The Magnolia City Council on Thursday voted 5-2 to confirm Mayor Parnell Vann’s appointment of a new city treasurer.
Kim Newell will succeed Debbie Chatelain effective June 15.
Vann said after the brief meeting that Chatelain told him last year that “the day was coming” when she would retire from the position she’s held for 27 years. That day came on the afternoon on Friday, April 13, when Chatelain gave Vann a letter stating her intent to retire.
Vann began looking for a replacement and during an executive session of the City Council held on Wednesday afternoon, the council discussed his plans to hire Newell at a salary of $49,000 a year – more than Chatelain is earning in the same job.
The council met again Thursday morning to approve of the selection.
Newell is a certified public accountant and holds a degree in accounting from Southern Arkansas University. Her job history includes two years as an accounting clerk at Magnolia Hospital, 20 years as an employee of Farmers Bank & Trust where she rose to the job of accounting supervisor, and 13 years are staff accountant at Commercial Metals Co. She was hired in January as cost accountant for Esterline Defense Technologies of Camden.
City Councilman Mike Lewis, one of two councilmen who voted against the appointment, said he didn’t like the process by which the appointment was made.
Lewis said he respects Vann’s right to make an appointment, but that he also respects the council’s right to approve or disapprove an appointment.
No concrete guidelines exist for setting the salaries of mayoral appointees, Lewis said.
“I’m not going to be pleased that she is paid more than what Debbie Chatelain has been making – an employee who has been here 27 years,” Lewis said.
Lewis – who is also mayor pro tem -- said he didn’t know that Chatelain was retiring until this past weekend. Lewis said he would have preferred that the job opening had been advertised and that more potential applicants had gotten the word.
Voting to approve the appointment were council members Larry Talley, Margie Russ, James Moore, Sam Whitelaw and Rodney Peterson. Lewis and Neil Cheatham voted against it. Gary Farrar could not attend the meeting.
Vann said after the meeting that he understands the objection to the $49,000 salary, but notes that the treasurer is responsible for monitoring almost $10 million in revenues and annual transactions involving the city’s general operations including police, fire, water and street departments, transactions with other governments and agencies.