Staff photo by C.B. Schmelter / Kim White speaks during a news conference announcing her bid for mayor at Hixson High School on Thursday, Sept. 10, 2020 in Hixson, Tenn.

Former Chattanooga Mayor Jon Kinsey has endorsed Kim White in the March mayoral race, citing her leadership abilities.

Kinsey, mayor from 1997 to 2001, endorsed former River City Co. President White on Thursday, citing her ability to lead and unite groups.

"It became apparent to me that she is head and shoulders above the others in what I consider to be the most important aspect of being mayor — getting people to work together to build a consensus," he said, citing White's past of building public and private partnerships through River City. "If people know that they're being heard, they'll buy in. And I've seen Kim do that."

Though he met with several other candidates, Kinsey said he originally did not plan to involve himself in the election, but was so compelled by White's speech at a community meeting that he decided to support her run.

"Kim made a speech that addressed what her vision was for the city and it was very broad, and it talked about the entire city and addressing neighborhoods. And I was really impressed with it," he said.

"I told all of [the candidates] that I wasn't going to get involved in this race and that there were a lot of good people running, and just was going to see what happened," he said. " And, you know, as time went on, I realized that Kim could really make a difference."

(READ MORE: Kim White announces 2021 Chattanooga mayor's campaign)

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Staff photo by Erin O. Smith / Jon Kinsey, business developer and former Chattanooga mayor, talks about the developments going into the Chattanooga Choo Choo in Chattanooga, Tenn., on Wednesday, Nov. 15, 2017.

Kinsey said the factors that made him and his successor — former mayor and U.S. Senator Bob Corker — successful in that era were nonpartisan beliefs and the ability to cultivate strong partnerships.

"The way you make things really happen and get things done is by involving everybody. And that's what Kim is really good at," he said.

While he says it's not the reason he's supporting her, Kinsey also said it's "damn time we had a woman as mayor."

White said she was honored to accept the endorsement from someone who she considered a "great mayor."

"I'm honored that he's come alongside me. He is someone that I will lean into for advice and already have," she said. "In my time at River City, he was someone I knew I could call that had a good business sense when things came up. So, we are very excited about his endorsement."

Kinsey is the first former mayor to make an endorsement in the 2021 election. Fifteen candidates are vying to replace outgoing Mayor Andy Berke.

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