Farmers' market director announces retirement amid critical review

Thursday, April 12, 2012 at 5:44pm

Amid “management and financial deficiencies” that a new report found at the Nashville Farmers’ Market, the market’s director Jeff Themm announced Thursday he plans to retire this summer, though he insists his departure is unrelated.

“I’m 65 and I’m eligible to retire,” Themm told The City Paper following a one-hour special farmers’ market board meeting to discuss the facility’s operational woes. “I’m looking forward to spending time with my seven grandsons.”

Themm, director of the Metro-owned market for the past seven-plus years, said he first mentioned the retirement possibility to Metro officials in February. “No,” he said when asked if findings in Metro’s audit played a factor in his decision.

Themm’s retirement, effective June 30, comes as the Metro Finance Department released a 55-page “special review” Thursday that inspected the farmers’ market’s operations and finances from Jan. 1, 2010, through Dec. 31, 2011. The two-year review, which found deficiencies “have been ongoing for several years now,” followed an earlier preliminary report that tipped Mayor Karl Dean’s administration to concerns.

The study, which some farmers’ market board members hadn’t read until Thursday’s meetings, highlights eight major findings. Among them are “weaknesses and inconsistencies” in lease agreements with the market’s restaurant tenants. The market has under-billed some tenants and over-billed others.

Farmers’ market management has also failed to “establish and maintain a cost allocation plan to adequately track, monitor and allocate full cost of its operations,” the review found. “Management did not monitor its costs of operations and thereby failed to adjust and distribute shared costs to vendors equitably.”

“We now have a starting point,” Tana Comer, chair of the farmers’ market board, said of the review, adding that it provides “direction” on how the board can correct problems.

“He worked as hard as he could, doing as well as he could,” Comer said of the departing Themm. “Maybe some accounting and time-management standards weren’t followed as closely as we would have liked, but that was his call.”

Comer said the mayor’s office would lead the search for an interim farmers’ market director. The board plans to establish a job description, set a salary and lead a national search for a full-time director.

“We’ll try to get the most dynamic person we can with the most experience into the market,” Comer said. She called the facility’s potential “tremendous.”

The board adjourned Thursday without taking any votes on policy changes that are recommended in the report. Board members are set to reconvene again next week. The board plans to divide into subcommittees to study different areas of the report.

Jim Fyke, of the finance department, said Metro would offer resources to assist the farmers’ market as its board searches for a replacement. A timetable to issue a request for qualifications in search of candidates to replace Themm isn’t finalized.

Fyke said the mayor is “absolutely committed” to getting the farmers’ market back “on its feet.”

“There’s no question that this administration and this mayor wants to do whatever it’s going to take –– hiring, transition, support,” he said.

AttachmentSize
Farmers Market Report Final.pdf1.08 MB

5 Comments on this post:

By: Shane Smiley on 4/12/12 at 7:57

Fyke said the mayor is “absolutely committed” to getting the farmers’ market back “on its feet.”

“There’s no question that this administration and this mayor wants to do whatever it’s going to take –– hiring, transition, support,” he said.

The mayor is showing some leadership in a venue established to benefit the well being of Davidson County residents.
Even though the Farmers Market sits on state owned property.

After 71 % of voters in the last election spoke in favor of keeping the Fairgrounds,a Metro owned property, we can only hope a similar study and commitment from this administration to get the fairgrounds back "On it's feet" is close behind.

By: spooky24 on 4/13/12 at 6:07

It might help if it were a real farmers market but it's not. What it is can only be described as a buy and sell middleman barter of goods from South America that arrive here cheaper than any local farmer can afford to grow them.
It's so sad. At one time the Nashville Farmers Market was one of the finest in the south. The only difference between what you see there and what is at Wal-mart or Kroger is that it cost twice as much.

By: BigPapa on 4/13/12 at 7:46

"The only difference between what you see there and what is at Wal-mart or Kroger is that it cost twice as much."

I have to agree that the only difference between buying at the "Farmers market" and kroger is the drive. I strongly suspect the vegetables come off the same truck.

By: ladyday1 on 4/13/12 at 11:27

Open a Farmer's Market in every CITY PARK and you will get fewer people to go downtown. Some of the same things found at these park markets are certainly NOT TN grown.in April.

By: govskeptic on 4/14/12 at 7:54

Just how much retirement does one receive after being a Metro Employee
for 7 yrs? A large number of our citizens work 20-30 yrs for companies
and receive no retirement other than SS!