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David Sharpe, District 6, Montrell Besley, District 11, Steve Caudle, District 9

Come September, the Hamilton County Commission will bump from nine seats to 11 seats — thanks to the 2020 Census and the commission's vote to add seats thanks to redistricting. The short impact of those and other changes is that at least seven — perhaps nine — of our commissioners could be newbies. That means more fresh air.

After the May primary, we know returning commissioners are Republicans Chip Baker, District 2; Greg Martin, District 3; and Democrat Warren Mackey, District 4. Republican Lee Helton, District 7, had no primary opposition and will be new. Also new will be Republicans Gene-O Shipley, District 1; Mike Chauncey, District 8; Jeff Eversole, District 10; and Democrat Greg Beck, District 5, who won their primary races and have no opposition in August. Beck served on the commission for 14 years until 2018 and now makes a comeback. The average age of this group is 60.

For the remaining three seats up for election this year, the Times endorses:

David Sharpe, District 6

Incumbent Democrat David Sharpe, 46, has served the county and Democrats here well. As a former brewmaster and now stay-at-home dad of three children, he both lowers the age bracket of the commission and brings it a right-now, today passion for education. He helped push the county to repurpose the former Mary Ann Garber School into a building trades vocational school, and was instrumental in consolidating the Hamilton County Jail into the expanded Silverdale Detention Center, now run by the Sheriff's Department.

His challenger, Republican Ruth Jeno, 72, is a current Red Bank city commissioner and former mayor.

 

Steve Caudle, District 9

Rev. Dr. Steve Caudle, 63, is a Democrat and Chattanooga native who has been pastoring churches for about 40 years. He now serves as the senior pastor of Greater Second Missionary Baptist Church. He is passionate about improving education, affordable housing and basic county infrastructure, which he believes includes expanded broadband.

Caudle is challenging retired teacher and school board member Steve Highlander, 70, a Republican who was appointed to the commission just over a year ago and now seeks his first full term.

 

Montrell Besley, District 11

Democrat Montrell Besley, 41, knows firsthand that education is the key to our children's and community's success. The Alton Park native and masters graduate from Austin Peay State University is now director of community engagement for Chattanooga Preparatory School and a small business owner.

Besley, also a father, husband and community advocate, says the school-to-prison pipeline is still present in our county, public safety begins with stability in neighborhoods and jobs and contracts must stop being outsourced to those living outside Hamilton County.

He faces Republican challenger and former County Commissioner Joe Graham, 56, of Lookout Valley. We have much respect for Graham, but in the next four years, we need Besley.

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