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Hamilton County Commission candidate Joe Graham. (Submitted photo by candidate)

Citing his experience and commitment to the community, former Hamilton County Commissioner Joe Graham of Lookout Valley has announced he is running to represent the commission's new District 11 in the 2022 elections.

"Each person of District 11 deserves bold leadership and a comprehensive strategy of working together with local, civic and nonprofit groups," said Graham, a businessman who remains active in civic affairs, including heading the Lookout Valley Neighborhood Association as its president.

Graham said he will be a strong advocate for Hamilton County Schools, positive growth and infrastructure needs.

Also filing to run in District 11 is Sean Nix, the vice chairman of the Hamilton County Democratic Party. Party primary elections for county offices are May 3. The general election is Aug. 4.

Graham served two four-year terms on the commission representing District 6 until losing to Democrat David Sharpe in 2018. The current nine-member county governing body has been expanded to 11 districts for 2022, and Graham believes he can help with that transition as well as make a difference for residents of the new District 11.

"I still have a lot to contribute, and there's a lot to be done, especially right now," Graham said Tuesday in a telephone interview. "We're going to have a new mayor, a new sheriff and the possibility of a whole new makeup of the commission. This is a brand new district, so experience is going to be very important at this time."

The new District 11 includes Lookout Valley, Lookout Mountain, St. Elmo, Alton Park, a part of Missionary Ridge and a sliver of Brainerd. It's pretty much like his former district, Graham said, except that it includes Lookout Mountain and Alton Park.

Graham said school issues and school safety are No. 1 priorities for him.

"We need a school resource officer in every school," Graham said, noting that while he and others were able to get Hamilton County Sheriff's Office resource officers in all middle and high schools county schools, the system still uses private security in elementary schools.

"We need to work on getting them into elementary schools now," Graham said.

Underscoring his view of education as the top priority, Graham noted Hamilton County general government spends 65% of its budget on schools.

Graham said he also wants to ensure the Hamilton County Sheriff's Office and its next leader — current Sheriff Jim Hammond is not seeking re-election — "have every tool in the toolbox to make our communities safer. We've got to get a grip on what's going on around us, and we've got to make it safer for everyone."

Another area of focus for Graham is taking a "long look" at long-term growth in both business and development.

"We need a comprehensive plan that we can all agree to, that we can all work towards whether I stay in office or not," he said.

"I love to serve people," Graham said. "That's my calling in life, to serve others."

Contact Andy Sher at asher@timesfreepress.com or 615-255-0550. Follow him on Twitter @AndySher1.

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