By Herman Wang Staff Writer
Economic development and crime top the lists of concerns among candidates vying to fill the open District 9 City Council seat vacated by Yusuf Hakeem.
Debbie Gaines, Quenston Coleman, Eric A. Colen Sr. and Edward L. Williams Sr. are on the May 2 special election ballot for the term that expires in 2009. The district includes precincts in Amnicola, Avondale, Bushtown, East Chattanooga, Eastdale, Glenwood, Highland Park and Missionary Ridge.
Former city deputy personnel administrator Wallace Powers currently serves as the interim representative.
Ms. Gaines, 51, retired in November as the legislative administrator to the Hamilton County Commission after six years. She had worked for county government since 1978.
She said she is campaigning on a four-pronged platform that includes economic development, safe neighborhoods, business/community partnerships and youth programs.
"I am campaigning on my vision to move the community forward," Ms. Gaines said. "I want to talk to the citizens and let them be a part of that."
Ms. Gaines graduated from Brainerd High School in 1972 and attended McKenzie College. She said she wants to see more interaction between the district's businesses and residents.
"We start partnerships, the same way you have schools adopted by businesses," she said. "We can build relationships, and that could provide incentive for them to support us with youth programs or afterschool programs."
Mr. Coleman, 53, is a probation officer with the state. He said he wants to address the crime in the area.
"I think people have a perception that there's a high crime rate and that the city fathers are not respecting them and communicating clearly with them," said Mr. Coleman, who graduated from Tennessee Prep School in Nashville in 1970 and attended Tennessee Tech University. "I want to re-create the lines of communication and boost the mutual respect that the government has for the citizens in District 9."
Mr. Coleman is the PTA president at Barger Academy and Chattanooga Middle and High schools and is a volunteer project director for the Alton Park/Piney Woods Neighborhood Development Corp. He said infrastructure is key to ensuring that the district remains a desirable place to live and work.
"We want to look at ways we can improve city services," Mr. Coleman said.
Mr. Colen, 49, a retired Army major and past president of the Glenwood Neighborhood Association, also said crime is a major issue in District 9 and he wants to push for more community policing.
"I want to get youth off the street, and the only way to do that is through community involvement," he said. "We were the community that had the first murder of the year."
Mr. Colen graduated from Brainerd High School in 1974 and East Tennessee State University in 1978. He said he would continue Mr. Hakeem's work to insist on more minority involvement in city construction projects.
"I want to be a voice for the people so they have someone they can look up to," Mr. Colen said. "In order to get anything accomplished on the council, we're going to have to get along. If I can get along with the Air Force, the Navy and the Marines, surely I can get along with the council."
Mr. Williams, 43, owns Mobile Tek Furniture and Rentals and other real estate in the area. He said he wants to focus on entrepreneurial programs in local schools to create homegrown economic development.
"Although we're not in the education business, education is our business," Mr. Williams said. "I want to train students to start their own businesses, so we can keep more businesses in the city instead of having to constantly recruit them from the outside."
Mr. Williams graduated from Kirkman Technical High School in 1980. To improve the district's economic climate will require collaboration among businesses, schools, government and the community, he said.
"This will be a way of introducing awareness, attitudes, skills and behavior, which will be beneficial to our present educational system, our future work force and present and future business community,"
Mr. Williams wrote in a prepared statement.
Mr. Hakeem resigned Jan.
23 to accept an appointment by Gov. Phil Bredesen to the Tennessee Board of Probation and Parole.
Council members earn annual salaries of $20,077.
E-mail Herman Wang at firstname.lastname@example.org
Quenston Coleman Age: 53
Education: Graduated from Tennessee Prep School, 1970. Attended Tennessee Tech University.
Occupation: Probation officer with the state
Eric A. Colen Age: 49
Education: Graduated from Brainerd High School in 1974 and East Tennessee State University in 1978.
Occupation: Retired Army major
Debbie Gaines Age: 51
Education: Graduated from Brainerd High School in 1972. Attended McKenzie College.
Occupation: Retired in November as the legislative administrator to the Hamilton County Commission
Edward L. Williams Sr. Age: 43
Education: Graduated from Kirkman Technical High School in 1980.
Occupation: Owner of Mobile Tek Furniture and Rentals and other real estate