This story was updated Thursday, May 21, 2020, at 7:43 p.m. with more information.
Chattanooga businessman Tim Kelly is running for mayor of Chattanooga, saying he wants to get the city "back on the right track."
Kelly, 53, the owner of local car dealerships Kelly Subaru and Southern Honda Powersports and co-founder and chairman of the Chattanooga Football Club, announced his campaign Thursday afternoon via Facebook live, emphasizing the importance of local government.
"Local governance needs to be about practical solutions to common problems ... I think Chattanooga needs to start thinking about Chattanooga," Kelly told the Times Free Press, citing his 30 years in local business. "Running a small business, I have a lot of background in getting things done with limited resources and [with] what we're going through with the COVID crisis, that's going to be an important quality."
Kelly said he does not identify with any political party. He said seeking the nonpartisan role of mayor is the first and only political campaign he ever plans to pursue, with the goal of getting back to a "depoliticized mayor's office."
"One of the things that's attractive about this race is that it's a nonpartisan race where left and right are not important. My thesis is that if you break down local issues into the smallest little Lego blocks, they're not left or right. There's no Republican or Democratic angle to getting garbage picked up on time," Kelly said. "And I don't have any further political ambitions. I don't care about being governor. I don't care about anything but putting Chattanooga back on the right track, and then I'll go lay back down and enjoy my retirement."
Kelly said he was already considering a run for office, but that the ongoing coronavirus crisis inspired him to do so.
"I had quite a few people send me a text or call and say 'aren't you glad you're not mayor now?' and I said no," Kelly said of the virus coming to the city. "This is the sort of thing I like, unfortunately, I've been in the ring for a long time and dealt with a lot of crises in my business career and, it's probably a malfunction, but I like that sort of thing."
As he prepared for the race, Kelly said, he spent the last year grooming a management team capable of taking temporary control of his businesses during the race. If he wins, Kelly plans to step away from his businesses or put them in trust during his tenure, he said.
Kelly is the fourth person — along with City Councilman Russell Gilbert and local businessmen Andrew McLaren and Monty Bruell — to officially enter the race to take current Mayor Andy Berke's seat, which will be vacated in 2021 after he has served eight years in office.
Contact Sarah Grace Taylor at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6416. Follow her on Twitter @_sarahgtaylor.