Outgoing Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke handed the reins to successor Tim Kelly Monday morning, charging him with the continued transformation of the city.
Kelly and the nine members of city council, including three newly elected members, were sworn in at an event at the Tivoli Theatre on Monday morning.
"Cities are dynamic, evolving organisms. They thrive on the energy from innovative, creative residents, and they change and respond to events like pandemics and tornadoes," Berke said during his final speech as mayor. "Chattanooga's story embodies that narrative, more than most.
"Over my lifetime we have maneuvered and reinvented and transformed," he added. "Part of that is welcoming and supporting new leadership. Today, as Mayor Kelly takes the oath and our city council members are sworn in, they become charged with the sacred duty to write the next part of our story. I have every bit of faith that they will do so successfully."
Kelly, in his first speech as mayor, said he will work to improve the city, relying on its people to reach its full potential.
"As we begin a new chapter in our city and gather today to celebrate our future, it's important to take a moment to reflect on how we arrived here. Throughout my campaign, I talked about how Chattanooga is an extraordinary city, not because of our gig or our tourism sector or even our great rivers and mountains, all of which are vital assets to our city," Kelly said. "No, we're truly extraordinary because of our people. For years, Chattanoogans have leaned into the hard work. We join arms and we get involved, and together we have woven that commitment to each other into the character of our city.
"It is, in many ways, what it means to be a Chattanoogan."
Kelly praised former mayors Berke, Ron Littlefield, Jon Kinsey and Bob Corker, who were in attendance, as well as civil rights leaders and others who he says have exhibited a spirit of action in Chattanooga.
"Chattanooga is all these things, it's shaped by all of us. And I believe we have the capacity to be the best city in America, if we do rise to meet the moment with the 'fierce urgency of now,'" he said, citing the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. "Those that know me best know that I have, shall we say, a bias toward action. While at times that trait can be difficult, especially for those around me, I think it will serve the people of Chattanooga very well over the next four years."
Kelly promised to pave roads, continue Berke's work toward expanding early childhood education, fight inequities in the city and do his "level best" as mayor.
"Together, we will build a better economy than the one we left behind before this pandemic began, one that includes all of our neighbors, regardless of their ZIP code. We will secure the future of our children by investing in thousands more early learning and pre-K seats over my term. And under my leadership Chattanooga will get back to basics," he said. "Our city services will be responsive, cost-effective and we will clearly communicate how, when and where things are going to get fixed. To put it simply, we're going to fill a lot of potholes and a lot of roads, striving to make this a more enjoyable and efficient city for all of its residents."
District 1 Councilman and Council Chairman Chip Henderson, District 2 Councilwoman Jenny Hill, District 3 Councilman Ken Smith, District 4 Councilman Darrin Ledford, District 5 Councilman Isiah Hester, District 6 Councilwoman Carol Berz, District 7 Councilwoman Raquetta Dotley, District 8 Councilman Anthony Byrd and District 9 Councilwoman Demetrus Coonrod were all sworn in as well, in front of a limited group of elected officials and family members.
The mayor and council members have all been elected to serve four-year terms.
Contact Sarah Grace Taylor at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6416. Follow her on Twitter @_sarahgtaylor.