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This story was updated at 4:07 p.m. on Monday, Feb. 3, 2020, with a comment from incumbent board member Kathy Lennon.

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Red Bank Mayor John Roberts attends an event at the Tennessee Riverpark to announce the Mayors' Smoke Free Community initiative on Monday, Oct. 12, 2015, in Chattanooga.

Former Red Bank Mayor John Roberts picked up nominating papers for this year's District 2 school board race from the Hamilton County Election Commission Monday.

Roberts is working to get his name on the ballot and a chance to unseat incumbent board member Kathy Lennon, who also picked up candidate qualifying papers Monday.

Roberts was elected Red Bank mayor in 2012 after serving as the town's vice mayor. 

During his tenure, Red Bank saw increased development and new construction as the town capitalized on its proximity to downtown and Chattanooga's growing North Shore. While serving on the Red Bank commission, Roberts championed updating the city's zoning ordinance in an effort to balance development with Red Bank's small community feel. 

In 2018, he announced that he would not run for re-election. But now, Roberts has his eyes set on Hamilton County's Board of Education because he's "frustrated" at what he sees as a lack of leadership on the board, he said.

"I'm hoping to make some serious change, reevaluate stuff, help bring some leadership to that board," Roberts told the Times Free Press.

Roberts, who has a son in second grade and a young daughter, said he is concerned about how the county school system spends its more than $400 million budget each year.

During his tenure as mayor, Red Bank formed a committee to explore separating its schools from the county district at the same time that the Town of Signal Mountain was having similar discussions. 

Lennon has served on the school board since 2016, when she unseated incumbent board member Jonathan Welch. She has championed increasing social-emotional and mental health supports in schools, increasing security on school campuses and has been an advocate for developing a 10-year plan for the county's school facilities. 

Before picking up her qualifying papers, Lennon had not confirmed whether or not she would run for re-election, but on Monday she told the Times Free Press that she was "jumping in with both feet, ready to fight."

"I want exceptional education for all students in Hamilton County and I think with all the progress that we've made in the last year and as we are moving forward toward budget season, I think we can do it again," Lennon said. "It's just really important to me to continue to make sure that all opportunities are available to all students in Hamilton County regardless of where they live." 

As for Roberts' characterization of a lack of leadership on the board, Lennon countered that the current board is "mission-driven" and sticks to the vision it laid out in the district's five-year strategic plan, Future Ready 2023.

"We are very mission-driven in our board goals. I'd like him to tell us where that lack of leadership is. I think that's an unfair statement for him to make," she said. "We have a lot of work still to do, but we've come a long way and I'm excited to be a part of it."

Candidates have until April 2 to qualify for the August ballot.

The nonpartisan school board election is on Aug. 6.

Contact Meghan Mangrum at mmangrum@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6592. Follow her on Twitter @memangrum

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