Kelly takes office as Chattanooga's mayor Monday with plan for first 100 days

Staff Photo by Matt Hamilton / Mayor-elect Tim Kelly pauses during his victory speech as the crowd cheers at the Chattanooga Brewing Co. on Tuesday, April 13, 2021.

Tim Kelly will take office as mayor of Chattanooga Monday, starting out with a plan to address COVID-19, economic disparities and education in his first 100 days.

Kelly was elected by 60% of those who voted in a runoff election last week, balloting that was held six days before the winner was to take office.

In the coming weeks, he plans to follow several dozen action steps to address COVID-19, education, roads and parking, homelessness and affordable housing, criminal justice, public safety and other issues.

The new mayor, along with the nine members of the Chattanooga City Council, will be sworn in Monday morning.

Kelly is yet to announce his transition team or members of his permanent senior staff but said he will keep some members of outgoing Mayor Andy Berke's administration in place to ensure continuity during the transition period.

"Continuity is critically important for taxpayers and for city services, and so there will be some key people in senior leadership positions there that will be sticking around, maybe in a different role, but sticking around," Kelly said Wednesday.

To prevent short turnaround times for future administrations, Kelly said he will introduce a ballot measure to eliminate the need for runoff elections.

"I'm a big fan of ranked-choice voting. I would love to see the city embrace ranked-choice voting in nonpartisan elections. There's no reason on earth why we shouldn't do it," Kelly said Wednesday. "There are people in political parties who oppose it, and I understand that, but this is a nonpartisan election, and it will save the taxpayers hundreds of thousands if not millions of dollars."

In ranked-choice voting, citizens rank candidates with an ordinal scale - like first, second and third choice, for example - rather than strictly voting for a single option. That allows for a sort of "instant runoff" because voters have already selected their choice in the event that their preferred candidates don't win based on first-place ballots alone.

But even if the ranked-choice approach doesn't catch on, Kelly said he will advocate for some reform to the current six-week runoff system.

"It might be more difficult because it involves a learning curve for people," Kelly said. "At a minimum, I think what we've settled on is proposing to split that transition period in half, to have a three-week runoff. And then that way you will get a three-week transition, because this is just madness, quite frankly."

Within the city government, Kelly said, he plans to maintain some of Berke's reconfigured city departments and restructure others.

"I do think we're going to carry on with the splitting of the economic and community development function. And we'll be reshuffling," Kelly said. "YFD (Youth and Family Development) will become Parks and Outdoors, that much we know. It will serve much the same purpose, but that will probably be the most dramatic piece from the outside looking in."

As the dust settles from the transition into office, Kelly will have to complete his first budget as mayor. While the budget is one of, if not the biggest, things that the city government does in a year, Kelly said he's feeling more confident than he expected to be.

"Between the projections versus reality in terms of sales tax, plus the federal aid, I don't worry," he said, noting the city's roughly $40 million in federal COVID-19 relief funding. "I planned to worry, you know, long ago. And I have had to manage budgets where it was just 'throw everything overboard but the essentials,' and this is not that."

Generally speaking, Kelly said, he will largely do away with Berke's budgeting-for-outcomes process, but will continue to follow his model of public input.

"We're, at least internally, going to think through the lens of budgeting for impact, you know, and how money is spent in ways that people feel it and find value in it," Kelly said. "We will also make sure to keep the public input portion of budgeting for outcomes, for sure."

But most of all, Kelly said he's excited to get into policy.

"If it wasn't obvious, I didn't enjoy the political process. I soldiered through it, but this is the part that I look forward to," he said of policymaking. "I mean, I'm used to, you know, being productive and creative and [getting] stuff done, and that's what energizes me."

Below is Kelly's full first 100 days plan.


Coordinate with Hamilton County mayor and Hamilton County Health Department to expand testing, build trust across communities and support innovative methods to accelerate vaccination distribution throughout the city.

Establish a policy director for community health and develop an interlocal agreement with Hamilton County to tightly coordinate with the health department.

Provide a one-stop shop to help small businesses navigate and recover from the COVID-19 crisis by sharing best business practices, identifying government support resources and helping navigate red tape that prevents business launches.

Utilize the 2019 city of Chattanooga disparity study to develop and implement a new city of Chattanooga Minority Business Enterprises (MBEs) program with specific goals for increasing MBE participation in the city procurement process.

Partner with Hamilton County Schools to provide resources to keep schools safe and open.


Inventory the full number of pre-K seats available in Chattanooga through both public and private providers, including cost analysis per seat.

Establish a task force, including community partners, to develop a strategic plan to provide affordable pre-K for all.

Increase minimum wage for Head Start teachers to $15 per hour to promote recruiting and retention of those teachers.

Establish an education partnership with Hamilton County Schools and the Chamber of Commerce to jointly develop cradle-to-career pathways from poverty to opportunity.

Commit city resources to launch the Building Trades Academy in partnership with Hamilton County, Associated General Contractors, Hamilton County Schools, Chattanooga State and other key organizations.

Prepare an action plan to expand transit coverage to better serve locations near Future Ready Institutes.


Reallocate $3.5 million to increase funding for paving and potholes.

Implement a paving action plan to pave as many roads as possible in summer 2021.

Establish a strategic plan for road paving over the next five years with a focus on using a smarter and more practical approach to paving, by reducing mobilization costs and utilizing better contracts.

Implement a new process to repair potholes timely and effectively.

Implement processes to streamline monitoring of potholes.

Develop an action plan for synchronizing traffic lights.

Develop an action plan for modifying bicycle lanes, incorporating considerations for alternative vehicles.

Deploy wayfinding signage to expand access to underutilized parking resources.

Develop an action plan to activate full functionality for city mobile parking solutions.

Work with private parking lot owners to develop shared-use agreements.

Establish a working group to study implementation and make recommendations on a transit center/transfer hub.

Solicit proposals for targeted pilot projects to increase electrification infrastructure.


Begin implementation of fare-free CARTA for selected main bus routes.

Establish community advisory boards (appointed by the mayor and city council) to provide operational recommendations for each Youth and Family Development center and reimagine how these centers best serve their unique neighborhoods' needs and wants.

Convert YFD centers into dedicated community centers that are operated based on the specific needs of each neighborhood. Each neighborhood has its own character and its own needs - community centers should reflect the needs of their community.

Develop a capital plan for investments in neighborhoods from community center upgrades to playground equipment and sidewalks.

Revive neighborhood parks and create a department dedicated to parks and outdoors.


Complete a survey of city-owned properties that can be converted to affordable housing, including analyses of liens to be cured.

Convene private, nonprofit and foundation representatives to discuss the creation of innovative strategies to finance the development of affordable housing.

Work with the state legislative delegation as necessary to resolve issues with liens.

Revitalize the Land Bank Authority and implement processes to convert vacant, abandoned and delinquent properties to affordable housing.

Complete an audit of the Affordable Housing Trust Fund to ensure that the city is leveraging federal funding sources and incentives, like the HOME Investment Partnerships Program and Low-Income Housing Tax Credit, to enable the city, along with private sector and nonprofit partners, to expand the supply of safe and decent affordable homes in Chattanooga.

Develop a strategic plan to convert 100 city-owned properties to affordable housing by Dec. 31, 2021.


Work with the Chamber of Commerce to optimize working relationships and proactively participate in the business recruitment process.

Establish a focused "use-case" for Chattanooga to sharpen our pitch to prospective companies.

Work with the Chamber of Commerce and EPB to develop an incentive program to attract relocating "work from homers" and entrepreneurs.

Coordinate small-business and entrepreneurial support resources for maximum impact.

Establish pathways to higher-quality jobs by developing partnerships with local industries and trade unions to provide skilled-work training.

Hold a small business summit to identify hurdles that impede their business growth.

Begin development of Outdoor Chattanooga app to consolidate resource access.


Establish policies and revise codes to decriminalize poverty.

Provide support to ensure that the Police Advisory & Review Committee (PARC) operates as intended.

Develop a community outreach response team that can dispatch to nonviolent situations involving mental illness, homelessness and addiction.

Develop recruiting strategies to ensure that the police department increases minority representation to reflect the community it serves.

Promote community policing through implementation of national best practices and integrating input from neighborhoods.

Partner with the Fraternal Order of Police to implement a pay plan that resolves pay disparities while enhancing recruiting and retention efforts.

Partner with the Chattanooga FireFighters Association to implement a pay plan that resolves pay disparities while enhancing recruiting and retention efforts.

Develop a common-sense capital plan to ensure that the police and fire departments have adequate equipment and resources for training and operations.


Issue an executive order to create a rental registry complete with prices and Housing Choice Voucher acceptance status and establish anti-discrimination policies.

Coordinate with the Chattanooga Housing Authority to develop and launch a Housing Choice Voucher incentive package to boost affordable housing supply.

Review the Chattanooga Interagency Council on Homelessness (CICH) strategy and develop a housing-first action plan to address homelessness.

Establish a working group to better coordinate services and support shelter providers.

Create a working group to establish a comprehensive homelessness strategy.

Work with Hamilton County to expand the FUSE program.

Convene local nonprofits dealing with homelessness to repair communications and better coordinate the provision of services with the city.


Empower the Office of Performance Management and Open Data to increase transparency and focus on accountability.

Embed a performance management system across all departments, establish monthly performance management meetings and implement public reporting process.

Research internal messaging system that would allow faster non-hierarchical communication, awareness and action among city employees.

Implement an impact-based budgeting process that focuses on sufficiently funding the services that impact citizens the most - public safety, roads, garbage collection, recycling, brush collection, etc.

Appoint a policy director for code reform.

Establish a task force to develop a sensible plan to overhaul and simplify city codes.

Implement process improvement plans across all city departments.

Complete pay study and develop an implementation plan to increase minimum wage for city employees to $15 per hour.

Develop and implement a plan to expand and improve 311 services to ensure more timely and effective services for all citizens.

Update city website to enhance transparency and user experience.

Implement a more robust 311 app.

Partner with the Hamilton County mayor to develop sensible interlocal agreements to better manage services that impact both city and county residents.

Restore legislative analyst position for the city council in order to provide a more robust analysis of resolutions for both city council members and the public.

Contact Sarah Grace Taylor at or 423-757-6416. Follow her on Twitter @_sarahgtaylor.