Tim Kelly, convincingly elected Tuesday in a runoff to be Chattanooga's next mayor, will be the first non-developer businessman to hold the position since shortly after World War II.
Since then, the city has had two lawyers, two developers and a variety of men who have made public service the bulk of their lives.
Kelly will succeed term-limited Mayor Andy Berke.
The last businessman to hold the position was Hugh Wasson, retired president of Colonial Baking Co., who was elected mayor in 1947 and served one term.
Kelly, who thwarted former River City Company CEO Kim White's attempt to become the city's first female mayor, had to walk a careful line to be elected.
He had to fend off criticism of putting more than $1 million of his own money into the race and of pandering to the Black community for votes while still appealing to the wealthy crowd in which he was raised.
Though voting demographics are not available, Kelly was likely able to thread that needle in the nonpartisan race with a healthy majority of votes from men. In recent history, men generally vote for the more conservative candidate in local races but probably went with Kelly in the race from their knowledge of his co-founding of the popular Chattanooga FC soccer team and his ownership of Southern Honda Powersports.
Only 23.4% of registered voters cast a ballot in the runoff, a slight drop from the 24.9% who voted in March's primary election. However, it was a considerable drop from the 30.4% turnout in the city's last mayoral runoff in 2005.
Next week, though, Kelly becomes mayor of those who voted for him, those who voted for White, those who didn't vote, of all races and of all demographics. He referred to that status during his race as One Chattanooga.
Since — as we have often said — a mayor will have more effect on your daily lives than the governor or president, he deserves support in launching his administration and putting into plans into effect.
Kelly, as part of his campaign, unveiled a plan for his first 100 days, which includes announcing a city organization plan, expanding COVID-19 testing, implementing a Minority Business Enterprises program, increasing the minimum wage for Head Start teachers to $15 an hour, committing resources to launch a Building Trades Academy, reallocating $3.5 million to increase paving, making CARTA free for selected routes and developing an implementation plan to increase the minimum wage for city employees to $15 an hour.
His plan says a 100-day report on progress will be given on July 28.
When Kelly succeeds in many of his plans, the city succeeds.
And he is fortunate to be taking over the reins in the city that, in spite of the pandemic, is in sound financial shape, has housing 30% cheaper then the U.S. as a whole, and finds its way on many "best of" lists.
We hope those will still be the case — and then some — when Kelly spends his last day as mayor.