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Front of Ken Smith election day sticker
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Ken Smith for Chattanooga mayor?
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Ken Smith

Chattanooga City Councilman Ken Smith has subtly, but publicly, announced he is taking a serious look at a mayoral run in 2021.

The message was there for anyone to read if they peeled back a blue "Ken Smith — City Council" sticker advertisement placed on the front page of the March 7 edition of the Times Free Press: "2021 — Chattanooga."

Ten days later, Smith posted pictures of the front-page sticker on his Facebook page, along with a link to a Free Press opinion column analyzing the chances of a Republican candidate taking the nonpartisan Chattanooga mayor's seat in the future.

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Smith, a Republican and chief information officer at the Johnson Group, simply captioned the post with the phrase "Let the discussion begin "

On Thursday, he talked a little more about the sticker for which he paid to run on Election Day for Chattanooga's mayor and City Council races.

"I'm beginning to meet with business and community leaders as well as residents to build a coalition of support as I explore the opportunity to run for mayor in 2021," Smith said.

Smith said he has received encouragement from several people who have reached out to him and asked him to consider running for mayor.

Tom Decosimo, managing principal of Decosimo Corporate Finance and treasurer for the Committee to Elect Ken Smith, praised Smith's "servant leadership" style and said he appreciated his ability to take the long view in moving Chattanooga forward.

Smith has served as Chattanooga District 3 councilman since 2013, when he unseated incumbent Pam Ladd. No one challenged him when he ran for the seat this year.

The Smith campaign had $32,112 on hand when it filed its Feb. 28 financial disclosure with the Hamilton County Election Commission. Even though he faced no opponent, the campaign war chest brought in $12,241 in the six-week period before the late February financial disclosure.

Election regulations will allow him to transfer the money to a mayoral campaign if he seeks the mayor's seat, Smith said.

While Smith may or may not ultimately run for Chattanooga mayor in 2021, one thing is certain — Mayor Andy Berke won't. The city code prohibits anyone from holding the office for more than two consecutive four-year terms. Chattanoogans will have an open field with no incumbent when they choose their next mayor.

For now, Smith might be the only person taking an exploratory stance — at least publicly — for the mayor's seat.

"I know of no one who is interested at the moment," Hamilton County Republican Party Chairman Joe DeGaetano said.

Terry Lee, chairman of the Hamilton County Democratic Party, described some vague rumblings within his party.

"I think there's some folks trying to figure out how they might serve, but they haven't decided whether they would serve best on the council or as mayor," Lee said. "I expect we'll learn more in the next six months or so. I think they wanted to give the mayor some time after his election victory and not hog the attention."

Contact staff writer Paul Leach at 423-757-6481 or pleach@timesfreepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @pleach_tfp.

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