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Local dentist and activist Dr. Elenora Woods announced candidacy for 2021 Chattanooga mayor's race on Monday, Oct. 19, 2020 outside of city hall. Woods, former president of the NAACP in Chattanooga, promised to bring equitable funding and opportunity to poor and minority neighborhoods. / Staff photo by Sarah Grace Taylor

Dentist and activist Dr. Elenora Woods entered the 2021 race for mayor of Chattanooga Monday, promising opportunity, criminal justice reform and comprehensive homeless services if elected.

Woods, a single mother of three raised in the housing developments of the Westside of Chattanooga, said her rise to a successful career as a dentist and community activist have primed her for the role.

"I was born a little project girl on the Westside. And you know my favorite saying is, 'it's not where you come from, it's where you're going and how you get there,' right? So one of the things that we're going to continue to do is to make sure that we have opportunities for those who just need a hand up.

"I'm worried about your job and your community. I'm worried about the small business people that are struggling every day because they can't pay this or can't pay that. They're taking from here, putting it over there," she said. "The small business person runs this city, and that's who I'm going to advocate for because I'm a small businesswoman myself and I understand what you go through every single day."

Woods says she's answering the call of community members who asked her to run with a promise of fighting to provide assistance for those in need.

"I'm sick and tired of seeing the statistics in education where Black and brown children are at the bottom of the list all the time. I'm sick and tired of that. I'm sick and tired of seeing homeless people on the streets of the city of Chattanooga, and everybody's just walking over them like it's OK. I'm sick and tired of all of the discrimination that goes on in our communities," she added, also mentioning discrimination against women and poor communities.

To address these inequities, Woods said she will establish a veterans service office, invest in early childhood development, create a trade school and similar opportunities in the city and will invest in diverse and low-income neighborhoods to ensure equity in the city budget.

Woods said she would also "reorganize" the police department, up to potentially replacing the current police chief, and would incentivize the recruitment of Black officers.

Woods, who has led peaceful racial justice protests and served as president of Chattanooga's NAACP chapter, said she would not defund the police but would seek a charter amendment to ban chokeholds.

"What we're going to do is reorganize the police department and get rid of bad cops. And if that means a police chief, then we may start a new search, then so be it. So be it," she said. "But we need police officers, we need them to protect you if something happens in your house. Who you gonna call? Ghostbusters?"

Asked about her ouster from the NAACP last year, Woods said she was limited on what she could say on the advice of her attorney.

"But like I said, it's a wonderful organization. It's the oldest and largest civil rights organization in the world, and you can't get me to say nothing bad about it. I'll just say that people make mistakes, and I'm ready to forgive them."

Woods is the ninth candidate to publicly announce candidacy for outgoing Mayor Andy Berke's seat, up for election on March 2, 2021.

Contact Sarah Grace Taylor at staylor@timesfreepress.com.

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