published Wednesday, March 12th, 2014

Former commissioner, East Ridge mayor face Tim Boyd in primary

KEY DATES

Important dates for the Hamilton County primaries:

• Deadline to register to vote: April 7

• Absentee ballot request deadline: April 29

• Early Voting: April 16 - May 1

• County primary: May 6

EDITOR'S NOTE: This is one in a series of stories about contested races in the May 6 county primary.

The District 8 Commission race has called a former commissioner back to politics and beckoned East Ridge's mayor to seek a county post. Both will challenge Commissioner Tim Boyd in the May 6 Republican primary.

Boyd said Monday he hopes to keep his post to continue work he started in his first four-year term. Boyd said his main responsibility as a commissioner is to keep close tabs on the county's check book.

"I keep a very close watch on how we spend the money and look for reasonable solutions to problems. I'm working for taxpayers. I don't work for county department heads," he said. "I'm going to continue to ask hard questions. I'm not going to back down."

Boyd also said he has made good use of the $100,000 a year he has in discretionary funds.

Citing a $10,000 expenditure to First Things First for an alternate sentencing program for Hamilton County defendants, and money he used to kick start a literacy program through Girls Inc., Boyd said he's making dollars stretch for the community.

"The alternate sentencing program, that saves taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars by getting these guys out of the system and make them givers in the community, instead of takers," Boyd said.

But one challenger, East Ridge Mayor Brent Lambert, said he's campaigning on discretionary spending reform.

If he had is druthers, he'd scrap the program, he said. But getting five of nine commissioners to agree with him is a tall order.

"The likelihood of discretionary funds going away is pretty slim, but I do think the process needs to be reformed," Lambert said.

Lambert advocates for the funds to only be used in the commissioner's individual district -- and he says they should be evenly divided in the community.

"I would like to see some stipulations that would require some type of balance as far as how the spending is done within your district. I just don't see how it's at all fair that some in a specific neighborhood can see great benefit when others see no benefit," Lambert said.

If elected, Lambert would not seek another term as East Ridge's mayor. He said he wanted to get on the county scene to give the city a countywide voice.

East Ridge is a gateway to Hamilton County from Georgia, and Lambert said a special economic development designation it qualified for could be a boon for the whole county.

It's part of a Border Region Retail Tourism Development District, which allows East Ridge to offer tax incentives to new businesses.

"In a lot of ways, East Ridge is the public face of Hamilton County. It's the first thing that people see when they come up Interstate 75," he said. "This is going to enable East Ridge to see revitalization, and I believe there's a role the county can play in that."

Former six-time Commissioner Curtis Adams entered the race after he left in 2010 to pursue a city manager post in Crossville, Tenn.

He's back and he wants to get back to governing, for a seventh term.

Adams said this week he would serve District 8 the same way he did for his first 22-year run. He would focus on strengthening education in the district and the county and he would be an ear for residents, he said.

"We've got to always figure out how to do the very best we can with our schools. We've got schools that are at the top, and we've got some that aren't. For the schools that aren't performing, we need to figure out how to lift them up," Adams said.

Adams said he doesn't see any problem with commissioners' discretionary funds -- as long as they are spent in the district. Adams only had access to discretionary money during his last three terms.

"When you build a new school, they don't have anything in there for playgrounds. I've built three playgrounds," he said. "The only way those things get done is through discretionary funds. If it's spent right, I don't see anything wrong with it."

Former school board member Kenny Smith, the lone Democrat in the race, has no opposition in the primary.

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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