published Saturday, March 3rd, 2012

Chattanooga developer Greg Vital plans to seek Tennessee Senate seat

Chattanooga developer Greg Vital said Friday he plans to run for the state Senate seat being vacated by Democrat Andy Berke.

Meanwhile, state Rep. Vince Dean, R-East Ridge, is reconsidering a run for Berke's Senate seat after the two top House Republican leaders told him they want him remain in the House, where Dean serves as floor leader.

Vital, 56, said he plans to file his qualifying petition next week to run in the 10th Senate District Republican primary in August.

"I waited until Andy made his decision, looked at the map and decided to run for what will be an open seat newly created because of redistricting," said Vital, who is president of Independent Healthcare Properties in Collegedale. "Half the district is in Hamilton County and half is in Bradley County and I think I can do an excellent job, having been in both districts."

The new 10th Senate district leans Republican and Vital said he can bring a fresh business perspective to the Legislature. He is a former executive for Life Care Centers of America in Cleveland who started building assisted living centers, nursing homes and other senior housing projects in 1986.

"I think our Legislature needs practical business people who understand what it takes to build a company, make a payroll, figure out the regulatory environment and strike a balance," he said.

Earlier in the day, House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick, R-Chattanooga, and House Speaker Beth Harwell, R-Nashville, said that, while they understand Dean's interest in new challenges, they would prefer he remain in the House, where serves as chairman of an important Transportation subcommittee in addition to his role as floor leader.

A 53-year-old retired Chattanooga police lieutenant and one-time East Ridge mayor, Dean was expected to run for Berke's seat which, under GOP-controlling redistricting, favors Republicans now.

Dean said he is "going to take the rest of this weekend and weigh out my options. The leadership has asked me to stay in the House because of my seniority, because of my leadership positions."

In a prepared statement, McCormick said that, while he will support Dean in "whatever decision" he makes, "if he remains in the House, it would be a victory for Chattanooga, our state, and I would consider it the first triumph for the GOP in the 2012 election."

Harwell said Dean "has a unique command of the issues and knows how to get the job done on behalf of Tennesseans. Beyond that, I consider him a valuable friend whose advice is something I would hate to lose from the House."

Dean recently picked up a qualifying petition from the Hamilton County Election Commission but has not turned it in. He is a Tennessee sales manager for Chattanooga-based ERMC, a national facilities services firm that provides services ranging from security and patrol to maintenance and landscaping for businesses.

The lawmaker has championed law enforcement issues during his six-year tenure. Last year, he played a major role in brokering a legislative compromise resulting in new restrictions on Tennessee cities' use of traffic-enforcement cameras that was aimed at halting abuses by some municipalities.

Vital cited his business experience and said he is prepared to run regardless of whether Dean does.

"My platform is about jobs, jobs. I think I have the experience in business and getting Hamilton and Bradley counties to work together to create a regional balance between jobs and quality of life that contributes to people moving here, living here and working here."

Vital was elected to the Collegedale City Commission in 1979 for a four-year term and served as a board member for the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Hospital Authority in the 1980s.

Vital described Dean as "a nice guy who has done well in the House, but that doesn't merit his elevation to the Senate."

"That's his opinion," Dean responded.

Berke announced earlier this week that he would not seek re-election to the Senate as he weighs a 2013 bid for mayor of Chattanooga.

Meanwhile, East Ridge Mayor Brent Lambert is considering a Republican primary bid for the state House District 30 seat, now held by Dean. David Grohn also recently picked up a qualifying petition for the seat.

about Dave Flessner...

Dave Flessner is the business editor for the Times Free Press. A journalist for 35 years, Dave has been business editor and projects editor for the Chattanooga Times Free Press, city editor for The Chattanooga Times, business and county reporter for the Chattanooga Times, correspondent for the Lansing State Journal and Ingham County News in Michigan, staff writer for the Hastings Daily Tribune in Nebraska, and news director for WCBN-FM in Michigan. Dave, a native ...

about Andy Sher...

Andy Sher is a Nashville-based staff writer covering Tennessee state government and politics for the Times Free Press. A Washington correspondent from 1999-2005 for the Times Free Press, Andy previously headed up state Capitol coverage for The Chattanooga Times, worked as a state Capitol reporter for The Nashville Banner and was a contributor to The Tennessee Journal, among other publications. Andy worked for 17 years at The Chattanooga Times covering police, health care, county government, ...

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