Alison Gerber: Hot races will make a lively 2013

Alison Gerber: Hot races will make a lively 2013

January 6th, 2013 by Alison Gerber in Opinion Columns

Political fights for the presidency and plunging over the fiscal cliff may be in our nation's rearview mirror. But locally, things are about to heat up when City of Chattanooga voters elect a new mayor and council members in March.

The mayoral race promises to be tame; it appears that Andy Berke's run for mayor will be more of a walk. But in the council races we've got all the ingredients for a lively election: A crowded field, open seats and incumbents facing challengers. Get ready for some good, old-fashioned politicking.

Incumbents are not running in District 1 and District 2, leaving those seats wide open. Council members Jack Benson, Pam Ladd, AndraƩ McGary, Peter Murphy and Manny Rico all face challengers who want their jobs.

Several of the council seats have generated a bunch of interested (and interesting) candidates. Candidates include a number of former government officials and some folks who made names for themselves in business.

The slate of candidates includes such recognizable names as former City Councilman Yusuf Hakeem; Jim Folkner, who founded Citizens to Recall Mayor Littlefield; former city administrator Moses Freeman, former Signal Mountain High School Principal Tom McCullough; former City Parks and Recreation director Jerry Mitchell; Ken Smith, chief information officer for The Johnson Group; Roger Tuder, president and CEO of Associated General Contractors of East Tennessee; Tramble Stephens, former Howard School principal, and Chris Anderson, food and beverage director at Bluff View Art District.

And these are just the best-known candidates in the council races. There are a total of 27 running for council seats and three for mayor.

Reporter Cliff Hightower will have a report in Monday's newspaper about the races, and the Times Free Press will be there to cover every step, spat and spirited debate.

It happens often - someone is in the news a lot because they were involved in some sort of controversy. Or they were the victim or perpetrator of a crime, or they achieved something spectacular. Or maybe they spent years in political office and then retired or were defeated.

Then time passes and their moment in the headlines fades away. But we still hear from readers who want to know what happened to the once-newsworthy person.

Starting today, the newspaper will begin a new feature called "Whatever happened to ...?" in which we'll catch up with someone we once covered. We're starting with Mary Cody, the mentally disabled, epileptic woman who was homeless in 2011 when a stranger stopped on the street to help her. Reporter Pam Sohn's story about Mary won awards and, even better, generated a huge response from readers.

See the feature on page B1. And please feel free to offer suggestions on people you're interested in who may have dropped out of the public eye.

Just a few days into 2013 and it's already time to update the Times Free Press' "13 to Watch in 2013" list.

The list that ran on New Year's Day stated: "TVA's nine-member board suddenly has no quorum, thanks to Congress' partisan bickering. Five board nominations have been pending for months in the U.S. Senate." Late Tuesday night, the U.S. Senate Tuesday approved four new TVA board members, giving the utility a quorum.

The list also included leadership vacancies at UTC, mentioning that the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga has been without a chancellor since September. On Wednesday a search committee announced that it has selected five finalists to bring to campus for open forums.

That was quick.

Alison Gerber is the managing editor of the Chattanooga Times Free Press. Reach her at Send suggestions to