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Staff Photo by Matt Hamilton / Mayoral candidate Tim Kelly talks with Larry "Bear" High from Bear's Barber Shop after his rally at City Hall in Chattanooga on Thursday, March 11, 2021.

A week into the Chattanooga mayoral runoff election, candidate Tim Kelly is boasting support from more than a dozen elected officials and former opponents.

Within an hour of election results coming in on March 2, Kelly had the support of defeated candidate Monty Bruell, who came in fourth of the 15 candidates running to replace Mayor Andy Berke.

Now Kelly, who is competing against general election runner-up Kim White in an April runoff for the seat, is being backed by a number of former opponents.

"[Kelly] believes in this city. Not just from one mountain to another, but he believes in all of Chattanooga," 12-year councilman and fifth place candidate Russell Gilbert said Thursday, during an event with dozens of community and elected leaders backing Kelly.

"If you want to better Chattanooga, you have to vote for Tim Kelly. Tim is going to make your city better for all of Chattanooga, not just downtown," Gilbert added, when asked about voters who lost their first choice in the general election. "He has a heart to help people."

Former candidates Bruell, Gilbert, Andrew McLaren, Lon Cartwright and Robert Wilson have all endorsed Kelly since the election.

While Bruell and Kelly have publicly discussed plans to work together during the transition if Kelly is elected, Kelly has not confirmed any plans to hire former opponents.

"We're still discussing that again this is, this is kind of like, you know, building an airplane in the air. We've got to worry about running a campaign while we're worrying about a transition," Kelly said Thursday when asked. "We haven't decided anything there, but we're talking."

Gilbert, who works full time at Parkridge Valley Hospital, told the Times Free Press that he would work with Kelly on "projects that make Chattanooga a better city," after his council term ends in April.

A dozen local and state elected officials — State Sen. Todd Gardenhire, Rep. Yusuf Hakeem, Hamilton County Commissioners Chip Baker, Katherlyn Geter and David Sharpe, Chattanooga City Councilwoman Demetrus Coonrod, Councilwoman-elect Raquetta Dotley and Hamilton County Board of Education Members Kathy Lennon, Karista Mosley-Jones and Marco Perez, Red Bank Mayor Hollie Berry and Vice Mayor Stephanie Dalton — have also endorsed Kelly.

While no former opponents have backed her runoff race, White said Thursday that she is optimistic about her own supporters.

"The support of our campaign continues to build as we approach April 13. Since launching my Ready On Day One Playbook focused on creating jobs, affordable housing and better roads, we've reached many new supporters who believe my vision for our city will create a better Chattanooga for all," White said in a statement Thursday, when asked about her own endorsements.

White's campaign was unable to provide a full list of elected supporters on Thursday, but has been supported by state Sen. Bo Watson, Hamilton County Commissioners Greg Martin and Sabrena Smedley, Assessor of Property Marty Haynes, Hamilton County Board of Education members Tucker McClendon and Tiffanie Robinson, Chattanooga City Councilmen Darrin Ledford and Ken Smith, and former Chattanooga Mayor Jon Kinsey.

At his event Kelly also thanked several community groups and professional organizations, as well as former NAACP president and defeated mayoral candidate Dr. Elenora Woods. Woods did not confirm the endorsement Thursday. She said she will make an announcement about who she supports early next week.

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

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