It's no secret that our county's leaders don't seem to play well with others when it comes to meeting and talking with leaders of local municipalities, school board officials or even dog catchers.
And some of our present county commissioners don't think it's their job to be innovators or initiators of plans or programs.
But county citizens need more from our leaders than a caretaker attitude. We need problem-solvers who are willing to think through our needs, analyze our challenges and work with other neighbor leaders to create new opportunities for us.
Pam Ladd can bring experience from working on the Chattanooga City Council to help build a bridge of cooperation that currently doesn't seem to exist here.
That cooperation is especially essential to District 4, where many residents are both citizens of Chattanooga and of Hamilton County - paying taxes to both governments. Yet those governments aren't talking much at all about even a few ways to share services and costs.
"I'm very much for those efficiencies," Ladd says. She ticked off several examples: animal control, parks and recreation, perhaps even police services. Presently the city and county duplicate all of those services.
"To me, parks and recreation (consolidation) is a no-brainer. I would definitely push for a panel to study that. And maybe it wouldn't turn out to be a savings or workable," Ladd says. "But you study it to see. And then you've done your due diligence."
Instead, she says, county commissioners have cut funding to Erlanger, the library, the health department - things that are clearly important to the whole county and especially District 4, which stretches from the Georgia state line through Alton Park, the Amnicola community and edges into Hixson. The district includes areas with high poverty and significant public health problems and schools with some of the lowest reading proficiency scores.
"As a candidate, I can't say I can fix it, but I can say I'll talk about it," she said. (As opposed to meeting privately to decide measures with no public discussion.)
What a concept.
The May 6 primary could elect the commissioner for District 4 if there is no run-off needed to decide the three-way race among Ladd, Kirkland Robinson and incumbent Warren Mackey - all Democrats.
We endorse Pam Ladd.
The residents of District 5 have two thoughtful and capable candidates - incumbent Greg Beck and Isiah Hester, a minister and owner of a commercial cleaning company.
Beck has nine years of commission experience.
Hester has energy, passion and a belief that county commissioners should serve for a maximum of two terms so that "young men (and women) of vision" can bring "innovative ideas" to the county.
Beck says commissioners "can't start programs. ... but we can do the best we can to be guardians of taxpayer dollars and the spokesmen for the people of our district."
Hester says District 5, which covers part of downtown and East Chattanooga north of Interstate 75 up to Harrison, has three of the county's four worst performing schools and a jobless rate about four times that of the county as a whole.
He believes it needs more than a spokesman.
He advocates support of national and local mentorship programs such as Save Our Boys, something his church is beginning. He also believes the county should offer a vocational training school in the core of the city to teach things such as masonry and cosmetology. He doesn't see vocational training as an educational stepchild.
"I believe it is a bridge to entrepreneurship," he said. "It can help young people to start their own businesses."
Beck points proudly to his work on the commission, not just his experience: He established the area's first joint city-county summer work program serving over 600 youths and their families.
He also is now in his third year as chairman of the economic development committee responsible for working with the Chattanooga Chamber of Commerce, "bringing thousands of jobs to Hamilton County."
Both men are Democrats and excellent choi-
ces for voters. The winner will have no Republican opposition in the Aug. 7 general election.
We endorse Isiah Hester.