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Hamilton County Assessor of Property Bill Bennett is retiring.
polls here 3484

Prepare to vote

You can find registration forms at the Hamilton County Election Commission office, 700 River Terminal Road in Chattanooga, or at the post office, libraries and most other city or state offices.

Or, download and print a voter registration form: bit.ly/registration-pdf

View a sample ballot: bit.ly/hamilton-ballot

Anyone who wants to get in on the March 1 "SEC" presidential primary has until the end of Monday to register to vote.

The nickname comes about because Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Tennessee and Texas, all members of the Southeastern Conference for college athletics, are all holding their Republican and Democratic presidential primaries that day.

Hamilton County voters also will be casting primary ballots for a Hamilton County Criminal Court judge position and the assessor of property seat being vacated by retiring incumbent Bill Bennett.

ON THE BALLOT

Republicans can choose among 14 names of presidential candidates, including some who've dropped out of the race. The rest of the ballot's first page is devoted to choices for party delegates either committed to a particular presidential candidate or delegates-at-large to the July GOP convention in Cleveland, Ohio.

The local primaries for the judge and property assessor contests are on the second page of the ballot.

The Democratic ballot is much simpler: Just the three presidential candidates' names, plus assessor candidate Mark Siedlecki and a write-in for criminal court judge Division 2. No Democrat qualified to seek the position.

Democrats don't have a long list of delegates on the ballot; instead, party members will meet in March to choose delegates. Those delegates and others from the 3rd Congressional District eventually will settle on a group that will attend the July Democratic convention in Philadelphia.

THE RACES

Running for judge are Tom Greenholtz, who was appointed temporarily after Rebecca Stern retired; Mike Little, who works in the Hamilton County Public Defender's office; and Boyd Patterson, a former prosecutor and specialist in gang violence.

At a recent candidate forum, Greenholtz spoke of overcoming a difficult childhood, thanks to community support.

"Your No. 1 priority is to give back to the community," he said. "I was the beneficiary of many gifts, and it is my obligation to give it back."

Little emphasized his experience, saying he's tried 50 jury trials in state and federal, six homicide cases in state court, practiced in 11 counties and appeared before about 30 judges — "enough to know the value of a good judge."

Patterson described his in-depth research into juvenile and gang crime and experience on the city's former Gang Task Force.

"What causes criminals to cause crimes?" Patterson asked. "As a judge, I would try to understand what people before the court are committing crimes for."

The assessor candidates are Marty Haynes, a current Hamilton County commissioner and businessman, and long-time assessor's office employees Sterling Jetton and Randy Johnston. All the candidates said they want to update and modernize the office in various ways, such as improved GIS mapping — a system designed to analyze, manage, and present all types of spatial or geographical data; hiring Spanish-speakers; cross-training and ending the assessor's take-home car.

Haynes, who was appointed to the County Commission in 2012 and elected in 2014, has a long record of civic service in the Hixson community. He said he wants to improve customer service and accessibility to the public.

"My message has been the same: I bring over 30 years private business experience into this race, and that experience lends itself to this office."

Jetton said he worked 27 years in the assessor's office before leaving four years ago. He's been endorsed by Bennett and former assessor and county mayor Claude Ramsey.

"I have the experience that counts as well as the integrity and character I think it would take to lead the assessor's office, being the main base from which tax dollars derive from."

Johnston has worked 31 years in the assessor's office and now is the residential property supervisor. He says his qualifications are loyalty and experience, both in the office and as a small-business owner for more than 20 years.

"I am a public servant; I take those words very seriously," he said.

The primary winner will face Democrat Mark Siedlecki, another assessor's office worker who is unopposed in his party primary, in the August county election.

Siedlecki hasn't made a formal announcement yet, but describes himself as a businessman with decades of experience in management and technology.

"I have the experience and skills needed to modernize the office and make it run more efficiently, for the benefit of our citizens. I look forward to a competitive race with the Republican nominee in August," he said in a statement to the Times Free Press.

WHERE TO VOTE

Early voting takes place at the election commission office and three satellite sites, including a new site for Hixson voters.

For years, the early voting site for Hixson was located somewhere in Northgate Mall. But not this year. The Hamilton County Election Commission website said the location had to be changed because of increased development in the mall.

The new site is the North River Civic Center, 1009 Executive Drive, just off the mall perimeter road between the U.S. Post Office and Northgate Library. Voting hours are Monday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-6 p.m.

The other early voting sites are:

' Brainerd Rec Center, 1010 N. Moore Road; Monday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-6 p.m.

' Eastwood Church, 4300 Ooltewah-Ringgold Road; Monday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-6 p.m.

' Election Commission Office, 700 River Terminal Road; Monday-Friday, 8 a.m.-7 p.m.; Saturday, 9 a.m.-6 p.m.

Voters must have a valid state or federal government-issued photo ID to vote. For information about what types of ID are acceptable, visit GoVoteTN.com or call toll free 1-877-850-4959.

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