The next manager of the Sullivan County Animal Shelter admits he’s not an animal expert, but he said he’s willing to listen to and work with employees, volunteers and the community toward what’s best for the animals.
Terry Johnson, 53, of Bluff City, was hired by the Animal Shelter Board of Sullivan County’s Executive Committee as a county employee in May. His start date isn’t concrete but is slated during the first week of July.
Board President Linda Brittenham said earlier this month the board is working through a “transition plan” with county officials to take over operations of the Blountville shelter. It isn’t known when the board will take over. The county has been in charge of shelter operations since Jan. 1, 2018.
During an interview with the Bristol Herald Courier, Johnson said he’ll resign as the Bristol Tennessee Police Department’s evidence custodian on June 21. He’s worked at the department for 30 years, holding several positions, including patrol officer for 25 years and field training officer for 10 years.
While Johnson said he doesn’t have any experience running an animal shelter, he pointed out that he, like any other on-duty city patrol officer, has answered many animal control calls. He’s picked animals up, made sure they’re fed, watered and taken care of, and then dropped them off at the shelter.
“There’s a learning curve, and I’m going to have to learn it, but during that time, when I get down there, and I’ve got employees or I’ve got volunteers that say, ‘Look at this,’ I’m open, and if that’s the best, we’ll do it,” Johnson said. “I’ve got a soft spot for animals — I really do. They deserve to be taken care of. I know issues come up, and there’s things you can’t help, and you’re going to have to deal with them when they come up.”
Johnson thinks his management experience of people over the years and handling thousands of pieces of evidence for the past nearly five years qualifies him for the job. While he had planned to retire this year from law enforcement, he still planned to work in some capacity, so he thought he’d apply for the job at the shelter. He last visited the shelter about a year ago, when he and his family adopted a dog, Johnson said.
When asked if he could think of any shelter functions he’d like to change, Johnson said he won’t know until he starts. He said he’s studying the current shelter procedures and will enforce them, as well as any new policies and procedures that the board implements when it takes over.
“I want to hear from everybody what they feel like needs to be done, and I’ll do my best to do it,” Johnson said. “I’m willing to work hard. I’m willing to do what I have to do; just give me a chance to do it.”