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Republican Walker County commissioner candidate Shannon Whitfield, right, talks with Rusty Hays at an election return party at the Bank of Lafayette's community room on Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2016, in Lafayette, Ga.
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Shannon Whitfield

Walker County, Ga., Commissioner-elect Shannon Whitfield is looking for some new county employees.

Whitfield posted on his public Facebook page Saturday, announcing four job openings in the county: codes enforcement officer, county clerk, landfill operator and spokesperson. Some of the positions are in areas Whitfield criticized this year during his campaign.

In particular, Whitfield said the county should be making money on its landfill. Audits show the operation lost $1.8 million from fiscal year 2013-15. He wasn't sure how specifically to turn the finances around, though on a basic level he said county employees need to change locks.

The landfill is closed on Wednesdays, and Whitfield said truck drivers know the entrance code. They deposit trash without paying a fee.

Whoever takes the position will replace Terry Toole, the county's landfill consultant since Commissioner Bebe Heiskell took office in 2001. Toole said he is not technically on the county payroll, though he charges the county for each individual aspect of his work.

Toole said his cost changes depending on the job he does, though his rate is $200-$350 per day. If Toole worked Monday through Friday each week (without any holidays), he would make about $52,000-$92,000 every year.

Toole had not heard about the job opening until a reporter contacted him Monday, but he said he was not surprised that Whitfield is looking for someone new. He heard Whitfield's criticisms of the landfill during the campaign. Plus, Toole has been a supporter of Heiskell's, giving her $1,500 for this year's election, which she lost to Whitfield in a landslide.

Geological Consultants also gave Heiskell $2,000, campaign contribution reports show. That company is located at a property owned by Toole in Hamilton County.

Toole said Whitfield's criticism during the campaign was unfair. While Whitfield pointed to the audits showing the landfill's losses, Toole said the operation actually has turned a profit. He based his assessment on how many trucks he saw streaming in and out of the landfill every day.

When asked why the audits don't seem to match what he has seen at the landfill, Toole said, "I don't know. I'm not privy to all the records. I don't know where [Whitfield] got his estimates. I don't know how they put the audits together."

Whitfield's search for a new codes enforcement employee, meanwhile, will appease some supporters. Members of the Wilson Road Neighborhood Group, based in Rossville, criticized Heiskell this year for what they believe to be deplorable conditions in the northern area of the county.

Specifically, the group thinks county employees should have ripped away run-down houses and buildings years ago. David Roden, the owner of Mountain View Estates' manufactured home community, has pushed for stricter enforcement of county codes, believing the ugly and unkempt buildings dropped property values and attracted crime.

"That's a great idea to put more boots on the ground," Roden said of the job hiring. "We're tickled to death about it."

Whitfield, who takes office Jan. 1, did not return a call seeking comment Monday. And his post did not clarify whether he is hiring an extra codes enforcement officer or simply replacing a current one.

David Ashburn, the county's director of emergency services, said four people now oversee codes: three animal control officers and one officer who looks into problems such as trash in the yard and grass that is too tall.

Ashburn said two other employees are in charge of building inspection. They decide whether to tear down a building because of fire or storm damage.

Ashburn is not sure about the specifics of Whitfield's plan for the codes enforcement department.

"I'm just waiting on him to see when he wants to talk," Ashburn said. "He's going to be the new boss. Whatever he says, I'll follow up with."

On Whitfield's Facebook page, one commenter criticized him for accepting applications weeks before he takes office, pointing out that resumes are going to a Gmail account rather than an official government email account.

"You are basically doing what Hillary [Clinton] did by using a private email for official county communication," David Moon wrote. "Therefore it falls out of the jurisdiction of Freedom of Information."

"I setup [sic] a separate email for county business," Whitfield responded. "This is not my personal email account."

Contact staff writer Tyler Jett at 423-757-6476 or tjett@timesfreepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @LetsJett.

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