In the late 1960s, after a "Fringe Area Study," the city of Chattanooga began a wave of annexations of areas to the north and east of the city, the culmination of a trend encouraged by a change in state annexation law in the mid-1950s. One of the areas identified in the study was Middle Valley, which some members of the Lakesite community north of Hixson deemed uncomfortably close. As had Collegedale (1968) and Soddy-Daisy (1969), in 1971 residents hired local attorney Glenn McColpin to attend to the myriad legal details required to protect the area from annexation by incorporating as a new city.
The proposed new municipality covered the more or less 500 acres of the Lakesite subdivision and contained about 300 residents. A vote was held on the question of whether to "create a municipal corporation under the laws of the State of Tennessee" on Jan. 20, 1972. The vote was 75 for and 15 against. That March, a slate of six candidates vied for election as the city's first three commissioners, and Hans G. Bingham, Ray Dodson and Sydney P. Wood were elected. Bingham and Wood were salesmen and Dodson an attorney. The three commissioners then selected Dodson as the town's first mayor.
Almost immediately, Lakesite requested that Hamilton County repair certain roads, promising to refund the expenditure from anticipated state funds. According to Dodson, the county had been delinquent in keeping up the area's roads for over a year. County Judge Chester Frost thought the proposition a bad idea but was overruled by a unanimous vote of the county council. Street paving remained a problem, and in 1978 certain residents occasioned a petition to the Hamilton County Election Commission for a vote on dissolution of the city government and return to the county. The Lakesite commission had voted to expend significant funds on road repair. The city's voters rejected the initiative by a vote of 106 to 64.
A newspaper article in September 1981 noted the city's progress, its population then standing at 951. The commission was still constituted of three members, with Marcella Cornish as mayor, Bernard Gloster as vice mayor and Dodson as a commissioner. Bingham, one of the first commissioners, was then the city manager and police chief. Cornish noted that the city and its residents had a pay-as-you-go attitude, noting that a new police car had been recently purchased for cash. The article also noted that the small municipality had purchased several lots for anticipated future buildings, contemplating replacement of the green, concrete-block structure with a garage door that served as the center of the city government.
In February 1992, UTC political science professor Dr. David Edwards was hired as city manager. Working only on Thursdays, Edwards administered a 1992 budget of $112,532, and supervised one full-time police chief, two part-time police officers, and two longtime employees, city recorder Roberta Thomas and city engineer Curt Blair. McColpin remained as city attorney, and local attorney Arnold Stulce Jr. was the city judge. Dodson, having himself served as Collegedale's city judge, noted that Stulce held court only on occasion, observing, "We behave pretty well out here."
In 1994, residents of neighborhoods near Lakesite petitioned the city to annex them. Thus, by 1995, Lakesite had doubled in size, ironically using the same annexation procedure that Chattanooga employed years before. The primary addition was the commercial district located in the area of the Daisy-Dallas Road and Hixson Pike intersection, extending southward some distance toward Thrasher Pike. The city government moved into a new city hall in 2000. The commission is now made up of five rather than three commissioners, but the city still prides itself in its fiscal stability and its close-knit community flavor. Bingham, Dodson, Wood, Cornish, McColpin, Thomas and Blair have since passed away, and Edwards has recently retired after 30 years of service. The little city they helped birth continues to thrive and serve its citizens.
Local attorney Sam D. Elliott has been Lakesite's city attorney since Glenn McColpin's death in 2006. He is a member of Gearhiser, Peters, Elliott & Cannon, PLLC, and a former president of the Tennessee and Chattanooga Bar associations. For more information, visit Chattahistoricalassoc.org.