The Knox County Commission will set in motion a plan on Oct. 25 to appoint a successor to retiring Sessions Court Judge Geoffrey Emery that will probably result in a new judge by the end of the year.
Emery, a Republican, made public his plans to retire on Dec. 31 in a news release on Sept. 24, but the word was already out with three candidates filing reports with the Knox County Election Commission that named campaign treasurers so they could start raising money.
Commission Chairman Richie Beeler said Emery’s notice of retirement will be “spread” on the minutes at the October meeting. “Then we can proceed with the process,” he said.
“I’m not inclined to fast track (the appointment). We could do the appointment in November. That is not out of the question. My guess is we will officially solicit applications and give a window for candidates in November of December,” he said. He said anyone who wants to be considered, including those who plan to seek election, can apply.
The commission’s appointment would last until a new judge is elected in 2022. County primaries are May 3 and the general election is Aug. 4.
Emery has held the judicial post since 1986. He previously was Knox County’s first full-time assistant law director. He was a president of the Tennessee General Sessions Judicial Conference during his tenure.
Among those who have named a treasurer is prominent Republican Ray Jenkins, a former Knox County GOP chairman and a sitting magistrate who has announced he is running as an Independent. This is because it is not ethical for judicial candidates to pay a $500 fee under a schedule that the Tennessee Republican Party approved in August, he said.
Jenkins cited state Supreme Court rules of ethics that say judicial candidates shall not pay assessments to a party organization. A judicial ethics committee, headed by state Criminal Court of Criminal Appeals J. Ross Dyer, issued an opinion on Sept. 7 that said judges and judicial candidates may contribute to a political party, but they cannot pay “what amounts to an assessment” to a political organization for offsetting costs of the organization related to its endorsement.
Jenkins and Republican candidate, Judd Davis, an assistant district attorney who also has named a treasurer to run for Emery’s position, said they had heard the Tennessee Republican Executive Committee will reconsider the fee in December. Political blogger Brian Hornback, newly appointed as the 6th District member of the executive committee, said it was his understanding the committee will “revisit” the fee structure for judicial candidates at a December quarterly meeting.
Others who have named treasurers so they can begin raising money for the Emery position are Republican Sharon Frankenberg and Democrat Sarah Keith, also an assistant district attorney. Tony Stansberry, a Republican who is the incumbent judge in Sessions Court, Division 5, has named a treasurer as has lawyer Steven Weiner, who seeks the Division 5 seat. All judicial positions are on the ballot in 2022.
LISA HENDY’S GONE: Lisa Hendy, the first female chief ranger at the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, has returned to the Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona to her dream job, Canyon district ranger, where she will be responsible for rescue operations in the Colorado River.
She came to the Smokies in 2019 to great fanfare in the news media because of her high profile position at the park, where she oversaw employees in the Resource and Visitor Protection Division. She left at the end of September.
The Chattanooga native is highly trained as a paramedic, wildland fire helicopter manager and structural fire fighter. She was a volunteer with the Pigeon Forge Fire Department while in East Tennessee to keep her certification up to date.
She once told this columnist that the Canyon district ranger job doesn’t come open often and that she had gone as far in management as she wanted to go. So she applied for the position with support of GSMNP Superintendent Cassius Cash and was selected.
Hendy’s first permanent job with the Park Service was at Grand Canyon in 2004, after spending years as a seasonal employee at other Western parks. During the seven years she previously was at Grand Canyon, she was awarded an Intermountain Regional Exemplary Service Award for Life Saving Efforts and in 2011 was awarded the National Harry Yount Award for Excellence in Rangering, which she received from then-NPS Director Jon Jarvis. She came to the Smokies from Big Bend National Park in Texas, where she was chief ranger.
While at the Smokies, she was recognized by the NPS office of aviation services with the Excellence in Mentorship Aviation Award. Hendy received a bachelor’s degree in park management from Auburn University in 1994 and a master’s from Utah State University in 1997.
The Williams-Grand Canyon News reported that Hendy said the Grand Canyon “has always held her heart.”
HOW CONGRESS VOTED: When the U.S. Senate voted on Oct. 7 to take up the bill to suspend the debt ceiling by $480 billion, 11 Republicans joined every Democrat to clear the 60-vote threshold needed to break a GOP filibuster. The final vote was 50-48, with Democrats unanimously in support and Republicans opposed. Tennessee’s U.S. Sen. Bill Hagerty voted no to suspending the debt ceiling and U.S. Sen. Marsha Blackburn was listed as not voting.
The U.S. House voted 219-212 on Oct. 12 to raise the public debt limit with U.S. Rep. Tim Burchett, R-Knoxville, voting no. “I opposed suspending the debt ceiling under Donald Trump, and I oppose raising the debt ceiling under Joe Biden,” Burchett said in a statement. “It’s disingenuous for Democrats to demand Republicans help raise the debt ceiling while they are currently pursuing trillions of dollars for social engineering programs. We need to cut spending to reduce the debt placed on future generations’ shoulders instead of raising the debt ceiling to enact a political agenda.”
The Treasury Department said it would not have been able to pay all of its bills by Oct. 18 if the limit had not been raised. The $480 billion figure allows the government to continue borrowing through at least Dec. 3.
On another key vote for President Biden’s administration, Hagerty voted not to confirm Tracy Stone-Manning to be director of the Bureau of Land Management and Blackburn did not vote, although both Senators voted no in a cloture vote to end debate. Stone-Manning was confirmed by a 50-to-45 vote to head the Interior Department’s agency that manages grazing, logging, drilling and mineral rights on public lands.
The New York Times and Washington Post reported intense opposition from Republicans over Stone-Manning’s involvement three decades ago with environmental activists in a tree-spiking incident in Utah.
NAMES IN THE POLITICAL NEWS: Jill E. McCook has been selected a U.S. magistrate judge by the district judges of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee. She will succeed Magistrate Judge H. Bruce Guyton, who will retire in January 2022. McCook has served as a TVA attorney for the past 3½ years. She also has served as a law clerk to District Judge Thomas A. Varlan.
Georgiana Vines is retired News Sentinel associate editor. She may be reached at [email protected]