Mayor Tim Kelly seeks to restructure Chattanooga City government, dissolving some departments, creating others

Times Free Press files / Tim Kelly

Chattanooga Mayor Tim Kelly announced the reorganization of city government on Tuesday, creating some new departments and dissolving others.

Kelly announced his reorganization of city services, which will take place after the budget is completed in August, to the Chattanooga City Council on Tuesday, describing a new layout of city departments designed to be more efficient.

"Probably a better word for this than reorganization is realignment," Kelly said at the end of his presentation. "The whole idea here is to make city government more effective, more streamlined and just conform to common sense more."

In his plan, which he is required to present within his first 60 days in office under the city charter, Kelly proposed a significant reorganization of city functions and a new reporting structure, which were approved by the city council late Tuesday.

"We will be a community where City Hall isn't just a building on East 11th Street, but a network of services, places and relationships embedded in neighborhoods across Chattanooga," Kelly said.

"We will be a city with the most investment-ready early learning system in the country, with a path toward universal access. We will be a city where opportunity is not only possible, but plentiful, for every single one of our residents. In my administration, economic development will go beyond incentives and industrial parks - we will open up pathways for local small businesses to grow and thrive and hire. Finally, we will do all of this with an equity lens that ensures we're building toward long-term solutions for everyone in our community."

One of the biggest changes will be dividing the current Department of Economic and Community Development into two departments: the Department of Economic Development and the Department of Community Development.

According to the administration, Economic Development will manage economic and workforce development, real property and brownfields. Community Development will manage the city's community centers and oversee neighborhood services and assistance programs and will coordinate with the Economic Development on workforce assistance.

Kelly plans to absorb the city's Department of Transportation and the Department of Youth & Family Development into other departments. For example, community centers now managed by YFD will be managed by the Department of Community Development.

Parts of the Department of Transportation will continue to function under the Department of Public Works, while planning functions will take place under the newly created Department of City Planning.

Following up on his campaign emphasis on education, Kelly will create the Department of Early Learning, which will manage Head Start and family child care navigators and manage partnerships with Hamilton County Schools.

Kelly also plans to create the Department of Equity & Community Engagement, which will contain the functions previously served by the Office of Multicultural Affairs and the newly created Office of New Americans and also will perform community engagement and outreach functions. This new department, which reports directly to the mayor, also will focus on supplier diversity, as well as diversity, equity and inclusion across the city.

The newly formed Department of City Planning will include the Regional Planning Agency and Smart Cities, as well as transportation planning, strategic capital planning and sustainability.

Kelly will also form the Department of Innovation Delivery & Performance, which will oversee the 311 Center as well as the Office of Performance Management and Open Data. The new department will also oversee special citywide performance improvement projects.

The new Department of Parks & Outdoors will consolidate a number of functions from other departments to create a more streamlined and functional department focused on outdoor activities. The functions include parks planning, programming and maintenance, greenways and neighborhood connectivity, special events, outdoor recreation and golf courses.

The Department of Public Works will continue its engineering, wastewater, city services and fleet functions, while growing to include transportation and land development.

The city's police, fire, finance and administration, purchasing, information technology and human resources departments will retain their current structures.

Council members accepted the new structure with excitement and with requests for more changes to ensure efficiency for constituents in areas ranging from garbage collection to the city's purchasing process.

Kelly's chief of staff, Brent Goldberg, said the administration would be adaptive in structural changes and make tweaks as needed to provide the best version of customer service for taxpayers.

"We are going to evaluate all functions of government to look for opportunities for improvement," Goldberg said.

Kelly will also propose a new reporting structure designed to "help drive stronger decision making, as well as more responsive and efficient government," which will need to be approved by the council.

Under the new structure, the chief of staff, chief policy officer, chief of police, city attorney, chief equity officer and senior adviser for economic opportunity will all report directly to the mayor. The city will no longer have a chief operating officer, and the chief of staff and chief policy officer will oversee most functions of city government.

Under the new structure, Goldberg would oversee:

> Community Development

> Public Works

> Parks & Outdoors

> Fire Department

> Innovation Delivery & Performance

> Finance & Administration

> Purchasing

> Information Technology

> Human Resources

Chief Policy Officer Joda Thongnopnua would oversee:

> City Planning

> Early Learning

> Family Justice Center

> Office of Community Health

> Office of Homelessness and Supportive Housing

Until the mayor's office completes this transition in August, employees will continue to report to work as before and report to the same supervisors.

Kelly will appoint department heads at a later date, subject to confirmation by the council. The mayor has already requested confirmation of returning Fire Chief Phil Hyman, City Finance Officer Daisy Madison and Interim Treasurer Tanikia Jackson.

Chattanooga police Chief David Roddy announced Monday that he will retire later this summer, leaving Deputy Chief Eric Tucker to serve as interim chief while Kelly searches for a permanent replacement for Roddy.

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