EDITOR'S NOTE: This is one in a series of stories about contested races in the May 6 Hamilton County primary election.
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.
The challenge for each of these candidates will be to set themselves apart in the minds of voters on May 6.
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.
Mackey was appointed by county commissioners in March 2006 to fill the seat of former commissioner William Cotton. He was elected in 2006 and 2010. He earned a bachelor's degree i and master's degree in history from Tennessee State University, and a doctorate from Middle Tennessee State University.
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," said the lifelong Chattanooga resident.
She would also like to see the county increase its contribution to Erlanger Health System and help anyway it can as the hospital transforms its structure.
Ladd attended UTC and worked for TVA and Provident before starting her own business. She has served on the boards of the North River YMCA, United Way's Center for Non-Profits, and ArtsBuild.
Robinson joined the race, because he said residents of District 4 just aren't being represented properly. District 4 has the same problems it had when Mackey took office, he said.
"We lag behind in education, we the have the highest crime rate in the community," Robinson said. "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.
Robinson was raised in Chattanooga. After graduating from Howard in 1962, he went to college in Knoxville. After that, he served in the military and went into business. He was appointed by Roberts from 1978 to 1981, and then spent 27 years running a construction business.
There are no Republicans seeking the post. Whoever wins the May 6 primary will likely win the August election.
Contact staff writer Louie Brogdon at email@example.com or at 423-757-6481.