Chattanooga Mayor Tim Kelly names new chief of staff

Staff Photo by Matt Hamilton / Mayoral assistant Joda Thongnopnua at City Hall in Chattanooga on Friday, October 22, 2021.

Chattanooga Mayor Tim Kelly has named as his chief of staff Joda Thongnopnua, a city employee who previously served as the city's chief policy officer since April.

Before joining city government, Thongnopnua, 28, of Highland Park, served as the director of strategic initiatives and communications for the Community Foundation of Greater Chattanooga, according to a Thursday news release.

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"I think what's really exciting about the city of Chattanooga is that it's an incredible place to make change," Thongnopnua said in a follow-up interview.

His salary will likely remain the same, he said, which amounts to about $150,000 annually.

Thongnopnua will be replacing Brent Goldberg, who was announced last month as the city's new chief financial officer. It is unclear when another policy adviser will be hired.

Thongnopnua said his priorities are implementing Kelly's One Chattanooga plan, which is the mayor's vision for the city during his first term.

"We have seven big goals that we're really pursuing," Thongnopnua said. "From creating a universal path to learning, to make sure each Chattanoogan has affordable housing. These are tough, systemic problems."

Thongnopnua has served as executive director for the Metro Ideas Project, a nonprofit organization dedicated to public policy research.

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Thongnopnua also worked at the Lamp Post Group, a Chattanooga-based venture capital firm with the goal of building the infrastructure necessary to support a tech hub in the southeast U.S.

"With our new budget in place, coupled with American Rescue Plan funds, we'll be able to make unprecedented investments in improving our city," Kelly said in a statement. "No one is more familiar with our One Chattanooga vision and framework than Joda, and his diverse background and experience serving our community has prepared him to lead the Mayor's Office to help make Chattanooga the best city in America."

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Contact Logan Hullinger at or 814-319-5158. Follow him on Twitter @LoganHullinger.