Tim Kelly elected Chattanooga’s new mayor

Tim Kelly beat challenger Kim White in the Chatanooga runoff race for mayor Tuesday, following an intense campaign season that initially included 15 candidates.

Kelly, 54, earned 59.90 percent of the vote; White 40 percent and write-in votes 0.20 percent. 

Kelly and White had been forced into a runoff because none of the candidates in the crowded March 2 general election garnered a majority vote. 

Celebrating with friends and family at the Chattanooga Brewing Co. Tuesday night, Kelly promised to build a city that works for everybody.

“Chattanoogans from every walk of life came together to choose a better way forward,” he said. “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.”

Leading up to Election Day, the top four African American vote-getters from the city’s March general election all endorsed Kelly–Monty Bruell, Russell Gilbert, Wade Hinton and Dr. Elenora Woods. 

During his campaign, Kelly promoted education, affordable housing, economic and community development and COVID-19 response and recovery.

Kelly’s “plan for the black community in Chattanooga” includes five core principles: acknowledging inequality, Black upward mobility, respect, cultivating opportunities and transparent governments.

“The challenges facing Black Chattanoogans are complex, the legacy of centuries of structural racism, and so will require intentional and persistent solutions,” he explained. “As a city, we must invest in Black communities and work to merge our city into one Chattanooga.”

Kelly, who replaces outgoing Mayor Andy Berke, also vows to “reimagine public safety” and “reshape the priorities of our police department.”
“Police officers are too often tasked with responsibilities beyond the scope of public safety,” he noted.

The 66th mayor-elect is a Baylor School alumnus and successful businessman.

Former River City Co. President and CEO White conceded to Kelly just after 8:30 p.m. Tuesday, congratulating him on a well-run campaign. 

Two Chattanooga City Council districts–2 and 5–also headed to runoff elections. In District 2, Hamilton County Board of Education member Jenny Hill beat business owner Thomas Lee. 

Pastor Isiah “Ike” Hester prevailed over Hamilton County Democratic Party Vice Chairman Dennis Clark in the District 5 race to replace Councilman Russell Gilbert, who ran in the mayoral general election.

The mayor and all council members have been elected to serve four-year terms. The new mayor is limited to two terms.

Kelly will be inaugurated on Mon., April 19, along with the nine city council members.

Just 26,269 of 114,289 eligible Chattanooga voters, or around 23 percent, cast ballots in Tuesday’s election.