Weston Wamp announced Friday he is running for Hamilton County mayor.
In a video shared to YouTube, the former Congressional candidate and founder of the Millenial Debt Foundation said he is excited about writing the "next great chapter" in Hamilton County's history.
"As a father of four young children, the future of Hamilton County is on my mind and heart every day," Wamp said. "With the retirement of Mayor Jim Coppinger after three terms of outstanding public service, we have the opportunity and the responsibility to write the next great chapter of the 202-year history of our county. A conservative approach to government has served Hamilton County well for decades, paving the way for our region's dynamic economy and high quality of life. It's on us to protect and build on that legacy."
Coppinger announced earlier this week he would not be seeking re-election in 2022.
If elected, Wamp, 34, said he would focus on expanding opportunities for businesses to thrive in the county, workforce development, affordable housing and community safety.
Getting young people excited about their education and the opportunities available to them through local technical and vocational schools like the Tennessee College of Applied Technology at Chattanooga State Community College is also important to Wamp, who said he believed showing young people they could have a "better future" would ultimately lead to better outcomes in many of the other areas he hopes to address.
In particular, he said he believed bettering public education in the county would draw in more new businesses and residents. Wamp said he has heard from many people looking to move to Hamilton County over the past decade or so that they want better schools in closer proximity to the city where they can afford to send their children.
"I think right now there is a misnomer about public education in Hamilton County. Some people think it's not good. The truth is we have several failing schools that may be systemically failing. We've got a few dozen mediocre schools, but we've also got a couple dozen elite public schools in this community. If you get those things right on the front end and orient the school system so that young people do well, everything changes," he said. "... We should see our public schools as competitors to private schools. Some of them are already on that level."
In an interview at the Times Free Press, Wamp added that education can help confront problems like gun violence.
"I don't think violence is a funding problem. There are some things government can't do within people's family lives. In the public sector though, the most profound thing I think we can do is refuse to accept failing schools in the most difficult neighborhoods in our county. It would be transformative if those schools began to perform at the level that some of our other schools do," he said.
Wamp said if elected he would like to create a "mayor's apprenticeship program" that invites students from "the most at-risk schools in Hamilton County" to work in county offices or corporate businesses, where they could receive mentorship and experience in jobs they might not otherwise have exposure to. After participating in that program, he said he hoped young participants would either obtain a four-year college degree or tap into Tennessee's myriad community college and technical education opportunities.
With a family as well-known in local politics as his, Wamp said he hopes county residents will see him as more than his last name heading into election season. His father is former U.S. Congressman Zach Wamp and his sister, Coty Wamp, is challenging incumbent Neal Pinkston with a run for district attorney. While he is proud of both of them, he said he is running to do very different jobs than the ones they have done and hopes to be judged on his own merits.
"I hope people will judge both of us based on our qualifications and visions for the jobs we're running for, not our last names," Wamp said.
Asked how fundraising is looking at this early date, Wamp said he has been encouraged by the community response, adding money won't be the deciding factor.
"I'll go raise enough money to win but I'll win or lose based on whether my message is one people care about or believe in. That's what I care about."
Contact Kelcey Caulder at kcaulder@timesfree press.com or 423-757-6327. Follow her on Twitter @kelceycaulder.