Mayor Andy Berke at a press conference on Friday announced his choices for three top posts in his administration.
Lurone Jennings, director of the Bethlehem Center, will be the administrator of the Department of Youth and Family Development, which includes the old parks and recreation department.
Urban designer Blythe Bailey will head the new Department of Transportation.
James McKissic of the Urban League will be the new Multicultural Affairs director.
The press conference was held at the Bethlehem Center in Alton Park.
“We are putting the best people in place to make a real difference for our citizens,” said Mayor Berke. “I know they will wake up every day, thinking about how to work together to address the issues that matter most to our community while providing effective and efficient services at the best value for our citizens.”
Mayor Berke went on to explain how each individual’s experience and leadership will work together to implement his vision for Chattanooga.
“As administrator of Youth and Family Development, Lurone brings decades of experience and he understands the importance of young people having the opportunities to grow and achieve,” said Mayor Berke. “He has done tremendous work throughout his career and I know he will make my vision for our youth become a reality.”
“Our city’s infrastructure provides a connection between successful businesses and healthy, safe neighborhoods. Whether traveling by car, bike, bus or foot, transportation connects us to each other and to our community,” said Mayor Berke. “As administrator of Transportation, Blythe understands that people on the west side of town can only have opportunities on the east side if our city’s transportation needs are met.”
“As director of the Office of Multicultural Affairs, James will make sure that our city is an inclusive community where opportunities exist for everyone. He will look at the functions of this office with new eyes and ensure the best services to our community,” said Mayor Berke.
Mr. Jennings said he has devoted his life to youth development. Mr. Jennings is most recently the executive director of The Bethlehem Center. He is one of the founders of the Bethlehem Community Development Credit Union as well as the founder and head coach of The V-Team Leadership Network of America. Prior to The Bethlehem Center, Mr. Jennings worked for 18 years with youth in the public school system, including serving as the principal of his alma mater, Howard High School, and working as the director of Drug Education and Athletics for Hamilton County Department of Education. Mr. Jennings is the author of the book “Crisis in Urban America” which explores the problems plaguing inner city communities.
Mr. Bailey said transportation is not just about moving people efficiently, "but about creating high-quality public spaces." A Chattanooga native, Mr. Bailey is most recently a partner for Palmer Built Environments (pBE) Architecture + Design. In addition to managing architectural projects for the last 10 years, he has worked extensively with multiple non-profits and boards focused on a safe, connected and sustainable public realm. His extensive urban design experience includes collaborations with engineers on infrastructure projects including streets, sidewalks, and pathways. Mr. Blythe has also worked as an adjunct professor at UTC, organized the Chattanooga Community Design Forum, serves on the Mark Making board of directors, and was recently elected to the board of the East Tennessee Chapter of the United States Green Building Council.
Mr. McKissic said he will be seeking to achieve results that are "meaningful, measurable and effective." Mr. McKissic most recently served as the chief operating officer of the Urban League of Greater Chattanooga. In his ten years there he was instrumental in establishing the organization's STEM youth programs and the Entrepreneur Center. Mr. McKissic has worked in the nonprofit sector for almost twenty years and is a volunteer for many local organizations. He serves on a variety of boards, such as ArtsBuild, Habitat for Humanity, Green/Spaces and the Community Foundation of Greater Chattanooga. He holds degrees in secondary education and public and nonprofit policy and management from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga and the Robert F. Wagner School of Public Service at New York University, respectively.