We like Jim, but good grief

Sandra ClarkFeature, Gossip and Lies

Jim Snowden P.E. is the new senior director of Engineering and Public Works for Knox County. He announced the appointment in a letter to staff and colleagues. Snowden has worked in the department as a staff engineer since August 30, 1999.

“Throughout my career here at Knox County, I have had the honor of working with so many great people who have taught me how to combine engineering and public service. I wouldn’t be in this position had it not been for great co-workers, mentors and leaders that I owe a debt of gratitude,” he wrote in the letter


Dwight Van de Vate, who served in the position for eight years under Mayor Tim Burchett, has been reassigned as director of Community Development, replacing someone who retired. The department has four staff members per the county’s website and seems to oversee homeland security. Lord knows the county’s never had much “community development.”

Snowden’s appointment marks the first time a professional engineer has headed the Engineering Department, although engineers have been employed there. The department oversees codes, fire prevention, fleet services, highway maintenance, planning and development including sidewalks, soil conservation, solid waste and recycling, stormwater management and traffic engineering. Big job.

Snowden shared his mobile number and said his door will always be open.

Meanwhile, the Knox County website has a picture of Glenn Jacobs, but “news” about the Aug. 31 swearing in ceremony and details on Mayor Burchett’s back-to-school bash.

Jacobs, a man with zero experience in county government has brought in two top aides (Bryan Hair as chief-of-staff and Rob Link as communications director) with no apparent government experience. We would be able to say for certain if anyone had pushed out an announcement or posted on the website about their hiring.

Of course, it’s understandable that the website would be out-of-date. Jacobs pushed the retirement of the top IT guy, Dick Moran, and his chief assistant. No word of a replacement has come forward.

Over at Parks & Rec, where Jacobs engineered the retirement of longtime director Doug Bataille, the website has a new leadership lineup: Paul White (who?) is senior director; Chuck James is director of parks; Mike Donila is deputy director of parks and recreation; Jay Smelser is deputy director of recreation and Brad Jones is park maintenance superintendent. Redundancy anyone?

Again, no press advisory and nothing on the county’s home page. You’ve gotta dig for this.

OK, let’s google for Paul White, Knoxville. There are three. One is dead, one is the recent ex-sheriff of Anderson County and the other is a commercial lender for a small bank. Your guess as to which one Jacobs has put in charge of parks and rec. Hang on for a wild ride!

(Update/correction: Jim Snowden will actually be the second licensed engineer to lead Knox County Engineering & Public Works. The late Bill Kervin, a licensed engineer, served between Hollis McPhetridge and Bruce Wuethrich during Tommy Schumpert’s first term.)

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