published Tuesday, November 5th, 2013

Hamilton County Commission Chairman Fred Skillern to face GOP opposition

  • photo
    Hamilton County Commissioner for District 1 Fred Skillern, left speaks with Harold Coker, right, before Skillern addresses the Pachyderm Club during their weekly meeting at the GOP headquarters in downtown Chattanooga on Monday.
    Photo by Dan Henry.
    enlarge photo

Candidates who have filed campaign treasury reports

Candidate - Office

• Mike Evatt, R - Circuit Court Clerk

• Larry Henry, R - Circuit Court Clerk

• Catherine Cate White, R - Circuit Court Judge Div. 1

• Bill Knowles, R - County Clerk

• Randy Fairbanks, R - County Commission District 1

• Warren Mackey, D - County Commission District 4

• Greg Beck, D - County Commission District 5

• Sabrena Turner, R - County Commission District 7

• Phil Smartt, R - County Commission District 7

• Curtis Adams, R - County Commission District 8

• Chester Bankston, R - County Commission District 9

• Pam Hurst, R - Register of Deeds

• Jim Hammond, R - Sheriff

• Tim Carroll, R - Sheriff *

• Chris Harvey, R - Sheriff

• Richard Bennett - County Board of Education District 5

• Greg Martin - County Board of Education District 3

*Since filing, Carroll has said he would not seek the position.

Nonpartisan race

Minutes after Hamilton County Commission Chairman Fred Skillern spoke to a group of local GOP members, an opponent announced he would seek to unseat the veteran Soddy-Daisy Republican in the May 2014 primary.

Skillern visited the Hamilton County Pachyderm Club's lunch meeting Monday at Republican headquarters on Chestnut Street to give a report on county business. He was greeted by a packed house of elected officials and fellow Republicans and was sent off with a standing ovation.

But after most of the crowds filed out, Randy Fairbanks, a local accountant, announced he would challenge Skillern for the District 1 seat.

So far, Skillern and Commissioner Tim Boyd appear to be the only incumbent commissioners who will face opposition. Campaign treasurer reports indicate former Commissioner Curtis Adams will vie for Boyd's District 8 seat. Reports also show there will be a potential contest for the District 7 seat, which is being vacated by Larry Henry. Henry is seeking to face Board of Education Chairman Mike Evatt to become the next Circuit Court Clerk. Sabrena Turner and Phil Smartt are collecting money to bid for Henry's District 7 seat.

But it is still incredibly early in the 2014 campaign season, and many candidates may still come and go, said County Elections Administrator Charlotte Mullis-Morgan.

Potential candidates can pick up petitions for candidacy on Nov. 22 and have until noon on Feb. 20, 2014 to qualify for the May 6 primary. After qualifying, a complete list of candidates will be available.

On Monday, Fairbanks said District 1 needs new blood.

"I've been talking to concerned citizens ... they are interested in having a commissioner they can talk to, and one that will listen to their concerns. They want a commissioner who is out in the community meeting with them," Fairbanks said.

Saying Skillern was too insular, Fairbanks also criticized how Skillern spends the $100,000 a year discretionary funds he is budgeted. Skillern currently has $416,000 in that fund.

"District 1 schools continue to struggle to fund important programs and critical facility needs every year, despite our county commissioner having more than $400,000 in his discretionary fund," Fairbanks said.

In a phone interview after the meeting, Skillern said he welcomes the competition.

"You know, you'd like to run unopposed, but looks like I won't," Skillern said.

While Skillern did not stay for Fairbanks' announcement, he said he didn't agree with what he'd heard.

"People say I'm not in the community. I've lived in it and work in it, and I go to church in it. Usually, I get all kinds of criticism for not going out of it," Skillern said.

Skillern said he hadn't formally announced he would seek re-election, but said Monday he would.

The county general election is Aug. 7, 2014, the same day as state primaries.

Contact staff writer Louie Brogdon at lbrogdon@timesfreepress.com or at 423-757-6481.

about Louie Brogdon...

Louie Brogdon began reporting with the Chattanooga Times Free Press in February 2013. Before he came to the Scenic City, Louie lived on St. Simons Island, Ga. and covered crime, courts, environment and government at the Brunswick News, a 17,000-circulation daily on the Georgia coast. While there, he was awarded for investigative reporting on police discipline and other law enforcement issues by the Georgia Press Association. For the Times Free Press, Louie covers Hamilton County ...

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