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Commissioners appoint interim county manager

Henderson County commissioners have selected John Mitchell, a top deputy to County Manager Steve Wyatt, as interim county manager, authorizing a six-month probationary contract.

The county's director of business and community development, Mitchell has been with the county eight years. During that time, Wyatt has often tasked him to steer the most complicated and politically delicate projects, including the Hendersonville High School construction-renovation plan, the health sciences building at Pardee Hospital, the Ecusta Trail, big rezoning cases and a comprehensive land-use plan rewrite.

"I won't give a long speech, we've been here quite a while," Mitchell said shortly before 4 p.m., the tail end of a 6½-hour meeting. "And what we've seen today frankly is a result of the county manager's wisdom and leadership.

"I know I speak for all the staff when I say that we deeply appreciate you, sir, the chief," he said to Wyatt. "I've had the benefit of sitting over there in the corner for eight years and I've watched you and also have benefited from you as a mentor. I'm sure I speak for all of us when I offer our hearfelt thanks to you.

"And it is a team. We've got a great team. And it's evident by the work we do and the things we manage to accomplish just how high quality a team we have, and it's on Steve's and Amy's shoulders that that's happened," he said of the manager and Assistant County Amy Brantley.

Since Wyatt announced his retirement, the board had met three times in closed sessions to discuss the process for hiring a new manager, Chairman Bill Lapsley said as he introduced the surprise announcement. During the process, "the question was raised, Are there any existing senior staff members that are qualified and interested in the promotion to this position?" Lapsley said. Several high-ranking people rose as "prime candidates for consideration" and the board decided it was appropriate to review senior staffers before opening the process up to outside candidates.

"We've identified a well-qualified and experienced candidate (that) has risen to our attention in short order," he said. After a formal interview, "it did not take long for us, this board, to reach a tentative agreement with the candidate and with the board members," Lapsley said. Mitchell's appointment is effective July 1.