County transfer of power seamless

County transfer of power seamless

September 3rd, 2014 in Opinion Free Press

District 7 Hamilton County Commissioner Sabrena Turner-Smedley takes the oath of office from General Sessions Court Judge David Bales.

Photo by John Rawlston /Times Free Press.

Thirty-eight people were sworn into Hamilton County constitutional offices at the Chattanooga Convention Center on Tuesday without incident or controversy. Had there been an incident or controversy, it would have been highly unprecedented.

Twenty-two of those people survived partisan election campaigns in which no one was killed or even injured. Had there been as much as an injury between candidates, it would have been most unusual.

We take for granted the transfer of power in the United States. A campaign is staged and an election held. One party is voted out of office, and another one comes in. Our chosen candidates may have won, or they may not have. Life goes on.

It's not the same in every country.

The men and women who were sworn in at yesterday's inaugural ceremony will vote on the county's official business, will handle its finances, will keep its records, will maintain its peace, will administer its laws and will supervise its schools. We have entrusted them with considerable responsibility.

And we are able to have the confidence they will serve with, as the Rev. Ann G. Weeks asked God in her invocation to give them, "minds to think," "hearts to love" and "hands to serve."

Mayor Jim Coppinger, who took the oath of office for his first full term, did not lay out a short- or long-range plan for the county but thanked those officials who will now serve and their families who "allow these people to serve."

"We have been successful in Hamilton County," he said, "because of your hard work."

Coppinger also thanked the area's foundations, naming them, and said they were "instrumental in our success."

Public-private partnerships - often called "the Chattanooga Way" - have been pivotal in the area for years but most recently in the city's and county's turnaround and rank in many lists of the country's most (fill in a favorable adjective) cities.

Coppinger, drawing on his own campaign themes in a brief address, exhorted the county to "sustain its momentum" in economic development and job expansion and to have "higher expectations" for its public schools so its younger residents will have better opportunities to succeed.

He also suggested the county seek more "efficient government" and hold the line on property taxes, other taxes and fees of any kind. Indeed, he said, the size of the government might even be reduced through technology.

We look forward to hearing about such efficiencies and how they might be accomplished.

Taken together, the officials who were sworn in to Hamilton County constitutional offices are younger and have a net one fewer female and one fewer minority member than the officials they replaced.

In general, on deliberative government bodies, more diversity offers the body a better picture of the people it represents. But many of these races involved individuals in solo positions rather than as a member of a larger governmental body.

When District 7 Hamilton County Commissioner Sabrena Turner-Smedley took the oath of office Tuesday, she became the first woman elected to the panel since Charlotte Vandergriff and JoAnne Favors in 2002.

Meanwhile, Karitsa Moseley, at 33, was the youngest person to be sworn in and gives the Hamilton County Board of Education three women instead of the two it had previously. Forty years younger than several men who took the oaths for various offices, she takes her place as the District 5 representative on the school board.

Her age, she said, is emblematic of "the renewal of the city" and her official swearing in "exciting" but a "reflection of how you're [now] held accountable."

While these people now bear responsibility for the offices to which they were sworn in, it is up to those of us who elected them to hold them to those responsibilities and work with them so that the Hamilton County they represent at the next election is better than the Hamilton County they begin governing today.