published Friday, December 31st, 2010

Carter claims plot to appoint new mayor

by Dan Whisenhunt
  • photo
    Staff Photo by John Rawlston/Chattanooga Times Free Press Mike Carter talks with reporters outside the Hamilton County Commission room on Monday morning after commissioners deadlocked on making a choice between Carter and Commissioner Jim Coppinger to replace County Mayor Claude Ramsey, who will resign Jan. 11.

More drama unfolded in the county mayor replacement process Thursday as Mike Carter, a candidate for the seat, accused the County Commission chairman of using a back-door process to appoint Commissioner Jim Coppinger to the post.

Carter, a special assistant to Mayor Claude Ramsey, also said there are plans to appoint school board member Rhonda Thurman to Chairman Fred Skillern's District 1 seat and Mitch McClure, a volunteer chaplain at the sheriff's office, to Coppinger's District 3 seat. Carter said he learned of these plans from sources connected to the appointment process whom he would not name.

"They're going to have to do it in front of God and the public and everyone -- pull this off -- and if they do, God help us," Carter said.

Coppinger said he had no knowledge of such a plan.

"I'm just looking forward to the process continuing on," he said. "I'm not looking at alternatives or deals or anything like that."

Thurman and McClure also said they are not aware of any plan to appoint them to the commission.

Skillern, who voted for Coppinger in a 4-4 tie vote on Monday, did not discount the possibility of giving up the chairmanship for personal reasons, but denied he would resign from the commission.

The scenario Carter described involves Skillern resigning as chairman and Coppinger, now vice chairman, moving up to that position.

Once Ramsey leaves Jan. 11 to join Gov.-elect Bill Haslam's staff, Coppinger would become interim county mayor if commissioners haven't voted on a replacement, County Attorney Rheubin Taylor said.

Commissioners would then have until April 9 to name a permanent replacement, Taylor said. He said he is asking the Tennessee Attorney General questions related to this scenario.

Carter said his source told him Skillern would resign from the commission before April 9 and recommend Thurman for the seat.

"Fred didn't want to have that stench attached to him. He wanted to be off the commission and let Rhonda make that decision," Carter said.

Skillern said he is not giving up his seat.

"I am not going to resign," he said. "I have never even considered resigning as a Soddy-Daisy commissioner. I am not going to resign as Hamilton County commissioner. I may or may not consider giving up the chairmanship."

Thurman laughed when told of Carter's claims.

"If I'm going to have a new job, it'd be nice if somebody told me," she said.


* The Tennessee Valley Republican Women will host a forum for the two leading candidates vying for the Hamilton County mayor's job at 7 p.m. Monday at Red Bank High School. Hamilton County Republican Party Chairwoman Delores Vinson said both County Commissioner Jim Coppinger and special assistant to the county mayor Mike Carter have agreed to attend.

WPLZ-FM radio talk show host Jay "Jammer" Scott will moderate the forum. Questions or comments from the public can be e-mailed to or to Delores Vinson at

* Commissioners will meet at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday to take another vote on the replacement for the county mayor.

McClure also said he is not aware of such plan.

"That's the first I've heard of it," he said, adding that he has supported Skillern and Ramsey in past campaigns.

Other commissioners also said they had not heard about the plan Carter described.

Taylor's questions to the attorney general about the mayoral selection process include whether the commission would need to appoint a "temporary commissioner" during the period when a chairman is serving as the temporary mayor so the chairman's district will have representation.

He also asked if the chairman still could vote on a permanent replacement for mayor once the chairman assumes the interim mayor position.

Taylor has asked for an "expedited opinion" on his questions.

Carter said he is in "disbelief" about what he says is the chairman's plan. When asked if he was still a candidate for the job he said, "You're doggone right I am."

Contact staff writer Dan Whisenhunt at dwhisen or 423-757-6481. Follow him on Twitter at

about Dan Whisenhunt...

Dan Whisenhunt covers Hamilton County government for the Times Free Press. A native of Mobile, Ala., Dan earned a degree in broadcast journalism from the University of Alabama. He won first place for best in-depth news coverage in the 2010 Alabama Press Association contest; the FOI-First Amendment Award in the 2007 Alabama Press Association contest; first place for best public service story in the Alabama AP Managing Editors contest in 2009 for economic coverage; and ...

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AndrewLohr said...

Promote Rhonda Thurman and her friends? Sounds good to me.

December 31, 2010 at 4:30 a.m.
spktur said...

Never trust a suspicious man. You know it's a guilty dog that barks first. Besides do we want an attorney in a position like this? I think not.

December 31, 2010 at 8:02 a.m.
drd said...

Carter would make a good mayor he's already making up good lies

December 31, 2010 at 8:55 a.m.
GMills said...

Actually spktur, it's the "bit (bitten) dog that barks first". Your analogy makes no sense.

December 31, 2010 at 9:04 a.m.
youngdem said...

Is anyone naive enough to believe that Fred Skillern wouldn't steal the mayor's office and give it to a friend if the opportunity arose. Coppinger will take the mayor's job by force and the people will be the victims. Like any theft, this should be prosecuted in court.

December 31, 2010 at 9:29 a.m.
hadassah said...

Go ahead and give it to Carter. He will get bored with it in 6 months time and walk away like he does everything else.

December 31, 2010 at 9:35 a.m.
heneh said...

At this point there will be distrust on either side. This is not a good way to pick a mayor. There will be a division between the commissioners themselves and between the mayor and commissioners for the next two years. This process needs to be changed.

December 31, 2010 at 9:36 a.m.
governmentcynic said...

The thing that bothers me has nothing to do with any plot down the road. It is what Chairman Skillern said he would do next week, which is step down as chairman so that Commissioner Coppinger becomes the interim County Mayor. Seems the Chairman has been pretty open about that being something he would do, and that's just not right. That is a really backroom way to go about getting your man in the office. I just wish Commissioner Coppinger would break his silence and say he would not take the job under those circumstances.

December 31, 2010 at 9:58 a.m.

I would be appalled if the County Commission would use trickery to STEAL an elected position. Putting one person in as an incumbent would be giving said incumbent a definite unfair advantage in an election process as their campaign slogan could include such phrases as “Re-elect” or “Keep in office”.

December 31, 2010 at 11:20 a.m.
inquiringmind said...

hairdressing is good occupational education for a position that "shaves" the public, is't it?

December 31, 2010 at 11:26 a.m.
Allison12 said...

Mike Carter crying foul is harlarious, he had his own plot with Rheubin Taylor.

December 31, 2010 at 12:57 p.m.

The more I hear about and from Mike Carter, the less I like.

December 31, 2010 at 2:02 p.m.
jpo3136 said...

I have confidence in Rhonda Thurman to tell us what's what.

She has a history of public service as a teacher. She has a reputation for speaking the truth and voicing her opinion. She's a better choice for an executive than any of these other people we have in office right now.

The others are traders and dealers. Notice, they seem to be trading their way into more trouble for us, right now. No matter who a voter prefers, one thing is certain: the voter has little or no say in any of this, so far.

I don't understand why we're hearing about appointments. It's clear: no matter who they pick, after the fuss so far, the people will always look upon that appointment with suspicion.

We should have an election.

If someone needs to be appointed, it should be for only an interim, so that: an election can be prepared, campaigns run, ballots tallied, results analyzed.

Hamilton County can make an election happen, if we really want to.

We're not required to wait for a certain date or have a certain reason for a vote, are we?

The hubbub around this matter alone shows that it'd be a good choice for us to have a general election instead of seeing county leaders dicker and barter over an appointment and adjacent vacancies.

My guess is that they'll flunk doing what's right and horse trade their way into more trouble for themselves. No doubt, we'll end up directly paying for their error before the end of the calendar year.

Election time. Break out the scan-tron cards and the number two pencils. It's what Hamilton County voters understand.

December 31, 2010 at 8:59 p.m.
aidehua said...

Run Fred Run!

December 31, 2010 at 9:34 p.m.
alex_miller said...

Just wanted to post a link to another article by the same author.

Very telling. Seems Carter has a history of claiming conspiracy as evidenced here:

The poll at the bottom (of the first link) is also of great interest. Perhaps the commission could use the results (though not official) to get an idea of the public's opinion on the matter.

December 31, 2010 at 10:29 p.m.
MetroMax said...

We need Rhonda Thurman to run against Bob Corker.

December 31, 2010 at 11:20 p.m.
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