Tag Archives: mayors

McCormick for mayor?

State Rep. Gerald McCormick says he had no thought of running against incumbent Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke when he decided against another term as House Majority leader, but lots of people have raised the possibility since — and he’s not ruling it out.

Further from Andy Sher:
“That was definitely not on my mind,” McCormick said Tuesday of the idea of running for mayor. “It’s been surprising the number of people who’ve called me.”

Berke, a Democrat and former state senator, recently announced he is running for a second four-year mayoral term in the city’s March 7 election. City Councilman Larry Grohn last month announced he is challenging Berke for the non-partian position.

…The lawmaker, who noted he personally likes Berke, said “I’ve had people I respect very much” raise the issue in the days since about running for mayor. “I do not have any plans to run for mayor and if I had to give a quick answer the answer would be no.”

But, McCormick said, “I don’t want to close out the door completely.”

Berke, 48, has been embroiled in controversy after a domestic incident involving adviser Lacie Stone and her husband, Bobby. Bobby Stone has alleged his wife was having an affair with Berke. The mayor has denied the claim.

McCormick is a principal in the commercial real estate firm of Stone Fort Properties. He recently became a director with the investment banking firm of Decosimo Corporate Finance. In addition to overseeing Chattanooga-based Stone Fort, McCormick is assisting Decosimo in sourcing and executing sell-side advisory engagements and debt and equity raises.

Notes on TN Democrats headed to convention (mayors prominent)

From a News Sentinel pre-convention story:

“We’re going to be the grown-ups that have a helpful and optimistic message for America, versus the slander and negative campaign that we saw this week for the Republicans,” Knox County Democratic Party Chairman Cameron Brooks said Thursday. “We are much more unified than they are right now.”

… In contrast to Trump’s acceptance speech, which portrayed a country with porous borders beset by enemies worldwide, Knoxville Mayor Madeline Rogero, a delegate for presumptive nominee Hillary Clinton, said she hopes to hear language of a more palliative, uplifting nature from Democrats this week.

“We all have to tone down the rhetoric,” Rogero said. “We have to talk about issues where a nonpartisan mayor or partisan state-level and federal-level people, can work together to get the job done.”

She said she hopes to hear constructive voices.

“Try to use language that doesn’t intimidate or upset,” she said. “We should try to frame issues in a way that avoids conflict. … What’s the common goal or the common interest? … I think you can accomplish much more when you share the common language and common goals.”

… Another Clinton delegate from Knoxville, Paul Witt… compared the GOP convention to a car wreck.

“It’s been a mess, which is great,” he said. “I think our side will be more unified around (Clinton) than the Republicans will be around Trump.”

Mayors in the lead

The Tennessean observes that four Democratic mayors will be delegates to the Democratic National Convention – Rogero, Nashville’s Megan Barry, Chattanooga’s Andy Berke and Clarksville’s Kim McMillan – that this shows the prominence and importance of big city mayors in party politics now that they are in minority status. (Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland is a Democrat but not attending the convention.)

Barry, who introduced presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton during two Clinton campaign stops in Nashville during the primary, will be in Philadelphia for the entire four-day event. She said Clinton “gets the impact” that cities contribute to the nation’s economy and would be an ally on efforts she wants to accomplish in Nashville.

“My hope is that we’ll continue to have the same type of relationship with her that we’ve had with Obama’s administration on infrastructure and transit and other things,” said Barry, a Clinton delegate.

… As Democrats look for a candidate who can compete for an open governor’s race and U.S. Senate in 2018, eyes turn first to two men who came from the mayoral ranks – former Nashville Mayor Karl Dean and Berke. Dean has been open about a run and has attended speaking engagements across the state to increase his political network. Berke has said he’s focused on only being mayor for now.

Six mayors back Shutt’s challenge to Sen. Gresham in Senate District 26

Savannah Mayor Bob Shutt, opposing Sen. Delores Gresham of Somerville in the Republican primary, has been endorsed by mayors of five counties in the eight-county Senate District 26, along with the mayor of Selmer. Here’s the handout:

News release from Bob Shutt campaign:

Bob Shutt for State Senate announced today the endorsements of his 26th District Senate Campaign by five County Mayors and the Mayor of Selmer, TN. The Mayors endorsing Shutt are:

Dwain Seaton, Chester Co.
Ronnie Brooks, McNairy Co.
Kevin Davis, Hardin Co.
Mike Creasy, Decatur Co.
Dan Hughes, Henderson Co.
John Smith, Selmer,Tn. City Mayor

Bob Shutt called fellow mayors’ endorsements “a keystone to building a winning team for West Tennessee.” Shutt continued, “These are individuals who are respected by their communities and I’ve been privileged to work with as Mayor of Savannah. I am honored and humbled by their support an look forward to rolling up our sleeves together to lay the foundation for the future of West Tennessee.” Bob Shutt is centering his campaign on recruiting jobs and economic development, improving public education and restoring access to local healthcare in rural West Tennessee counties. Continue reading

Berke to resign in sex flap? ‘No, of course not’

In the course of a WGOW radio talk show appearance Thursday, Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke said he has no intention of resigning and refused to talk about allegations he had a sexual relationship with a senior aide. He has previously and adamantly denied the allegations, raised by the woman’s husband.

From the TFP report:

One caller asked Berke if he would step down if any of the allegations proved true.

Berke responded by saying he has said all he would on the matter, but later added, “No, of course not,” when Joyce asked him if he had any intentions of stepping down.

Joyce also asked Berke if the allegations were politically motivated, considering he is a Democrat “in a sea of red.”

“I honestly don’t think about it,” Berke said. “It’s not important.”

Reality is much different than the world of social media talk surrounding the allegations, Berke said, citing encouragement he has received from people in the community when talking with them face-to-face.

There is no way he can focus on improving Chattanooga’s economy and public safety if he worries about social media chatter, Berke said. Work has been a refuge for him during this time, he said.

On a personal level, Berke said it has been a trying time for his family and his adviser’s family.

Initially, he added, he reacted to the allegations with shock.

“I was surprised,” he said. “It took me a minute to get my arms around it.”

Then it came time to deal with it, Berke said, praising his family’s willingness to make the kind of sacrifices they’ve had to make for him to be in the political arena. They said it was worth it if he could achieve some good, he said.

“We know that you have to have a thick skin and you have to be ready for what comes at you” when you run for elected office, Berke said.

Karl Dean takes statewide tour with eye toward run for governor

Former Nashville Mayor Karl Dean is traveling the state with an eye toward running for statewide political office, reports The Tennessean. Dean is most widely seen as a prospective candidate for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination in 2018.

He was in Chattanooga and Memphis last week to talk to leaders in both cities and has other stops planned. (Note: He has a stop scheduled June 10 in Oak Ridge; a press release HERE.)

In an interview with The Tennessean, Dean characterized these trips — and visits to other cities on the horizon — as educational and part of the process to determine whether to run for office in 2018 when two statewide seats are up for grabs.

He declined to say specifically whom he met with in Chattanooga and Memphis, calling them a “broad range of people.”

“I think for this calendar year, it’s a time for me to see whether I have something to contribute,” Dean said of a possible run for state higher office. “It’s an opportunity for me to learn more about the state and it’s also an opportunity, frankly, to see whether something like that is doable.That’s really all I’m doing.

“Going through an exercise of thinking about this is a wonderful way to get educated about different issues that face the state,” he said. “People look at things differently in different parts of the state. And there are different issues that certainly confront different parts of the state. Then you’ve got to figure out whether it’s a realistic thing to do or whether it’s the right thing or right timing for my family and myself.”

Dean, whose two terms as Nashville mayor concluded in September, is more frequently discussed as a possible Democratic candidate in 2018 in what will be an open governor’s race to replace Bill Haslam. In addition U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tennessee — who has received recent speculation as a possible running mate for presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump — will be up for re-election the same year.

Dean said he wouldn’t make a decision on his plans until sometime next year.

…Dean could be in position to self-finance at least a portion of a future campaign, having dropped more than $1 million of personal funds into his first mayoral campaign in 2007.

“That’s not something I’ve made any decisions about,” Dean said when asked about the use of personal funds in a possible campaign. “I can tell you that it will cost a lot to run for governor and have a serious campaign, and, obviously, I think you would need to raise a lot of money.”

Following his time in the mayor’s office, Dean has spent the past eight months teaching at Belmont University and Boston University, as well as chairing a new education nonprofit called Project Renaissance.

TBI investigating domestic violence case involving Chattanooga mayor’s adviser

The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation launched an investigation Thursday into a domestic violence incident involving one of Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke’s senior advisers, reports the Times-Free Press.

Hamilton County District Attorney General Neal Pinkston asked the TBI to look into the case, which involves allegations that Mayor Andy Berke had a sexual relationship with his adviser, Lacie Stone, and that the relationship prompted Stone’s husband, Bobby Stone, to attack her Friday night.

Bobby Stone was arrested and charged with domestic assault and vandalism early Saturday morning, after Lacie Stone called police Chief Fred Fletcher for help and said her husband was going to kill her, Fletcher said Wednesday. She then went to Fletcher’s house to wait for police.

Berke has adamantly denied allegations of a sexual relationship with Lacie Stone, and Fletcher said the domestic violence case was treated like any other. But Pinkston’s spokeswoman, Melydia Clewell, said Wednesday that Pinkston’s office wanted the TBI to look into how police handled the case, and that Berke and Fletcher’s comments raised “unusual concerns” for prosecutors.

A spokesman for the TBI declined to release any details about the scope of the investigation on Thursday.

“The investigation is active and ongoing and we have no additional detail to offer at this time,” spokesman Josh DeVine said in a statement.

Fletcher said he welcomes the TBI’s investigation.

“We welcome the support and assistance of the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation,” he said. “I have called on them many, many times, whether it is helping to investigate my own officers or on a case that needs extra assistance.”

…Berke said Thursday he will cooperate with the TBI. Despite reports he had cancelled all of his public appearances this week, he attended at least two public events Thursday — a meeting of the Mayor’s Council for Women and an annual awards ceremony for the police department. After the awards ceremony, he declined to answer several questions about the investigation and allegations, but did speak to reporters.

“I’ll let the proceedings go forth,” he said, and added later, “I’m not going to comment on the investigation. I’ve been asked not to comment on it.”

Chattanooga mayor denies sexual relationship with staffer

Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke denied allegations that he maintained an inappropriate sexual relationship with one of his senior advisers Wednesday, five days after his adviser’s husband was arrested for domestic assault.

Further from the Times-Free Press:

As soon as Bobby Stone, 54, went to jail, rumors quickly began to spread that he attacked his wife, Lacie Stone, 38, after discovering she was romantically involved with Berke, who is also married. Berke said in a statement that Bobby Stone was lying.

“Upon being arrested and charged, her husband made numerous false allegations about me and other people involved in city government,” Berke said. “It is unfortunate that this situation escalated to the point of a domestic assault. Let me be clear: the allegations are absolutely false.”

Berke did not answer multiple previous requests for comment from the Times Free Press and declined to comment further, “out of respect for the ongoing investigation.”
Continue reading

Former Johnson City Mayor Warren Vest dies, aged 92

Former Johnson City Mayor Warren Vest has died at age 92. Robert Houk has penned a tribute to “a true political maverick.” Excerpt:

He certainly couldn’t be confused with a suit and tie politician. Vest preferred wearing blue jeans and cowboy boots. And when it came to his hair, Vest rarely let a barber’s scissors touch his silver mane.

More importantly, Vest didn’t need a TV camera aimed at him every other Thursday night to stand up for those he called “the poor folks” of Johnson City.

…As mayor, Vest happily rode a circus elephant into Freedom Hall. He also was known to abruptly leave City Commission meetings when he felt they had dragged on too long.

At one meeting, after his critics chastised him for his hasty departures, Vest had a city staffer tie him into his chair. It just so happened a writer for a newly launched statewide magazine (remember Chris Whittle’s now defunct Tennessee Illustrated?) was in the audience that night.

Vest’s 12-year stint on the City Commission came to an end in 1989. There have been others since Vest who have billed themselves as watchdogs of the city budget and champions of the common people, but none of them could match Vest’s tenacity.

Memphis PAC dodges donor disclosure until after election

A group of well-known Memphis businessmen was behind a political action committee that opposed former mayor A C Wharton’s reelection last year, according to the PAC’s financial disclosure Thursday and reviewed by the Commercial Appeal.

Neighborhood Alliance PAC includes several supporters of Mayor Jim Strickland, including developer and Shelby County Schools board member Billy Orgel, Paul Boyle and Mark Halperin of real estate firm Boyle Investment Company, and HealthChoice CEO Mitch Graves.

Strickland said Friday that he didn’t know, and the “chances are zero” that his campaign staff knew, who was funding Neighborhood Alliance.

Jordan Libowitz, a spokesman for watchdog organization Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), said the group passed their donations through another PAC, which avoided having to disclose the donations until after the Oct. 8 election.

The PAC received all of its $113,000 in donations in September from another PAC, Conservatives for Effective Government, according to disclosures filed before the election. Conservatives for Effective Government received $132,500 in September from six people and one company, all from Memphis.

That doesn’t violate any election rules, although Libowitz said the approach put up a “roadblock to transparency.”

Memphis mayor-elect abolishes Music Commission, fires 10

Memphis Mayor-elect Jim Strickland on Christmas eve announced he will eliminate the Music Commission along with 10 other positions after taking office Jan. 1 and use part of the $1 million in savings to pay for new positions and pay raises, reports the Commercial Appeal.

Strickland said he’ll spend $339,000 of the savings on newly created positions, and another $29,400 for pay increases, including for the six chief officers who will lead City Hall as part of a new organizational structure.

“Budgeting is all about priorities,” he said. “And to me, the priorities for city government are all about core services.”

“I think these personnel decisions match my commitment in the campaign to do more with less,” he added in an email.

With his staff changes, the city will save a net $633,931 per year, Strickland said. He said he hasn’t calculated the long-term effect of the changes on benefits costs.

Strickland promised on the campaign trail this year to close the Memphis & Shelby County Music Commission and eliminate superfluous deputy director positions. Music Commission Executive Director Johnnie Walker won’t be reappointed, and staff member Jacinda Norton will be laid off “either on Jan. 1 or shortly thereafter,” Strickland said.

Strickland said he’ll look at whether other city divisions or private groups can pick up some of the commission’s functions, which included promoting local artists and organizing showcase events. The city will continue to offer a musician health care program, which only has two participants, he said.