Tiffanie Robinson unseats George Ricks from school board in District 4

Tiffanie Robinson

District 4

130 of 130 precincts reportingTiffanie Robinson - 807 George Ricks (I) - 753 Montrell Besley - 522 Annette Thompson - 94(I) - incumbent; all vote totals are unofficial until certified by the Election Commission; some vote totals include write-in votes

photo Tiffanie Robinson
photo George Ricks
photo Montrell Besley speaks to his supporters at his election night party at Gran Falloon on East Main Steet. Montrell Besley ran for the Hamilton County Board of Education in District 4.

After eight years of representing District 4 on the Hamilton County Board of Education, incumbent George Ricks lost his seat Thursday to Tiffanie Robinson, who squeaked out a narrow victory Thursday night.

Robinson received 807 votes compared to Ricks' 753, with 2,185 total votes cast.

Covering a strip in the center of the county, District 4 encompasses portions of the Southside and East Chattanooga and contains 14 schools, many of which are among the poorest and lowest performing in the school district.

"I'm just really excited," Robinson said. "Three of the four incumbents have been unseated, and that means Hamilton County is ready for change."

Speaking about her close victory, Robinson said, "We knew that it would be close. We actually ended up winning by more votes than we predicted."

As president of Lamp Post Properties and partner at the JumpFund, Robinson is bringing years of professional and entrepreneurial experience to the position and has said she will be enrolling her kids in District 4 schools.

She ran on a platform of hope for change in the school system, saying the district should move away from its current budgeting practice based on basic enrollment numbers and adopt student-based budgeting, which provides principals with increased autonomy and can be more equitable.

Thirty-five-year-old Montrell Besley, teaches health and physical education at Woodmore Elementary School, and received 522 votes. During his campaign, Besley said he and his kids are products of the public education system, and he hoped to improve the schools and his community.

Speaking about Ricks and Robinson, Besley said, "I wish them both well. It was a great race ran. I just learned a lot and I had fun doing it."

During his campaign, Ricks argued that few people understand the challenges faced by Hamilton County. He said the system suffers from a lack of community support and a long history of underfunding, and candidates need to understand the reality of serving on the school board.

In a debate with Robinson and Besley in June, Ricks said politics inevitably get involved and school board members must be able "to play that game."

After his loss Thursday night, Ricks said, "I'm proud of my service that I've given to the school children."

He said he would continue to volunteer in the school system, something he said he'd done for years before he got onto the school board.

In 2012, Ricks ran unopposed and received 2,239 votes.

In Thursday's race, Annette Thompson was also on the ballot, although she did not actively campaign over the last several months.

Email Kendi Rainwater at krainwater@timesfreepress.com and Emmett Gienapp at egienapp@timesfreepress.com.

Hamilton County general and Tennessee primary election stories