Former Commissioner Craig Leuthold appointed Knox trustee

Former Commissioner Craig Leuthold appointed Knox County trustee

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"We're going to build trust back," Craig Leuthold told county commissioners. "We're going to build trust back," Craig Leuthold told county commissioners.

By MIKE KRAFCIK
6 News Reporter

KNOXVILLE (WATE) - Knox County commissioners named Property Assessor Public Information Director Craig Leuthold as the county's interim trustee Monday.

Leuthold will replace John Duncan III, who earlier this month pleaded guilty to official misconduct and resigned as trustee.

There were 25 candidates vying for the position. Knox County Commissioner Ed Shouse, former Rush Fitness Centers CFO Mike Manning, and mortgage banker and trustee office employee Bill Curtis were considered front-runners, along with Leuthold.

Monday's meeting contained some theatrics and unpredictable moments. At one point commissioners considered delaying the vote to give more time to vet some of the candidates.

In the end, they chose Leuthold.

The interim trustee promised commissioners he would turn things around in the troubled department.

"We're going to build trust back," he said.

Many commissioners and residents said they wanted someone without any ties to past trustee office administrations.

"Clean slate, whoever takes over needs to have a clean slate," said Carl Wheeler, a Knox County resident.

A cloud of scandal dates back before Duncan to when Mike Lowe held the office.

Leuthold says he will provide some much needed leadership.

"We need to change the morale of the employees," he said. "There are excellent employees up there, been there for a number of years. They've been doing a good job despite everything that has gone on."

Shouse announced during the meeting he would no longer seek the nomination, saying he would serve what he was elected to do.

"Looking at what we're going through, I have a hard time keeping in this race," he said.

Since the trustee's office collects and invests taxpayer money, trustee needs to be bonded to protect against bad investments.

Commissioners expressed concern over bonding the new trustee. The Hartford Insurance Company denied bonding last week to interim Trustee Kristin Phillips due to what the company called a track record of misconduct with the position.

County Finance Director Chris Caldwell assured commissioners that Leuthold will get the bond with no problem.

Though he now works in the property assessor's office, Leuthold has 16 years experience in the trustee's office.

He was also a county commissioner for eight years and served for two years as the commission's vice chair.

According to information on the county's website, he holds a B.S. in Business Administration and Finance from the University of Tennessee and is a certified public administrator.

In a statement released shortly after the commission's vote, County Mayor Tim Burchett said, "I would like to congratulate Craig Leuthold on his appointment to Knox County Trustee. I look forward to working with him, and will make the Knox County Finance Department available to assist his office in any way necessary."

Before the vote questions were raised about Leuthold's possible appointment because his father, Frank Leuthold, is the treasurer for Commissioner Richard Briggs' campaign for the 7th District State Senate seat in 2014.

Knox County Law Director Bud Armstrong said there was no legal reason for Briggs to recuse himself from the vote.

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