Hamilton County Mayor-elect Wamp unveils core members of his staff

Staff Photo by Robin Rudd / Incoming Hamilton County Mayor Weston Wamp speaks Wednesday, August 31, 2022, with the Chattanooga Times Free Press.

In an effort to reflect priorities he outlined during the campaign, Hamilton County Mayor-elect Weston Wamp has tapped a leadership team that will include two deputy mayors: One focused on education and workforce development and the other on economic and community development.

Tucker McClendon, who recently stepped down as chairman of the Hamilton County school board, will serve as deputy mayor of education and workforce development. A graduate of Ooltewah High School and the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, McClendon was first elected to the school board at 22.

"Tucker and I have a now long-standing working relationship, and he is really one of a kind in our community in his understanding of our public school system," Wamp said.

Cory Gearrin, a 10-year major league baseball player and a member of Wamp's transition team, will act as his deputy mayor of economic and community development. He retired from the major leagues in 2020.

Gearrin served as a board member for the Major League Baseball Player's Association's executive committee for six years and is also a candidate for a master's in business administration at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He recently finished studies at Harvard Business School.

"Cory is one of the smartest people I've ever known," Wamp said. "Incredibly capable."

During an hour-long interview with the Chattanooga Times Free Press on Wednesday, Wamp said the new positions are part of a restructuring of the mayor's office and a step toward modernizing county government, a process that he expects will be a multiyear and multifaceted. Wamp will be sworn in as county mayor Thursday morning.

(READ MORE: Groundbreaking on Chattanooga Lookouts stadium planned for April)

"There is a lot to update," he said. "I mean it is, I think, stuck in the '90s in almost more ways than not. Some elements of county government work exceptionally well, and some are behind the times."

Wamp said he plans to remain on the Tennessee Board of Regents at least until the end of his current term. He noted that his background in workforce development will complement the knowledge McClendon has developed about the county's public school system.

McClendon, who ran unsuccessfully for the County Commission in the Republican primary for District 8 in May, will take on a portfolio that includes tackling school facility needs. 

Wamp and Hamilton County Schools Superintendent Justin Robertson will make an announcement next week about early steps in assessing facilities and assembling a long-term plan, Wamp said Wednesday. The school system has nearly $1 billion in deferred building repairs.

Gearrin's job, meanwhile, is being modeled after the commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development, which Wamp said leads many of the state's efforts to attract investment by outside companies.

"It's unusual to us that the county has not had a person in that role," he said. "It's not the entirety of the role, but certainly a lot of it is being the chief salesperson for Hamilton County."

Gearrin's responsibilities will also include the planning for McDonald Farm, a 2,100-acre property in Sale Creek that the county purchased in 2021 for $16 million.

(READ MORE: Hamilton County completes purchase of McDonald Farm for industrial park and more business news)

Wamp also announced four other members of his staff:

-- Claire McVay will serve as his interim chief of staff. McVay is a Chattanooga native who worked for 25 years in the U.S. Congress, including in the offices of both former U.S. Sen. Bob Corker and former U.S. Rep. Zach Wamp, Weston Wamp's father. She spent the first decade of her congressional career in Washington before joining Corker's staff in 2012. She served as an outreach coordinator and field representative for Corker's Chattanooga office.

-- Mary Francis Hoots of Local 3 News will serve as Wamp's director of communications. She has been a reporter and weekend anchor at the station since 2019 and is a native of Nashville.

-- W. Davis Lundy will act as Wamp's policy adviser. Lundy has lived in Hamilton County for 42 years and spent 17 years in the newspaper industry, including seven at the Chattanooga Times, before joining Erlanger Health System. After leaving Erlanger, he ran a strategic communications firm, The Moriah Group, for 19 years.

-- Angela Shannon will serve as the office manager. She graduated from the University of Alabama at Birmingham with a degree in finance and previously worked at the Chattanooga office of Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz P.C.

Wamp said his office is still ironing out the role the chief of staff will play in his administration. Mike Compton held the job during outgoing Mayor Jim Coppinger's tenure.

"We want to go and explore how it's been done, learn more about how it's been done, what the expectations of administrators are and ultimately find the best role for Claire," he said. "I'm not sure that Claire, who is going to be an exceptional asset, I'm not sure that she wants to work full-time long-term. She's a mom of four and has 25 years of federal services, and she's willing to come get us off to a fast start."

Wamp said much of his first few weeks as mayor will involve sitting down with county administrators and directors. Members of his transition team have been meeting with officials over the past few weeks to help Wamp form an understanding of the conditions of the various aspects of county government. Wamp said he wants to conduct the due diligence that community members would expect of him.

(READ MORE: Hamilton County Mayor-elect Weston Wamp announces transition team)

"As shot out of a cannon as I am, I'm not in a hurry," he said. "I'm not in a hurry even in terms of my biggest projects."

Wamp said he's still bent out of shape about the timeline for approval of a new Chattanooga Lookouts stadium at the former U.S. Pipe/Wheland Foundry site, which officials expect will break ground in April.

"Just growing up around politics, rarely have I seen things go well when they're in a hurry, and so we've got time," Wamp said. "There's a sense of urgency, but we're not going to govern by press release trying to impress the community with all these new things we're starting. I'd much rather be known for five things we did exceptionally well rather than 50 that we announced."

Contact David Floyd at dfloyd@timesfreepress.com or at 423-757-6249. Follow him on Twitter @flavid_doyd.