Andy Berke analyzing Chattanooga top to bottom

Andy Berke analyzing Chattanooga top to bottom

March 10th, 2013 by Cliff Hightower in Local Regional News

Andy Berke

Photo by John Rawlston/Times Free Press.

The first steps of Mayor-elect Andy Berke's transition will be looking at the way city government operates and getting public input on how to improve it.

Staffing for departments and his incoming administration will be the last thing considered, Berke said Friday in an interview.

"Before we can be specific about every position in city government, we want to make sure the city government is set up to execute my priorities," he said. "That means reviewing our city structure."

Berke will be sworn into office on April 15, taking control of a city government whose annual budget has swelled from $185 million to $206 million over the past four years. He is mandated by the City Charter to staff six city positions -- police chief, fire chief, chief financial officer, City Court clerk, city treasurer and city attorney. All other departments can be organized at the mayor's discretion.

Berke said he would begin the process by having public meetings. Where and when those meetings will be held will be announced soon, Berke said.

He said he would also be seeking guidance on city government from other sources.

"I want to include information from those in city government, those who have worked in city government in the past and those who have worked with city government and seen where it's been effective and where it's fallen short," Berke said.

He said he has not met with current Mayor Ron Littlefield, but more than likely will soon.

"I'm sure they'll be in contact when everything is in place," said Richard Beeland, Littlefield's spokesman.

Berke's transition team includes four attorneys, two of whom are team leaders. The team has two members with previous government experience.

Berke said he wanted a group that is diverse and has connections.

"They know a lot of people in our city," he said.

Berke admits the last few months have been hard. He starts at 8 a.m. and works late into the night. He said he finally got to sit down and eat dinner with his family on Wednesday.

People are coming up to him and asking for favors. He said he knew that would be part of the job and sometimes it's hard to give them an answer. But he said he knows his responsibility.

"Part of that is to say 'no' as mayor," he said.