Editor's Note: This is the final in a series of stories about contested races in the May 6 Hamilton County primary election, for which early voting starts April 16. To read previous coverage, refer to the article at community.timesfreepress.com/news/2014/apr/02/two-hopefuls-seeking-district-5-county-commission-/?Community-Downtown.
All of the candidates seeking the Democratic nomination for Hamilton County's District 4 Commission seat agree: The inner-city district is lagging economically. The schools need improving, and crime must be reduced.
To do that, the candidates say the county, city and Board of Education need to work together more closely to help District 4 students have better opportunities to succeed.
Incumbent Commissioner Warren Mackey, who is running for his third full term, is being challenged by a former Chattanooga councilwoman and a former county official.
Pam Ladd, who served one term in the city's District 3 seat and was unseated last year by Councilman Ken Smith; and Kirkland Robinson, who served as general service administrator under former County Executive Dalton Roberts, are vying for the Democratic nod.
Mackey, a history professor at Chattanooga State, said he's running again because "there's still more work to be done."
"My primary reason for serving in public life is to bring great jobs to Hamilton County," said Mackey, a graduate of Riverside High School.
Jobs will improve the financial state of residents of District 4, which includes Avondale, Bushtown and East Chattanooga. Good schools will attract more industries - thus creating more jobs, he said.
"We [District 4] lag behind in education; we have the highest crime rate in the community," said Robinson, who was raised in Chattanooga and graduated from Howard. "The current commissioner has had 10 years, and in that 10-year period you can't see any difference."
He would advocate for new middle and elementary schools in the district. County commissioners, he added, should have term limits.
"I think once a man or lady has two terms in office, they should move on. These positions are not meant for people to retire from," Robinson said.
Ladd said she is running because she enjoyed serving the public while serving on the City Council. Along with working to improve relations with Chattanooga and the Board of Education, she said she wants to see health care improved.
"I want to make sure people understand the impact the health department has on the community. It provides such an important service," the lifelong Chattanooga resident said.
She would also like to see the county increase its contribution to Erlanger Health System and help any way it can as the hospital transforms its structure.
Ladd attended UTC and worked for TVA and Provident before starting her own business.
There are no Republicans seeking the post. Whoever wins the May 6 primary will likely win the August election.