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Mayor Tim Kelly - Inauguration

Thank you all so much for being here, and to those at home watching, thank you for tuning in. And thank you to the people of Chattanooga for entrusting me with this great responsibility and privilege, and having the confidence in my vision to choose me as your next mayor.

To Mayor Berke, thank you for your steady, compassionate leadership over these past eight years. Over your two terms, you’ve shown us your resolve as well as your heart. In times of unprecedented crisis, you steered our city through the storm and kept us safe. And you also wisely invested in our future generations when you created over 1,000 additional quality early learning seats, providing thousands more children in our city the opportunity to start Kindergarten with the tools they need to succeed and thrive throughout their lives.

Our city is stronger because of your leadership and vision, and I’m looking forward to continuing the good work you began at City Hall.

I want to give a special acknowledgment to all of the people who believed in me and our campaign, even when things got tough or when election day felt years away. In particular, to my amazing wife Ginny, and my two sons Jack and Cannon—thank you for being with me every step of the way. And to the many friends and supporters who believed in me and gave me support and encouragement along the way- thank you.

I also want to say thank you to all of the incredible people I met along the campaign trail. I’ve learned that one of the greatest pleasures of running for public office is you get to know people that you otherwise might not have, and you get to see how many people truly care and believe in this city. And that includes every single candidate who ran for mayor, especially Kim White. National politics is more divisive than ever these days, and yet here in Chattanooga we were able to stay focused on the issues and our passion for this city, and that’s a credit to Kim’s commitment to our civic dialogue. I have no doubt we share a common love for this city and that she wants the very best for our community, too. I look forward to working with her to ensure Chattanooga is realizing its full potential.

As we begin a new chapter in our city and gather today to celebrate our future, it’s important to take a moment to reflect on how we arrived here. Throughout my campaign, I talked about how Chattanooga is an extraordinary city—not because of our gig, or our tourism sector, or even our great rivers and mountains, all of which are vital assets to our city—no, we are truly an extraordinary city because of our people.

For years, Chattanoogans have leaned into the hard work. We join arms, and we get involved. And together, we’ve woven that commitment to each other into the character of our city. It is, in many ways, what it means to be a Chattanoogan. I love my Chattanooga FC games so much because it’s where I can always go to feel that spirit in ample supply.

It’s that very same spirit that transformed a small trading post on the Tennessee River into a thriving city recognized around the globe as one of the best places in the world to call home. It’s the spirit that allows us to accomplish things that other cities can’t seem to.

And it’s why Chattanooga has been blessed to have a long legacy of community leaders whose heart for service and vision carried us into a brighter future. Some of our finest took on this work through elected office, leading our city from City Hall.

Mayor Kinsey expanded our city’s parks and invested in our neighborhoods; Mayor—and then-Senator—Corker reimagined our downtown streets and led the creation of our waterfront; Mayor Littlefield transformed our digital infrastructure together with EPB to become the first city with municipal gigabit internet, and Mayor Berke invested in the next generation of Chattanoogans by expanding early childhood education and led our city’s economic recovery after the 2008 recession.

Each of these mayors had a vision for what our city could be, but they knew that the work was done together WITH the community. It is an honor and a privilege to stand on their shoulders and continue that work, and I will do it in exactly the same way- WITH the extraordinary people of our community.

But it’s not just mayors and elected officials who have transformed our city. Our city has been shaped by everyday Chattanoogans who stepped up to meet what Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. called the ‘fierce urgency of now'. This is a city shaped by the legacy of civil rights leaders, incredible leaders like Styles Hutchins, Maxine Cousin, and Representative Tommie Brown.

Chattanooga is all of these things, shaped by all of us. And I believe we have the capacity to be the best city in America if we, too, rise to meet the moment with the fierce urgency of now. Those that know me best know I have, shall we say, a bias toward action. While at times, that trait can be... difficult, especially for those around me <hopefully a laugh> I think it will serve the people of Chattanooga well over the next four years.

Because while we’ve made a lot of progress as a community, that progress invites new challenges and opportunities.

Too many in our community are still left out of that story of progress. We’ve seen many of our neighborhoods come roaring back, but others are still very distant from prosperity. There are too many families where every adult, and even some teenagers, are working multiple jobs and still struggling to make ends meet. Meanwhile, our community is still grappling with the tragic costs of COVID-19, from closed businesses, lost jobs, and dearly missed loved ones.

These are big challenges. But as I said before, I know we have what it takes to meet those challenges head-on. And we can do it together as One Chattanooga. We will do just that.

Together, we will build a better economy than the one we left behind before this pandemic began, one that includes all of our neighbors regardless of their zip code. We will secure the future of our children by investing in thousands more early learning and Pre-K seats over my term. And under my leadership, Chattanooga will get back to basics. Our city’s services will be responsive, cost-effective, and we will clearly communicate how, when, and where things are going to get fixed. To put it simply, we’re going to fill a lot of potholes and pave a lot of roads, striving to make this a more enjoyable and efficient city for all residents.

This work won’t be easy. This vision won’t be realized overnight and it can’t happen without commitment and help from each of you.

Chattanooga is a city that has never shied away from doing big things and taking on difficult problems. And under my leadership, that is one thing that won’t change. Alongside each of our neighbors, we will dig into the work together, and together we’ll build a stronger, more prosperous city around our shared vision and our common purpose.

Thank you again, Chattanooga, for giving me the opportunity to lead as we begin this next chapter of our city. I will do my dead level best to make it the brightest in our history.

So now… let’s get to work...

City of Chattanooga
Mayor's Office
101 E. 11th Street
Chattanooga, TN 37402
Phone: (423) 643-7800

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Photo by Phillip Stevens and Matt Lea