Catoosa County opened the new year with a swearing-in ceremony for newly elected officials last week.
The joint program brought together elected leaders from the Catoosa County Commission, the Catoosa County School Board and the state.
"I know this is a little unusual from what we've done in the past but I think public service needs to have a little bigger light onto it," said Commission Chairman Steven Henry. "I think it's a big deal, and I think these guys need to know how big of a deal it is."
Henry said the ceremony — which he hopes will be the first of many — was another example of the burgeoning unity between the three bodies represented.
"Typically, our legislative, our school board and our county don't really do a whole lot together, but over the last few years, we're unified in pretty much everything we do," he said. "It's great to have everybody in one room working together with the common goal of serving the people in Catoosa County."
Sworn in for the Catoosa County Commission's District 4 seat was Charlie Stephens, who unseated four-year incumbent Ray Johnson with a campaign that pushed for higher employment rates and transparency within local government.
Chuck Harris, who advocated for better infrastructure and more local government support for education during his campaign, was sworn in for the District 2 commission seat, unseating longtime incumbent Bobby Winters by eight votes.
Winters first took office in 2002, making his 16-year appointment the longest of any active commissioner.
"These guys have got some big shoes to fill and we look forward to working with them," Henry said of Stephens and Harris.
For the Board of Education, incumbent Jack Sims was sworn in for the District 2 seat during the program. He ran unopposed. Incumbent David Moeller, who held on to the District 4 seat despite a challenge from candidate Brad Hayen, was not present for the ceremony.
"We are particularly fortunate in Catoosa County to have board members whose vision and accountability are to make sure that our children can compete successfully in college and the workplace when they graduate from high school," said Denia Reese, superintendent of Catoosa County Schools.
Ralph Van Pelt was sworn in as Lookout Mountain Judicial Circuit Superior Court judge, holding on to office after a nail-biting victory over contender Melissa Hise, his first opponent in 22 years.
Sworn in for State Court solicitor was Doug Woodruff, and Ron Goulart was sworn in as State Court judge. Both ran unopposed.
"We're talking about people of good character, honor, determination," state Rep. Dewayne Hill said of the three court appointees. "[These are] men and women have been elected and re-elected by the people of this area because they trust them."
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