Candidates for Hamilton County mayor tackle workforce, education in Signal Mountain debate

Staff photo by David Floyd / The candidates for Hamilton County mayor — Democrat Matt Adams, left, and Republican Weston Wamp — squared off in a forum Thursday evening at the Mountain Arts Community Center in Signal Mountain. They answered questions about education, development, their priorities if elected mayor and more.

The two candidates for Hamilton County mayor centered much of their focus on education, a lagging workforce and public transit in a respectful, hour-and-a-half-long forum Thursday evening at the Mountain Commerce Community Center in Signal Mountain.

"I would say the most consistent challenge I hear from residents is equitable investments in our public education system," said Democrat Matt Adams, a 26-year-old paralegal and member of the U.S. Army Reserves. "For far too long we've allowed certain schools in certain ZIP codes to literally fall apart."

Hamilton County teachers don't receive a living wage, he said, and the district has not properly addressed discipline problems in schools.

"When I talk to teachers, they cite those two things as the biggest reasons that they want to leave Hamilton County," Adams said. "If we solve those two issues and invest funds that we're getting from the state and federal government that we've never seen before, we can see a world-class education system here in Hamilton County."