Jim Coppinger had big shoes to fill in 2011 when he assumed the job of Hamilton County mayor. He succeeded Claude Ramsey, who had served long and ably. Ramsey's work had drawn the notice of Gov. Bill Haslam, who tapped Ramsey as his deputy. At the time, Coppinger was a county commissioner. But a vote by fellow commissioners elevated him to county mayor to succeed Ramsey.
Coppinger has handled the duties of that position competently. And we recommend an enthusiastic vote for him in the March 6 Republican primary -- where he will face Basil Marceaux Sr. and contractor William Turner -- and later in the August election to serve out the rest of Ramsey's term.
The GOP winner on March 6 will face UTC political science professor Richard "Rick" Wilson in the August election. Wilson is unopposed in the Democratic primary, and Richard Ford, who works at Miller Industries, is running as an independent.
Coppinger, who long served in the Chattanooga Fire Department, makes it a point to pursue goals positively and to avoid needless controversy.
"I take pride in the fact that I've spent my entire adult life trying to work with other people," he said in the Times Free Press.
His steady hand has aided economic growth in the county. He helped put the finishing touches on a deal with Internet retail giant Amazon to open a massive distribution center at Enterprise South industrial park. The site has 1,700 employees today, plus hundreds more seasonal employees around Christmas. Total capital investment in the county from new or expanded businesses during Coppinger's term has been over $120 million.
He does not claim all the credit for that, of course. The city of Chattanooga and factors such as a good local workforce and Tennessee's low taxes played vital roles as well. But the stability Coppinger brings to the table makes it easier for companies to invest here with confidence.
He also budgets conservatively. The county faced a multimillion-dollar shortfall last year and ultimately made the hard decision to cut $13 million from the budget -- which included some layoffs.
His sound leadership and willingness to make tough decisions recommend Coppinger's continued service.