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It was a mirage, after all. What looked to be an easy slide from the Fourth of July into the start of school and Labor Day, or as easy a transition as we can muster in this time of COVID-19, has come to an abrupt halt.

First, police Chief David Roddy announced his retirement. OK. If 100-plus shootings so far this year haven't focused new Mayor Tim Kelly's attention on public safety, the departure of a veteran officer and top cop would.

Now comes the announcement that Dr. Bryan Johnson is leaving his position as superintendent of Hamilton County Schools. News reports say Johnson is hanging around; he's not leaving the Scenic City. That's great. He is an asset.

But that leaves Chattanooga and Hamilton County's leaders facing the same situation: finding the right person to fill the top non-elected posts under their umbrellas.

Granted, neither Hamilton County Mayor Jim Coppinger nor Hamilton County commissioners get to hire Johnson's successor, but you can bet your CARTA pass and all the free school system lunches you can eat they will have a say.

And since Coppinger and the commissioners hold the purse strings to the school system, the school board would be silly not to take their temperature on this key hire.

A similar conversation among the city's elected leaders would be prudent in finding Roddy's successor. Yes, the final call is Kelly's — and depending on what you believe about pre-election commitments, several others will be involved — but this hire will define the first chapter of Kelly's tenure and could go a long way to determining whether his first term becomes a second one.

Myriad options exist for the county and city. There are talented people in house. There certainly are talented people from around the country who could be recruited here. Of course, cities and school systems around the country also are looking for these types of executives. Game on.

Chattanooga's biggest issue is crime, and there will be a laser focus on Kelly as he launches the search to find the right person to deal with gun violence, gang activity and property crime.

If I may offer one piece of advice that applies to each search and all those doing the searching: Be as transparent as possible.

Yes, there will be details that call for discretion. We get that.

But these decisions are too important for this to be back-room dealing as usual, especially for some of the candidates who ran in the most recent cycles on platforms of openness and leadership. Their honor hangs in the balance, but they are far from the only ones with skin in these games.

We all have a lot riding on this. In both situations.

Contact Jay Greeson at jgreeson@timesfreepress.com.

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Jay Greeson
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