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Staff Photo by Matt Hamilton / A sign denotes a polling place at Calvary Baptist Church in Red Bank on Tuesday.

Hamilton County will get a new mayor, sheriff, district attorney and at least seven new county commissioners and five new school board members in September as part of an ongoing process that started with the primary election Tuesday.

While most of the countywide elected constitutional officers won without opposition in Tuesday's election, the County Courthouse will still see one of its biggest turnovers in top leadership in decades.

"The torch has certainly been passed to a new generation in some key offices, and it's going to be a new day on the County Commission with 11 rather than nine members and a lot of new faces that will change some of the dynamics to make it more racially and gender diverse," former Chattanooga Mayor Ron Littlefield said in an interview Wednesday. "I can remember back when the old City Commission was all white men — except Johnny Franklin — and most of them belonged to the same civic club. So we have achieved a more diverse leadership, and I think that's a healthy thing."

Weston Wamp, who won the closest and most hotly contested Hamilton County mayoral primary race in 28 years to succeed the retiring Jim Coppinger, said he thinks the shift is due to generational change more than widespread voter dissatisfaction.

"More than public unrest with county government, I think we're seeing a natural changing of the guard that was accelerated by our DA's unusual ethical challenges," Wamp said in an interview Wednesday. "On the County Commission and school board, we saw some incumbents seek other jobs or give up their posts while we also had an expansion of those boards due to redistricting."

Wamp, who is pushing Hamilton County to follow the lead of the state's biggest counties in imposing eight-year term limits on non-judicial county offices, said he thinks the change will be healthy for voter trust in local government.

For all the change on the County Commission and in the most high-profile county jobs, the only countywide elected incumbent to be defeated Tuesday was District Attorney Neal Pinkston, who won less than 30% of the vote and was handily beaten by attorney Coty Wamp, the younger sister of Weston Wamp.

Coty Wamp, who is the daughter of former U.S. Rep. Zach Wamp, is no stranger to county government, having previously worked as an attorney for the Hamilton County Sheriff's Office and as a public defender in the region.

(READ MORE: Hamilton County voters choose Kuehn for school board; other races headed to August general election)

Pinkston came under fire from the state Comptroller's Office and from Hamilton County Commissioner Tim Boyd, who said Pinkston's hiring of his wife and brother-in-law violated anti-nepotism rules for state employees.

"Incumbent officeholders who do their job well at the local level have a lot of advantages and tend to be re-elected in most instances," said Tom Ingram, a political strategist in Knoxville who worked with County Commission Chairwoman Sabrena Smedly in her county mayoral campaign. She finished second to Wamp in a three-way race that also included businessman Matt Hullander.

"We're not seeing a groundswell of voter discontent at the county level, and I think most of these elections tend to be based upon each candidate and their records," Ingram said by phone.

Coty Wamp was only the third attorney to defeat an incumbent DA in Hamilton County in the past 64 years. She was the first challenger to a countywide elected constitutional official to defeat an incumbent since Republican Vince Dean won the criminal court clerk's office in 2014. Dean defeated Gwin Tidwell, the previous Democratic countywide constitutional officer.

Four years earlier, Bill Hullander defeated incumbent Carl Levi to become county trustee in 2010. Bill Hullander (the father of Matt Hullander) won his fourth term Tuesday as county trustee.

(READ MORE: These are the next judges in Hamilton County)

Chattanooga attorney and former assistant prosecutor Jerry Summers, who has written about the history of county government, said the only previous time the county's chief prosecutor was ousted from office was in 1958 when attorney Ed Davis upset incumbent Correy Smith in the Democratic primary, which Summers said "in those days assured victory in the general election against little Republican opposition." In 1974, incumbent Ed Davis was defeated by attorney Harold E. Brown in the Democratic Primary, but the race was ultimately won by Republican Gary Gerbitz, who served as DA for 21 years.

Coty Wamp, 33, and her brother, 35, are expected to become two of the first millennials to serve in top countywide positions in Chattanooga if she defeats former Hamilton County Commissioner John Brooks in the DA race and her brother beats Democrat Matt Adams in the mayoral election on Aug. 4.

One of the other county constitutional officers elected while still in his 30s is Bill Knowles, who has served as county clerk for 48 years.

Wamp, Hullander and Smedley all praised the work of Coppinger, the retiring county mayor who was first appointed in 2o11 and was subsequently elected three times with little opposition.

(READ MORE: Four Hamilton County Commission races decided in primary election)

Hamilton County Sheriff Jim Hammond also is retiring this year after working in the sheriff's office for decades and serving as sheriff for three terms. His chief deputy, Austin Garrett, won the GOP primary race Tuesday without opposition and has no opposition in the general election.

Combined with a new Chattanooga mayor and city police chief in the past year, Smedley noted that many of Chattanooga's political leaders are changing. She campaigned on the need to maintain stability in local government and bragged that she was "the only candidate with a lick of experience" in government.

But Weston Wamp said civil servants in local government ensure continuity of services, "and our government is based upon having elected officials who are not career politicians."

Contact Dave Flessner at dflessner@timesfreepress.com or at 423-757-6340. Follow him on Twitter @dflessner1.

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