The Blount County Commission late Thursday elected Todd Orr to serve as interim property assessor following the resignation of Property Assessor Tim Helton earlier this year.

In a narrow 11-9 vote by the Board of Commissioners, Orr edged out Chief Deputy Property Assessor Trevor McMurray to claim the position.

“I’m shocked,” Orr said following the vote. “I’m really shocked. I didn’t see that coming.”

Orr ran for property assessor in 2020 but was defeated by Helton. In a speech to the County Commission prior to the vote, Orr said the loss never discouraged him and that he was already planning to run for the position again in 2024 before Helton’s resignation was announced.

“Thanks to my competitive nature, that didn’t sit well with me,” Orr said of the loss. “Before Mr. Helton’s resignation, I already decided to be on the Republican ticket in 2024 and give it another shot.”

Helton handed in his resignation back in July, just three months after Blount County Mayor Ed Mitchell accused him of “being frequently absent from work.”

“It is with great sadness that I enter my resignation as Blount County Property assessor,” Helton wrote in his resignation letter. “This has not been an easy decision for me but I feel like it is in the best interest of Blount County and its great citizens.”

Helton later explained in a telephone interview that it was his health, and the health of his elderly parents, that ultimately triggered him to resign.

“For the past several months, I have been caring for my elderly parents and dealing with my own health struggles,” Helton said. “Sometimes you just have to step back and realize what’s important. I love my job; I just can’t continue my job.”

His resignation went into effect Aug. 31, setting up Thursday’s County Commission vote between Orr and McMurray.

“I’m a little disappointed in my loss,” McMurray said after missing out on the position by just two votes. “However, this is how democracy works. It’s not always pretty but this is how it works and this is what was chosen and I accept that. I look forward to working with Todd Orr in the future.”

As chief deputy property assessor, McMurray has been tasked with holding the Property Assessor’s Office together in the wake of Helton’s resignation, something that earned him a lot of support of the Board of Commissioners.

”After a lot of thought and consideration, I feel like Trevor McMurray deserves the job,” Commissioner Brad Bowers said just moments before the vote took place. “He’s earned the job because he’s been doing the job for the last two to three years. He would be the best candidate for interim because in the past that’s what this commission has done.”

Following his narrow victory over McMurray, Orr commended him on the job he’s done at the Property Assessor’s Office.

“Trevor has done a great job the past few years and I thought the commission was leaning towards him,” Orr said. “I’m going to lean on him a lot as chief deputy. We had planned on working together as a team during the 2020 election and I plan on doing that going forward. He’s a great asset to the whole staff.”

Orr is set to begin his job as interim property assessor immediately. He will hold the position until next year’s election.

Due to Helton resigning mid-term, the position will be added to the ballot during the May primary and the winner of the election next November will serve an amended two-year term rather than the traditional four-year term, according to Blount County Administer of Elections Susan Knopf.

On Thursday, Orr said that he plans to run for the position when his time as interim property assessor is up next year.

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