GOVERNMENT

Hamilton County, Tennessee

Tim Kelly, the current mayor, was elected in April 2021.

The city is governed under a charter established by the state government in 1852, which has been revised since then.

The city is governed by a strong mayor system, which replaced a commission system with members elected at-large. Brown v. Board of Commissioners of the City of Chattanooga was filed in 1987 by twelve African American city citizens who claimed that the commission-style administration had violated their civil rights, including the Voting Rights Act of 1965, by diluting the minority black vote. 

In 1989, U.S. District Judge R. Allan Edgar ruled in their favor, forcing the city to abandon the at-large voting system it had used for the ‘commission’ form of government, create single-member geographical districts to proportionally represent both majority and minority elements of the population according to the city’s racial demographics, eliminate voting privileges for non-resident property owners, and create the city’s current mayor-council form of government. The Chattanooga City Council currently has nine members, four of them are African Americans who were elected in 2017. After a 1990 citywide election that used the new court-ordered district system, the present strong-mayor system was implemented in 1991.

The city’s legislative branch is represented by members from nine districts, elected from single-member districts in partisan elections. The current (elected 2017) council members are Chip Henderson (District 1), Jerry Mitchell (District 2), Ken Smith (District 3), Darrin Ledford (District 4), Russell Gilbert (District 5), Carol Berz (District 6), Erskine Oglesby (District 7), Anthony Byrd (District 8), and Demetrus Coonrod (District 9).

Robin Smith (R), District 26; Patsy Hazlewood (R), District 27; Yusuf Hakeem (D), District 28; Mike Carter (R), District 29; and Esther Helton (R), District 30 make up Chattanooga’s delegation to the Tennessee House of Representatives. Chattanooga is divided into two Senate districts, with Todd Gardenhire (R) representing District 10 and Bo Watson (R) representing District 11. 

Chuck Fleischmann (R), who represents the 3rd District in the US House of Representatives, represents Chattanooga. Both Marsha Blackburn (R) and Bill Hagerty (R) have district offices in Chattanooga in the United States Senate.

Chattanooga’s City Courts and Hamilton County’s Courts are both located in Chattanooga, which is the county seat of Hamilton County.

The Joel W. Solomon Federal Courthouse is located in Chattanooga and houses the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee’s Southern Division. Bledsoe, Bradley, Hamilton, Marion, McMinn, Meigs, Polk, Rhea, and Sequatchie counties are under the jurisdiction of the Southern Division.

Chattanooga’s police department was founded in 1852. It employed black police officers beginning in 1883, making Chattanooga one of the first major Southern communities to do so. However, black police men were removed from the force once the state legislature imposed segregation. On August 11, 1948, they were rehired on a permanent basis, years before other major cities in the Southeast, such as Birmingham, Alabama, and Jackson, Mississippi, merged their police forces. Thaddeus Arnold, Singer Askins, W.B. Baulridge, C.E. Black, Morris Glenn, Arthur Heard, and Thomas Patterson, the first seven black cops hired in 1948, were initially limited to walking beats in black communities. In 1960, black cops were given the authority to patrol all neighborhoods and make arrests of white people.

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