Chattanooga native Montrell Besley has launched a bid for the new District 11 seat on the Hamilton County Commission.
Besley, a Democrat from Alton Park, is one of three candidates vying for the seat, according to the Hamilton County Election Commission. None of the candidates have yet returned their qualifying petitions to the commission.
"My heartbeat is for the community," Besley said in a Thursday phone interview. "I'm always a community champion. I always believe community comes first, and you have to serve the people who elect you to that office."
If elected, Besley said his priorities would include public education, public safety and economic development.
In terms of education, he said, he would push for the county to invest more in its teachers to keep them within the county school system.
"I'm a product of public education, and it served me right," he said. "I do believe education is the key to success for our youth and our communities."
On public safety, Besley said the sheriff's office and city police must better integrate themselves within the community to seem like regular people, which he said was the case when he was younger.
Finally, the county must work with local businesses that have been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic to ensure they have knowledge of and access to aid such as funds from the American Rescue Plan Act, he said.
Besley, 40, ran unsuccessfully in 2016 for the county school board and said he has waited until the right time to return to politics.
He serves as the director of community engagement for the Chattanooga Preparatory School. He also serves on the executive board of the Boys & Girls Club of Chattanooga.
Previously, he worked for the city as a recreations specialist, facility manager and program manager, he said.
District 11, created in November when the county commission went from nine seats to 11 to respond to 2020 census data, sits in the southwestern corner of the county. It includes Lookout Valley and Lookout Mountain. Further east, it also includes areas around streets such as Dodds Avenue.
So far, Democrat Sean Nix and Republican Joe Graham have also jumped into the race.
The 2022 primary election will be held May 3.
Candidates must return qualifying petitions to the elections commission by Feb. 17, and they have until Feb. 24 to withdraw from the race.
Contact Logan Hullinger at firstname.lastname@example.org or 814-319-5158. Follow him on Twitter @LoganHullinger.