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Jackson commissioners take control of airport authority appointments

Jackson County Commissioners last week strategically deferred making a decision about who would become the newest member of the Jackson County Airport Authority, in effect throwing out the list of names authority members submitted for approval.


Only one vacancy remains on the airport authority — that of one-time chairman Tom McClure. County commissioners attempted to remove McClure from his post in 2005 as commissioners called for an investigation into the local Economic Development Commission, of which McClure was also chairman. However, the authority, like the EDC, is a standalone entity established by state general statute and is not subject to county rule — yet.

McClure and fellow authority members Jim Rowell and Eldridge Painter sued county commissioners for improperly removing the chairman and won his re-instatement. But, eager to have oversight the authority, commissioners appealed to Sen. John Snow, D-Murphy, and Rep. Phil Haire, D-Sylva, to introduce new legislation that would give the county more power.

Such legislation was passed, enabling commissioners to make appointments to the authority without first receiving recommendations for any vacancies from the authority. The legislation not only allows commissioners to pick whomever they choose, but also to choose one authority member from an adjoining county.

The legislation does not take effect until Dec. 31, prompting county commission Chairman Brian McMahan to move to wait before selecting someone to fill McClure’s seat.

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“It would be my recommendation that we table this action until January,” McMahan said. Commissioner Mark Jones seconded the motion, which was then unanimously approved.

Commissioners will only have one meeting in January, to be held at 6 p.m. Jan. 23 — well after the new legislation goes into effect.

Airport authority members had submitted to commissioners a list of eight names — each of the commissioners themselves, plus McClure, John Buenting and Alston Macon. The selection of names was made at the authority’s Dec. 12 meeting, as authority members wanted to wait until a new board of county commissioners took office. Of the five commissioners, only two of those who were on the board when the EDC/Airport Authority/Jackson County war began are on the board now — McMahan and Joe Cowan.

Prior to the board changeover, commissioners expressed interest in having rport authority. Postponing an appointment opens the door for that to happen.

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