State Sen. Andy Berke, D-Chattanooga, made one of his first campaign pledges Monday morning during a coffee hour with Chattanooga residents.
"We will lower the crime rate in this city. Period," Berke told those gathered around him at Greyfriar's Coffeehouse & Tea Co.
The state senator, now a Chattanooga mayoral candidate, said he would do that by gathering everyone in the community to sit down and discuss the issue. Those involved in crime need to be shown a path to success, he said.
If the city can do that, crime can go down, Berke said.
"It's incredibly important and doable," he said.
Berke announced a month ago that he would not seek re-election and would run for Chattanooga mayor. Berke is the first candidate to announce publicly his intention to run for mayor.
Others who are considering runs include Citizens to Recall Mayor Littlefield founder Jim Folkner, former city Parks and Recreation Director Rob Healy, County Commissioner Warren Mackey, retired city employee Guy Satterfield and Associated General Contractors of East Tennessee President Roger Tuder.
Candidates will be able to start picking up petitions in September. The city election is in March 2013.
Berke spoke with potential voters for about an hour at Greyfriar's on Monday morning. He fielded questions concerning crime, jobs, growth and taxes. About two dozen people crowded around Berke's table.
Dan Porline, who lives in the Highway 58 area, asked about the size of government.
"Will you look at the existing city structure and make cuts?" he asked.
Berke said that if elected, he would look at the city across the board.
"We need to make sure we're getting the most out of our investment," he said.
Eugene Bartoo, a St. Elmo resident, told the senator there were a lot of issues -- crime, infrastructure, aesthetics such as parks, and managing money. He asked how Berke would handle these issues.
Berke answered that those issues would take collaborative effort.
But being mayor is more than being a manager, he said.
"The mayor has to lead the city," Berke said. "To me, that's just not about government."
Bartoo said after the meeting that hearing directly from the candidate is helpful.
"I'll take him at his word," he said. "He's wanting to hear what other people think."
Contact staff writer Cliff Hightower at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6480. Follow him at twitter.com/cliffhightower or facebook.com/cliff.hightower.