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Chambers out, Catlett in as highway boss

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New judge-executive mum on why longtime foreman ousted

By Ben Carlson

As a magistrate, John Wayne Conway called Chip Chambers one of the best county highway supervisors in the state.
As the county’s next judge-executive, Conway has sent Chambers packing and will name one of Chambers’ former employees to replace him in that position.
Chambers revealed Conway’s plans during last Tuesday’s meeting of the Anderson County Fiscal Court.
During what would prove to be his final department head report, Chambers — who ran against Conway for judge-executive — used the time instead to read a prepared statement, and needle Conway for not reappointing him.
“On Dec. 1, I was informed by Mr. Conway that I wouldn’t be rehired as county road supervisor,” Chambers said. “His statement was, ‘It’s not political. You just don’t fit in my administration.’
“Later that same day, Billy Catlett informed me he would be the new road supervisor. I wish Billy luck in this endeavor.”
Conway remained silent during Chambers’ statement and looked down through the majority of the short speech.
Contacted later in the week, Conway confirmed that Chambers is out and Catlett is in, but declined to discuss why he will not reappoint Chambers to the position he’s held for the past seven years.
Chambers went on with his statement, essentially disagreeing with what he claims was Conway’s statement that him being replaced isn’t political.
“I applaud the members of the fiscal court,” Chambers said. “You give freely of your time by exercising your constitutional right to run for office.
“I also exercised this right, and it cost me a job I dearly loved.”
Early on, Chambers recounted what Conway told him while interviewing him for the highway supervisor position.
“Seven years and one month ago, [former judge-executive] Anthony Stratton asked me to move to Kentucky from northeast Tennessee and become road supervisor,” Chambers said.
“Then in 2006 and 2008, I was reappointed by Steve Cornish. I am grateful to both of these men for the confidence they showed in me.
During my interview with Anthony and magistrates Conway and [Juretta] Wells, Magistrate Conway told me the job of county road foreman was the most political job in the county. His words were quite prophetic.”
Chambers, who was later presented with a $25 gift card as a parting gift from the fiscal court, also ticked off a list of his accomplishments as road supervisor, including:
Installing precast box culverts for the first time
Purchasing a paver and roller
The county paving its own roads for the first time
Purchasing a salt truck and using salt for the first time
Writing new subdivision regulations
Making the department KACo and OSHA compliant
“Beyond a shadow of a doubt, the Anderson County Road Department is in better shape than I found it,” Chambers said.
“Sometimes in life things are taken away. It’s not fair, but it’s life. This is one of those situations.”

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