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Photo of Ken Hayes / Contributed photo

Longtime local leader Ken Hays said he is running for Chattanooga City Council to bring experience to a new era of city government.

Hays, who has worked in or alongside government for decades, serving as CEO of nonprofit organizations The Enterprise Center and River City Company, chief of staff to former Chattanooga Mayor Jon Kinsey and a member of President Jimmy Carter's administration, will run for the District 7 seat being vacated by single-term councilman Erskine Oglesby, who is running for mayor.

After a gap year since he left the Enterprise Center, Hays said he decided to bring his experience working with three different mayors to the council at a time when there will be a new mayoral administration and between three and seven new council members across nine districts.

"I spent the better part of my career working on making Chattanooga a better community, and this seemed like the right way to continue that," Hays said Tuesday. "I pride myself on working with people and, having not been on [the] city council but being kind of in the thick of city hall, I know how things work and I've gotten good at understanding how to be a good influence and sort issues to move the city forward.

"I'm running on the slogan 'Working together works,' and it really does when you can bring people together," Hays said.

With the new council and mayor, Hays said, neighborhoods, economic development, education and recovery from recent challenges need to be top priorities.

"I think priorities shift a little bit, but it's still sort of neighborhoods and economic development and then police and safety that we need to focus on," he said. "But there are also a whole lot of challenges brought on by 2020 that we need to address and we need to focus on education as well, because we always say we're not in the school business but we're in the education business."

"We need to do a great job of working with all of the education partners and continue on some of the successes we've had in creating equal opportunities, because educating a child is not a single person's responsibility," he said, touting the success of the Tech Goes Home program. That program started while he was at the Enterprise Center and developed substantially in the last year to provide access during the COVID-19 pandemic.

"So we need to think like that, with partnerships and finding unique solutions to these other problems, too," Hays said. "And that's what I want to help do on council."

To balance a broad set of priorities, Hays said he will rely on institutional knowledge and his budget savvy.

"I think that's the way that I can be helpful with the administration," Hays said of the budgeting process, in which he was intimately involved as chief of staff. "New administrations are when we set priorities and visions and I think that we've got several good candidates running, and I'm running to be part of that team to help work to make this community an even better place."

Contact Sarah Grace Taylor at or 423-757-6416. Follow her on Twitter @_sarahgtaylor.