The Hamilton County Commission voted unanimously Wednesday to appoint Joan Carter, widow of Rep. Mike Carter, to serve in his Tennessee House of Representatives seat until the conclusion of a special election called by the governor.
All nine members of the commission voted in favor of appointing Joan Carter to her husband's seat temporarily, until a new interim representative is elected in September to fill the District 29 seat left vacant when Mike Carter, R-Ooltewah, died in May.
While the Legislature is not in session, nominating Commissioner Sabrena Smedley said Wednesday the appointment serves as an honor to the late representative.
"This is going to give her an opportunity, even though it doesn't seem that the governor is going to call a special session, this will give her an opportunity to finish some of the things Mike started," Smedley said Wednesday.
Newly appointed Rep. Carter, a 67-year-old Republican, was sworn in during the meeting.
"Thank you, commission, for this honor," Carter said. "I consider this a true tribute to Mike's legacy.
"When you're together as long as Mike and I were, you really grow together."
Joan Carter graduated from Middle Tennessee State University with a degree in education in 1974, taught school in Memphis for several years and then spent the duration of her career helping Mike Carter run the family storage business.
She told the Times Free Press after the meeting that she will take her brief appointment seriously and will be accessible to constituents.
"I want them to know that I will be available to listen," she said. "I've been here forever as a part of this community, and there are a lot of great folks here.
"I know it's an interim position and a short term, but that doesn't make it any less important."
The party primaries for the special election to fill Carter's seat will be held on July 27, and the general election will be on Sept. 14.
Mike Carter died in May after a months-long battle with pancreatic cancer. Carter was a former Hamilton County General Sessions judge, attorney and businessman first elected to represent House District 29 in 2012.
His term in District 29 — which encompasses Hamilton County's Ooltewah, Collegedale and Harrison areas — will end on Nov. 8, 2022.
Mike Carter ran unopposed in his most recent primary and general election in the conservative-dominated district. His Democratic opponent in 2018 received just 31% of the vote.
As of the close of business on Wednesday, no one had picked up paperwork from the Hamilton County Election Commission to run for the seat. The deadline to file candidacy paperwork is June 17 at noon.
The pay for the representative seat is $24,316 annually and an expense stipend of $284 per day of legislative session, for those who live more than 60 miles from the Capitol in Nashville.