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G’Fellers to voluntarily bow out of JCPB appointment

Jonesborough Alderman Homer G’Fellers will voluntarily bow out of his recent appointment as the town’s representative on the board of directors of the Johnson City Power Board.
In a phone interview Monday morning, the utility company’s former CEO said he was “trying to balance” his love of Jonesborough and his years of service to the JCPB.
G’Fellers retired as CEO of the JCPB earlier this year after 38 years with the company.
Jonesborough Mayor Kelly Wolfe appointed G’Fellers to the JCPB board of directors last month during the same meeting G’Fellers was named as Mary Gearhart’s replacement on the town’s Board of Mayor and Aldermen. Gearhart resigned from the post due to health issues.
Shortly after the appointment to the JCPB board of directors was announced, leaders at the utility requested the town postpone naming G’Fellers to its board.
They cited concerns with how his involvement would impact the ongoing search for a new CEO as well as issues surrounding an audit underway at the company.
At a meeting of the board of directors on Aug. 28, no wrongdoing by G’Fellers was reported in the findings released in the preliminary audit.
“The thing about the audit, the last sentence captures the whole thing. It says something like, ‘This preliminary audit is not to be used by anybody other than management. It’s to verify policies,” G’Fellers said. “It’s not supposed to be used to construe anybody as doing something illegal. The fact that somebody decided they wanted to air those things in a public venue, that’s the sad part of this.”
At last month’s meeting, Board Chair Jenny Brock recognized G’Fellers for his “huge contribution” to the JCPB, but said there was an “awkwardness of having him sitting on the board” as they worked to hire a new leader and make some policy changes.
Despite some “differences of opinion” between the board of directors and G’Fellers, he said he has a “good relationship” with Brock.
“I think we’re on the same page,” G’Fellers said. “All the members of the board have the best interest of the Power Board at heart. But sometimes they have differences within as to how to achieve that. They know where my heart is and my goals. Even though we may disagree on the details, everybody is in the place to work toward common goals.”
G’Fellers said he decided to resign — for now — from his post as Jonesborough’s representative on the JCPB board after talking with Brock about his future with the company.
The two have decided G’Fellers will serve as an advisor to the new CEO once that position is filled.
“I think it’s a real good role for me. I’m probably better suited in an advisory capacity right now,” G’Fellers said. “That way I can still take care of Jonesborough and make what I think would be the best move to allow the Power Board to progress, too.”
Last week, Brock released a public statement reiterating her support of G’Fellers and his serving in an advisory role.
“As I’ve said throughout the past few weeks, I am very proud of Homer’s service to this organization and more importantly to the rate payers of the JCPB. He led us through some incredibly difficult periods of transition…,” Brock said. “The fact that Homer was mentioned in the preliminary audit report should not be used to imply any criminal or ethical breaches on his part. During the audit, Homer was very helpful in providing additional information as part of the vetting process.
“Even though we have asked Jonesborough to delay their right to appoint Mr. G’Fellers to the JCPB board of directors, we do not want to foster a perception that his efforts all these years have been unappreciated or that his tenure was anything other than very successful. He remains an important part of the JCPB family.”
Town of Jonesborough leaders were expected to select a new representative to serve on the JCPB board at their meeting on Sept. 10.
Wolfe said he would prefer that person be a member of the BMA.
“I think all of us are in tune with the needs and concerns of our community,” Wolfe said. “I would consider doing it, but I would not want it to be a long-term thing. If I were to take the position, it would be, at the most, for a couple of years.”
Board representatives typically are appointed to serve four-year terms.
Wolfe said he understood the “merits” of the JCPB’s argument on the appointment of G’Fellers and in no way was “dismissive” of the concerns.
However, he said he believed G’Fellers would have been an asset on the JCPB’s board of directors, and is, by far, the most qualified BMA member to represent the town on the utility board.
Wolfe was not, however, surprised that G’Fellers volunteered to step aside.
“Homer is going to do what he has always done, and that is whatever is best for the people he serves,” Wolfe said. “It does not surprise me one bit for him to volunteer to put on hold his and our desire for him to serve on that board and offer someone else to take that position for a while.”
G’Fellers is leaving the door open for potentially serving as Jonesborough’s representative a couple of years down the road.
“At this point, I would say, yes. That will give the new CEO time to get into place and I will have time to get better acclimated to the things that Jonesborough needs in relation to the Power Board,” he said. “I’d still love to serve and I think I’ve got the history to be helpful.”