Chattanooga mayoral candidate and businessman Tim Kelly is increasing his professional staff to allow himself more time for campaigning, picking up Hamilton County Department of Education Chief Financial Officer Brent Goldberg and others.
Goldberg, who announced Friday that he is leaving the school district, will work as chief operating officer of Kelly's Big Red Powersports. Kelly is also adding Ellis Smith, a local media professional, as chief marketing officer for his companies.
"Since our earliest days, we've been driven by innovation and operational excellence, making a difference in the lives of our customers and the employees who serve them," Kelly wrote in a release. "Brent and Ellis understand and share this vision. They're professionals at the top of their game and we're happy to have them on board."
Goldberg, who previously served as chief operating officer for the city under Mayor Andy Berke, and Smith, former general manager of media at FreightWaves and a former editor and reporter at the Times Free Press, will join Chief Financial Officer Phil Harris and Director of Operations Rachel Hansen, both of whom were hired by Kelly in 2019.
"As I begin to focus my energy on running for mayor, I'm doing so knowing these businesses will continue to thrive under the leadership of this fantastic team," Kelly said. "I can't wait to see what these companies will accomplish in the coming months and years as I turn my focus to building a Chattanooga that works for everyone."
To "keep the eggs and the milk separate," as Kelly puts it, Smith and Hansen have been hired to work for Workshop, a subsidiary of Big Red Powersports which houses much of Kelly's marketing team that does work for Kelly and contracts outside work as well.
"Technically speaking, they're still getting paychecks from Big Red because Workshop has yet to to break out and form its own LLC. It's just an organizational entity," Kelly, who had reported $1,400 in "campaign marketing" through Workshop to the election commission as of July, told the Times Free Press.
According to Kelly, Goldberg will not be doing work for the campaign, but Smith and Hansen, who is "basically the campaign manager," will be contracted through Workshop.
"I'm lucky and blessed to have experience in these areas where I can use these assets, but we're being very careful to keep the milk and the eggs separated," Kelly said.
Noting that compensation of his own employees with campaign funds would raise eyebrows and that using business employees for the campaign without compensation would be an in-kind contribution, Kelly said this is his best effort at fairly compensating people he trusts to run his campaign, while balancing the legal and ethical criteria of campaigning and business.
"I'm new at this. So sometimes the legal and ethical don't always perfectly align, right? But we're very, very careful to make sure that it's all on the up and up," Kelly said. "I have a company and I'm familiar with people in it, obviously that's who I'm going to want to use to run my campaign. But I don't want to and I'm not trying to enrich myself from supporter contributions, nor am I trying to get a head start by using assets and underreporting value on the contributions.
"It's a little bit of a Goldilocks problem."
Contact Sarah Grace Taylor at email@example.com or 423-757-6416. Follow her on Twitter @_sarahgtaylor.