Dalton Roberts, Hamilton County’s first county executive and leader in a pushed to modernize the largely rural county, died Wednesday at age 82, reports the Times-Free Press.
Roberts will be remembered as “a smart, diligent, committed individual for the development of our county,” said the Rev. Paul McDaniel, who was elected to the Hamilton County Commission in 1978, at the same time Roberts became the first county executive.
Former Chattanooga mayor Ron Littlefield worked and sparred with Roberts for years as a city planner and elected official.
“Even though as city and county officials we had differences, we worked together on the important things: the riverpark, the network of greenways and walkways the younger generations take for granted,” Littlefield said.
“He was a great guy to work with, and, occasionally, he was a lot of fun to be on the other side of the issue from. He was frequently controversial and always interesting.”
The self-proclaimed country boy who waxed poetic over “‘mater sandwiches” each summer in his longtime Times Free Press column was a forward thinker whose chosen task was moving the county ahead in education and economic development.
Roberts never called himself a politician, even though he won four elections for county executive — the last one unopposed — and openly hoped to be the first mayor of a countywide charter government.
“I don’t fit into anybody’s definition of what a politician is,” said Roberts, who in his country music alternate persona had a minor hit with a little ditty called “Dirty Old Men Need Lovin’ Too.”