Kevin Parton: Another crony hire?

Sandra ClarkLet's Talk

The May 16 appointment of Kevin Parton as senior director of the Knox County Health Department looks like another Glenn Jacobs crony hire – the sort of hire that led to the felony indictment of his initial chief-of-staff, Bryan Hair, and the firing of his first senior director of Parks & Recreation, Paul White. (Earlier story here.)


Perhaps he’s shy, but Parton is nowhere on social media. The first photo I found was a mug shot.

In fairness, he has worked at the health department since 2019, and nobody there seems to have a complaint. He served as interim director since October 2021.The press release announcing his hiring said he’s got a bachelor’s degree and a master’s in accounting from Liberty University.

Is this a crony hire?

Brian Carl

Jacobs is tied to Parton through Brian Carl, the mayor’s first campaign treasurer who served through 2019. Carl also was involved with Parton’s Oct. 11, 2015, arrest for DUI (Kevin Parton Arrest Report) and is mentioned in the appeal that Parton filed (Kevin Parton appeal_2019-e2018-01209-cca-r3-cd).Parton was hired by Knox County after Mayor Jacobs took office. Was it on the recommendation of Carl?

Money

If not a crony hire, it certainly is an expensive one.

  • Parton, as senior director, is earning $130,000 to $150,000.
  • The search firm has advertised the public health officer’s pay at $150,624 to $240,988 per year, depending on experience.
  • Martha Buchanan was making $200,060 annually after doing both jobs for 13 years.

Assuming he can even find a medical doctor willing to take the job, Jacobs will end up paying $280,000 to $390,988 plus associated benefits for two employees to replace Martha Buchanan.

Politicizing public health

Over time, we’ve gone from a county government with virtually autonomous department heads like Herb Acuff (finance) and Mary Duffy M.D. (health) to a more political-hiring situation, suggesting the department heads work for the mayor rather than for Knox County.

Knox County is not like the city of Knoxville, and most people think that’s OK. Neither the county charter nor state law gives the county mayor the powers of the city mayor, even though they’ve got the same title.

Two things to ask:

When there’s a highly contagious virus that kills with no vaccine, do you want health professionals or politicians deciding strategies to keep the community safe?

And even though Mayor Jacobs was elected in 2018, was he really? Does he represent anything close to the majority?

Knox County elects Republicans. Only the Republican Primary matters countywide. In 2018, the primary votes were: Glenn Jacobs, 14,640 (36.10%), Brad Anders, 14,617 (36.04%); and Bob Thomas 11,301 (27.86%).

So, 14,640 votes in a county of 466,000. You decide.

Sandra Clark is editor/CEO of Knox TN Today.

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