published Friday, July 27th, 2012

Coppinger's a keeper

Hamilton County Mayor Jim Coppinger is known for flying under the radar — even being a little boring at times. Coppinger has an explanation for that. "I don't want to unfairly raise expectations and not deliver," he told us during a recent interview.

Geez. What kind of politician is Coppinger? After all, aren't politics built on unfulfilled promises?

That's what makes Coppinger refreshing. We get the sense that he never wanted to be a politician.

Jim Coppinger is a former firefighter who rose through the ranks until he became chief of the Chattanooga Fire Department. After retiring from the fire department, he ran for, and was elected to, the county commission as a way of staying active in the county.

After serving on the commission since 2006, the opportunity to preside over the fourth largest county in the state more or less fell in his lap in January 2011 when Claude Ramsey departed the position to serve as deputy governor under Gov. Bill Haslam. The county commission appointed Coppinger to fill the remainder of Ramsey's terms.

Since he had to learn the job on the fly, expectations of Coppinger have been tempered during his time in office. Judging by his success to this point, however, Coppinger has earned the trust of Hamilton County voters and deserves to be elected to a full term as county mayor.

Coppinger, a Republican, is facing challenges from Democrat Rick Wilson — a UTC political science professor — and perennial independent candidate Richard Ford.

Wilson's platform is almost entirely built around ideas to consolidate Hamilton County and City of Chattanooga public services. The professor lists a number of possible opportunities to consolidate that would result in savings for both the county and the city, including merging the county trustee and city treasurer offices, as well as parks and recreation and library services.

These proposals, where they benefit both governments, are worth considering. For his part, Coppinger says that he is open to discussing consolidation of certain services, but admits that since the city and county have different benefits packages, it makes merging city and county employees all but impossible.

During recent tough fiscal times for the county, Coppinger chose to close a budget shortfall through attrition, rather than calling for tax hikes. The leaner county government now costs taxpayers millions less, with no noticeable impact in the quality of service county residents receive.

This example of improving government efficiency and trimming the fat from the county budget to make ends meet, rather than raising taxes, is a reflection on his view that tax increases should only be used as a last resort.

Perhaps Coppinger's biggest accomplishment to date came when he oversaw a plan to reissue county bonds at a better interest rate, which freed up $50 million for school construction and repairs at no additional cost to taxpayers.

In his short time as county mayor, Jim Coppinger has already proven his willingness to make tough decisions and stand up for taxpayers -- further proof that, thankfully, he isn't much of a politician.

With two years of experience under his belt, we expect great thing from Jim Coppinger going forward and strongly endorse his reelection as county mayor.

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aae1049 said...

You betcha Coppinger is a keeper!

July 27, 2012 at 12:35 a.m.
marti said...

I was laid off from Hamilton County by Jim Coppinger and he did not follow the policies and proceedures where it states you must transfer people to vacancies in the event of a reduction of workforce. There were more than enough vacancies for him to transfer people, but he didnt. I sat down to interview the current mayor. I must say, he really didn't have any good answers or explanation. I even shared with him suggestions on what other counties were doing in times of crisis that were positive, Coppinger didn't seem to care. I asked him why is it that so many making over $100,000.00 a year salary have a take home car in this recession. He basically said, he was not going to take any cars away from anyone which would have reduced the budget and he didn't. I also interviewed Dr. Rick Wilson. I must say, I am very much pro-life, and will always be, but this election. isn't about that. Its about our county, our taxes. It doesn't matter if a candidate is democrat or republican, or if you like obama or not. It matters most that they know what they are doing, follow the policy and proceedures and truly care about its people monies. After interviewing both, Dr. Rick Wilson is the very best candidate. He HAS a college education. He reduced his salary when he worked for the Hamilton county Election several years ago, because he CARES about our tax dollars. Coppinger on the other hand, gave himself a raise after laying people off. Wasn't it enough to collect a pension from the City plus a county salary? That speaks for itself of what kind of person coppinger is. It reaffirms that Dr. Wilson is the most qualified and best Candidate for Mayor. His plan does not include any tax increase. He has a plan that recommends consolidation of duplicated services. He is a brilliant man. He has tought political science to many who today are successful teachers, lawyers, politicians,health providers, business men/women etc.... If you could check out his plan for change it is brilliant. Dr. Wilson knows his stuff, super intelligent person. Check out his facebook.

July 30, 2012 at 4:16 p.m.
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