Polk appoints Egan as permanent county attorney

Published 8:02 pm Monday, December 13, 2010

Polk County hired Mike Egan as its permanent attorney on Monday, Dec. 6.

Egan has served the county for the past several months on an interim basis.

Egan will replace former county attorney Tom Hix, who stepped down after several years of service because of health issues.

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Commissioners last Monday approved Egan’s appointment by a 3-2 vote, after swearing in the new board. Newly sworn in commissioners Ted Owens and Tom Pack voted against the appointment, after Pack asked Egan a series of questions.

One of Pack’s questions was, “What are your personal views on subdivisions and land use and your personal feeling on growth of counties?”

Egan answered that as an attorney he works for what the client wants, but his personal opinion is that growth is inevitable. He said counties should manage growth according to the wishes of the community.

“I’m certainly in favor of growth,” Egan said.

Pack also asked Egan how he felt about personal property rights, where Egan lives and if Egan has any interaction with any commissioners on the Polk board.

Egan answered that property rights are a balancing act and that the constitution protects property owners, but those rights should not cause any detriments to the community. He said he lives in Hendersonville and answered that he does not have any interaction with any board members.

Commissioners also asked Egan about his background. He said he’s been practicing law for 35 years, specializing in local government and land use law. He has worked with a firm that represented the state association of county commissioners, said he lobbied for a while and has worked for a firm that represented mostly developers.

Egan mentioned doing work for the cities of Asheville, Franklin, Brevard, Hendersonville, Blowing Rock, Lake Lure and Jackson County since moving to North Carolina in 1993. His work in nearby areas included assisting and authoring steep slope and subdivision ordinances, as well as a unified development ordinance.

Commissioners’ vote last week also followed a suggestion by Owens that the county appoint Egan on a 90-day interim basis while commissioners research hiring a full-time attorney who would also perform clerk duties. Owens said the move could save the county about $35,000 by cutting the clerk position, but his idea was opposed by commissioners Renee McDermott, Ray Gasperson and Cindy Walker, who voted down the subsequent motion.

The county will pay Egan a retainer of $1,500 per month that will cover payment for regular attorney duties such as attending meetings and dealing with contracts. Egan will charge a fee of $175 per hour for other duties, such as litigation and planning department services.

Commissioners later interviewed four county employees to fill the position of clerk to the board following former clerk Anne Britton’s retirement effective Dec. 10. Following the interviews, commissioners unanimously appointed Beth Fehrmann as clerk. Fehrmann has worked in the county manager’s office for a number of years.