At Tuesday night’s meeting, the LaFollette City Council chose Billie Russell as the new full-time city administrator.
“This is history,” council member Joe Bolinger said. “As far as I know, there’s never been a woman city administrator before.”
Russell has been the industrial economic and community development coordinator for the Campbell County Mayor’s Office since 2009. Russell was an executive assistant for C3 International from 2008 to 2009 and a business development associate for Oak Ridge National Laboratory from 1987 to 2008. Russell received a bachelor’s degree in business and marketing from the University of Phoenix.
Mayor Mike Stanfield wished Russell the best luck.
“I think she can lead the city of LaFollette in a new direction,” Stanfield said.
Russell said she will take the job seriously.
“I consider it an honor to work for the city—especially in this capacity,” she said.
Russell was industrial economic and community development officer for the county mayor’s office and thinks she can be more effective focusing her experience to serve one municipality. However, working for LaFollette is also personal for her.
“As a girl, I lived across the street (from city hall),” she said.
Russell hopes to bring her experience in industrial and community development to the table.
“I want to focus on economic development in the city of LaFollette,” Russell said.
Russell is proud of LaFollette’s industrial assets and hopes to see them grow. She also wants to attract lake tourists to downtown LaFollette, and believes it will help the city increase revenue without raising taxes.
Russell also looks forward to working with the city council and members of the community.
“My expectation is that I’m going to work with the city council to implement what they want implemented,” Russell said. “I want to engage the residents of the city of LaFollette and the businesses.”
Bolinger nominated Russell for the position. He and council member Stephanie Grimm voted yes. Council member Bob Fannon abstained and council member Hansford Hatmaker voted no. Stanfield broke the tie with a yes vote.
After the meeting, Fannon said he abstained for political reasons.
“I wanted to make sure the mayor was involved,” Fannon said. “I wanted to make sure the mayor was behind this. If he had noted no, I would have gone back and changed my pass to a yes.”
Hatmaker’s reasons for voting against Russell weren’t personal, he said after the meeting.
“It’s not that I’ve got anything against (her),” he said. “She doesn’t have any administration skills at all.”
Hatmaker nominated his son, Tom Hatmaker, for the administrator position. Tom Hatmaker is a third district county commissioner. He has a business management degree with an accounting background from Lincoln Memorial University and owns LaFollette Tree Trimming.
“I just think with the degree and background, Tom’s more qualified,” Hatmaker said.
Hatmaker was the only member of the council to vote for Tom Hatmaker when the votes were cast.
The council had discussed paying the city administrator about $58,000 plus benefits. Russell will meet with officials to finalize her salary.
The city administrator position became vacant when Cade Sexton resigned in January. Jimmy Jeffries was appointed interim city administrator.