Bently Thomas ready for county role
by By DAVID DAVIS Managing Editor
Apr 15, 2013 | 1486 views | 0 0 comments | 5 5 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Bently Thomas
Bently Thomas
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Bently Thomas brings a wealth of government experience and education with him as he settles into the role of Bradley County planning director and seems well equipped for meeting the challenges in Bradley County brought on by growth.

Thomas replaced former County Planner Corey Divel who filled the vacancy left by Cleveland senior planner Paul Corder when he accepted the planning job in Lebanon.

Since 2005, the 31-year-old South Pittsburg native has completed an intern program in the U.S. House of Representatives, worked as legislative bill clerk in the office of the chief clerk in the Tennessee House of Representatives and was employed as a principal community planner in the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development. He earned a bachelor of arts in political science from the University of Alabama in 2004 and a master of public administration from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga in 2010.

“I was raised on a 350-acre hay and cattle farm at the head of King’s Cove. It was my grandfather who farmed it; my dad was a teacher and coach,” he said.

Thomas was the placekicker at North Jackson High School his freshman and senior years.

“I was always too scrawny to be the quarterback,” he said. “I liked to skateboard back then. I used to compete a lot in Nashville and Knoxville.”

Because of his farming heritage, he understands why people want to live in the country and proper planning, he believes, is one way to preserve the rural lifestyle.

Thomas was the city administrator for the city of South Pittsburg immediately prior to his arrival in Bradley County. During the 20 months in that job, he was the chief operating officer for the municipal government.

“I was responsible for supervising the administration of all city departments, offices and agencies,” he said in a recent interview. “There were four department heads and 19 employees.”

It was his job to balance, prepare and propose the city’s annual budget, “which included keeping the mayor and commissioners informed of the city’s financial condition and future needs.”

Thomas describes himself as easygoing and someone who likes people. He enjoyed interviewing and recommending potential employees to the board of city commissioners. A part of the job he did not enjoy was disciplining and recommending employees for termination.

“Probably the hardest part of that job was keeping up with federal, state and local regulations and making sure the city was in compliance,” he said. “It was a busy job. I was the main contact at the city for all outside government agencies.”

In addition, he was the city planner. The job was highly demanding and paid well, but it allowed him very little time with his fiancée, Kerri Collins, who teaches pre-K at Birchwood Elementary. The couple plans for a July wedding. One Sunday afternoon while visiting her at her parents’ home, he happened to see the ad for a county planner in the newspaper.

“I think I applied for the job the next day,” he said.

Before the job as city administrator, Thomas worked for the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development from July 2007 until July 2011 for up to 12 rural counties and municipalities in Southeast Tennessee.

During those four years, he communicated development issues to local officials and staff. He assisted the local governments on proper planning for acquired grants, including water and wastewater utility expansion and development.

He drafted ordinances and resolutions amending community zoning ordinance and subdivision regulations, wrote and assisted with executing short- and long-range plans, and served as liaison between FEMA and the rural communities.