Jean "Lady J" Howard-Hill / Contributed photo

Former University of Tennessee at Chattanooga Professor Jean "Lady J" Howard-Hill is making a run for Chattanooga mayor as a write-in candidate in the March 2 election.

Hill, a former political science professor and Republican activist who has run to represent Chattanooga in Congress multiple times, told the Times Free Press on Thursday that she's running for mayor to "bring real leadership by someone who knows the role of the mayor."

"I know what it means to be mayor, I know what it would take to improve the city and I know how to get things done," Hill said Thursday, after entering the race that already has 15 candidates whose names will be on the ballot. "I taught my students not to get caught up in the fray."

To stay above the fray, Howard said, people should vote with their conscience rather than a political party, especially for local office.

"We're getting caught up in an emotional fray, and that's not making voters think reasonably about what they want done," she said. "You have to vote for an independent thinker based upon your own research. And that's why I'm running."

Howard said she decided to run after being asked by people she knows and praying about the decision.

"I spent a whole week with the Lord and asked if this was the right way for me to serve," Hill said. "And he told me this was the next part of my journey because I truly love this city, and this is about loving Chattanooga and its people."

Hill said she won't pick a single issue or list of top issues because the proper management of a city goes beyond political priorities.

"People ask me what my priority is, but I don't have one. It's a city, and what a lot of these candidates don't realize is it's about being on top of everything, the roads, cleaning up the streets, and keeping the city running," she said. "It isn't about what one candidate thinks matters."

According to the Hamilton County Election Commission, Hill fell short of the number of signatures required to be named on the ballot at the qualifying deadline in December.

Hill filed a form to be listed as a certified write-in candidate and can receive votes.

"If voters wish to cast a vote for a write-in candidate, they simply need to darken the oval next to the write-in box and write the name of the candidate in the space provided," Administrator of Elections Scott Allen told the Times Free Press on Thursday. "We will accept different variations of spelling for the qualified write-in candidates as long as we can determine voter intent."

According to Allen, Hill is the only certified write-in candidate for the March 2 election.

Sarah Grace Taylor can be reached at 423-757-6416 or or on Twitter @_SarahGTaylor.