Surry Administrator Lynn resigns less than one year into job

By: Staff Report | Twitter: @SSDispatch
Posted: January 6, 2019 | 2:09 p.m.

Supervisors tap Rollins as acting county administrator during organizational meeting

SURRY – In what is typically a procedural meeting for local governing bodies, last week’s organizational meeting for the Surry County Board of Supervisors saw Jonathan Lynn, the county’s administrator of just under a year, resign suddenly, leaving a number of residents on hand for the meeting surprised by the news and the county likely looking for its third administrator in as many years.

While the organizational meeting is usually headlined by the appointment of a chairman and vice-chair for the calendar year, those matters were overshadowed by the board opting to go into closed session into order to discuss, according to Supervisor Robert Elliott, “the performance of the county administrator.” 

The board remained in executive session for over a half-hour before returning, with supervisor and now board vice-chair Michael Drewry moving to “accept the resignation of the county administrator, to be placed on paid administrative leave until February 28, and approve the separation agreement with the County Administrator in which the county agrees to pay him six months severance as stated in his employment contract,” with the motion passing 3-2, with longtime supervisors Judy Lyttle and Kenneth Holmes serving as the pair of dissenting votes.

Lynn was brought on board by the Surry County Board of Supervisors less than a year ago, serving as the permanent replacement to outgoing administrator Tyrone Franklin, who retired in late 2018. At the time of his hire in February 2019, then-interim administrator Sandy Wanner touted Lynn’s experience, which includes over a decade of local, regional, state-level experience and “community development and strategic planning, dealing with stakeholders and citizens.”

In August of last year, during a special meeting, the board discussed matters relating to Lynn’s “performance, contract” and “probationary period,” which at the time of his hire, was six months. That meeting and its agenda was set by then-Chairman Drewry, who now serves as vice-chair for the 2020 calendar year.

When approached for comment following his seemingly sudden departure from Surry County government’s leading position, Lynn remarked, “As with other matters that I’ve been questioned about during my tenure as county administrator in Surry County, this is a personnel matter and I shall refrain from comment at this time.”

With Lynn, as stated in the motion adopted last week, on “paid administrative leave” through the end of next month, which would mark a year and a few weeks Lynn has been an employee of Surry County, vice-chair Drewry named current assistant county administrator Mellissa Rollins as Lynn’s successor in the interim, giving her the title of acting county administrator, a fact that has already been confirmed on the county’s website, which has been updated to show Rollins in the position.

Currently, it is unknown when the county will begin another search for a permanent county administrator. At the time of Frankin’s departure in 2018, the county named Wanner, a longtime public servant with nearly three decades of experience to serve as administrator as the county conducted a search to find a suitable candidate, which led to the selection of Lynn early last year.

County Administrator Jonathan Lynn (right) and Assistant Co. Admin. Melissa Rollins (second from left) chat with Rep. Donald McEachin (left) during his stop in Surry last summer. Less than a year into his tenure, Lynn has resigned and Rollins has been named acting administrator following last week’s organizational meeting. (Michael Campbell)

It is expected that Rollins, now that Lynn is on administrative leave, will sit alongside supervisors during their regular business meeting on January 23, which is also likely to see comments from the community as last week’s organizational meeting lacked a public comment period.

While drawing a far smaller crowd than last month’s meeting, which was highlighted by the county opting to adopt a somewhat “watered down version” of a resolution showing their support for Second Amendment rights, stopping short of declaring Surry a Second Amendment sanctuary county, roughly three dozen people were on hand to witness the board accept Lynn’s resignation and the election of new leaders for the calendar year.

Off of a nomination by newly elected member Timothy Calhoun, board newcomer and Claremont District Supervisor Robert Elliott was named the board’s chairman for 2020 off a 3-2 vote, with Lyttle and Holmes both voting against the motion. Lyttle, who has served as chairman several times during her two decades on the board was also nominated for the position but did not receive enough votes to return to the leadership role. 

As for the matter of the board’s vice-chair, Dendron District’s Drewry was the successful supervisor after being nominated by Calhoun, with the vote mirroring that of the prior chairmanship election. Lyttle, too, was nominated to serve but did not garner enough support among the board.

The board also opted to forgo making any permanent supervisor appointments to various regional boards, deferring action until January 23, despite being advised by Lynn that some of the boards would meet between the time of their next meeting, instead deciding to make temporary appointments.

“I’m on the workforce development board. I would like to get off of that. Quite frankly, I would be more interested in serving on one of the Economic Development boards,” the vice-chairman remarked.

The board will hold its regular business meeting on January 23 at the county government building.

Copyright 2020 by Womack Publishing
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