten has successfully guided a new board of commissioners — three of the five members were elected last November — through a budget, among other tasks.
Wooten indicated he doesn’t plan to make a second career as manager, though Chairman Jack Debnam joked about persuading Wooten to stay on for four more years. The contract is open-ended, which County Attorney Jay Coward said was standard for this type of agreement. Wooten serves at the pleasure of the board. For his part, Wooten is obligated to give 30-days notice if he opts to resign.
Kenneth Westmoreland was Jackson County’s manager until Wooten came aboard. Westmoreland was either pressured to leave (his version) or left of his own volition, but in the end the result was the same: the three newest commissioners, Debnam, Charles Elders and Doug Cody, wanted a change, and Westmoreland was soon gone after the election.
Westmoreland had served as Jackson County manager for almost a decade. His actions as the county’s top leader became a campaign issue, particularly the implementation of a new pay-scale system that was targeted as too generous to long-time employees like himself.