Mayor Andy Berke says he won't step down

Mayor Andy Berke said Thursday he has no intention of stepping down.

During a Thursday afternoon interview, WGOW 102.3 FM talk radio host Brian Joyce launched the on-air discussion with "the 5,000-pound elephant in the room" - allegations made by Bobby Stone that his wife, Lacie, the mayor's senior adviser, was having an affair with Berke.

Bobby Stone made the statements to police two weeks ago when they arrested him on domestic assault charges.

Berke has denied he had a sexual relationship with his senior adviser and told Joyce he could not comment further on the matter while it is under investigation.

One caller asked Berke if he would step down if any of the allegations proved true.

Berke responded by saying he has said all he would on the matter, but later added, "No, of course not," when Joyce asked him if he had any intentions of stepping down.

Joyce also asked Berke if the allegations were politically motivated, considering he is a Democrat "in a sea of red."

"I honestly don't think about it," Berke said. "It's not important."

Reality is much different than the world of social media talk surrounding the allegations, Berke said, citing encouragement he has received from people in the community when talking with them face-to-face.

There is no way he can focus on improving Chattanooga's economy and public safety if he worries about social media chatter, Berke said. Work has been a refuge for him during this time, he said.

On a personal level, Berke said it has been a trying time for his family and his adviser's family.

Initially, he added, he reacted to the allegations with shock.

"I was surprised," he said. "It took me a minute to get my arms around it."

Then it came time to deal with it, Berke said, praising his family's willingness to make the kind of sacrifices they've had to make for him to be in the political arena. They said it was worth it if he could achieve some good, he said.

"We know that you have to have a thick skin and you have to be ready for what comes at you" when you run for elected office, Berke said.

Contact staff writer Paul Leach at 423-757-6481 or Follow on Twitter @pleach_tfp.