Staff photo by Matt Hamilton / Mayoral candidate Matt Adams speaks during an interview at the Chattanooga Times Free Press office on Monday, July 11, 2022.

Can't you almost smell the change in the political air at the Hamilton County Courthouse?

It's not just an air of change; it's an air of youth. Of learning and growing and exploring.

Move over, boomers — with all your tired talk about God, babies, apple pie and an occasional obligatory nod to education, public safety and the boilerplate pablum about smaller/too big government. Public service should be about leadership and listening, not prayers, speechifying and dog whistles.

We're excited today to say that either 35-year-old Republican Weston Wamp or 26-year-old Matt Adams will be the next mayor of Hamilton County. (What's more, we're also excited to note the 11-member Hamilton County Commission, while it may tend to remain in the older age bracket, will — depending on how vote counts tally out on Aug. 4 — be packed with anywhere from seven to nine newbies.)

Sure some of our residents will, and already are, wringing their hands about inexperience. But as retiring County Mayor Jim Coppinger recently noted, that's what good, seasoned courthouse staff members are for — to be reminders that the-way-things-have-always-been-done had an origin in reason, even if it might now be time to re-evaluate.

There's a lot at stake here. Hamilton County is at a crossroad.

We've been growing population-wise and jobs-wise.

But we're pathetically behind in education, especially in equitable education and in graduating jobs-ready young adults. We're also behind in affordable housing, in school facilities and wastewater treatment infrastructure, in community engagement and in equitable investment across the board.

We believe either of our county mayoral candidates — young as they are — are up to this challenge.

Wamp is an entrepreneur and son of former U.S. Rep. Zach Wamp. This is his third run for public office, having twice unsuccessfully challenged U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann.

Adams is an eight-year Army veteran and independent paralegal, as well as a current member of the Army Reserves. We like his boot-strap spirit and history of being a young and feisty doer. He once served as the youngest member of the parks and recreation board in Calhoun, Tenn., where he grew up on a farm. And in the Army, he often was the youngest appointed to positions in his units

Adams, like Wamp, has said his top priority is equitable investment in all county schools. His other top concerns are crime and public transportation. Adams is an advocate for the Southside stadium project, which Wamp made his primary campaign issue, saying the stadium plan needs more study.

We endorsed Wamp in his Republican primary not just because of his commitment to K-12 and vocational education and his experience on the Tennessee Board of Regents, but also because we found his values and passion to question the half-backed stadium plan worthy.

Differences aside, from the start in these campaigns, it was clear to us that these two men would give Hamilton County its first real choice among good leaders in quite some time. We can't go wrong with either of them.

Because Democrats need a stronger voice in this county and his is worthy, we endorse Adams in the Aug. 4 Hamilton County general election.