Chattanooga has new opportunity today after electing a new mayor and three new council members to breathe new life into its cast of leaders. That's a lot of new. A lot of challenges. And a lot of openings for improvement.
It's not that we need tremendous change. Chattanooga already has many good things going for it.
But our city does need one important course correction — one of equity.
And that is specifically what Mayor-elect Tim Kelly — who will be the city's 66th mayor — promised to work toward. It is, no doubt, what propelled his nearly 60% vote lead over former River City CEO Kim White in Tuesday's mayoral runoff election.
"Chattanoogans from every walk of life came together to choose a better way forward. A way forward that ensures every child in our community has access to the early education opportunities they need to succeed. A way forward that will begin to close the opportunity gap between our neighbors. A way forward that brings every community to the table around our common purpose as Chattanoogans, instead of dividing us along the same old partisan lines that too often keep us distant and bitter toward one another. Together, we chose One Chattanooga," Kelly said in a statement Tuesday. "From the bottom of my heart, thank you, Chattanooga."
The same can be said for the three new council members. District 2 Councilwoman-elect Jenny Hill and District 5 Councilman-elect Isiah Hester, also were elected in Tuesday's runoff. And councilwoman-elect and activist Raquetta Dotley won her seat to the nine-member council in the March 2 general election. All, along with Kelly and council incumbents Chip Henderson, Carol Berz, Ken Smith, Darrin Ledford, Anthony Byrd and Demetrus Coonrod, will be sworn in for new four-year terms on Monday.
For the past 10 months, Kelly, especially — and the new council members, too — campaigned on the promise of bridging the gap between Chattanooga's "haves and have-nots," to promote economic growth and "one Chattanooga."
In his victory speech Tuesday, Kelly said he will help make Chattanooga the best city in the country.
"Chattanooga can and will be the best city in America, and it's not because of our gig [internet speeds], or our tourism sector, or even our great outdoors — as amazing as all of those things are," he said. "Chattanooga has this potential because of her truly extraordinary people, people who value this place, and our common purpose, more than they value themselves. I've never been more grateful to have met and heard from so many of them. And I'll continue to do so in the months and years ahead."
We will be waiting and watching. And hopeful.