Chess is a complicated game which requires the player to make the best move from a sometimes large number of seemingly good choices. Each possible choice must be examined thoroughly and discarded until the best move is determined. Hopefully, the voters throughout Hamilton County will, as I did, use a similar process regarding their choice for the Hamilton County Commission District 7 in the Republican primary race.
Mr. Smartt claims his past service, and experience, as a board member on both the Hamilton County Department of Education and the Waste Water Treatment Authority qualifies him to be a county commissioner. He s a devoted family man of faith and was a successful business owner; however, is he the best candidate?
Let’s take a look at Mr. Smartt’s record and see:
Mr. Smartt was never elected by voters to serve on the board as he was always appointed.
He admitted he violated the state Sunshine Laws while he was a member of the school board. (Chattanooga Times - 7/21/1989)
He was involved in a hiring controversy in 1991 because he was bringing applicants in from his out-of-state college alma mater because they were “‘... probably the highest, most educated people in the world.’ . . . .” When asked if his influence as a board member gave these applicants an edge he stated, “I would hope they would have an edge, but I don’t know.” (Chattanooga Times - 2/21/1991)
In April, 1992, Irise Chapman, then director of the Special Education Department for the Hamilton County schools filed both EEOC and Human Rights Commission lawsuits against two school board members – Phil Smartt and Fred Skillern. The School Superintendent, Don Loftis, supplied Ms. Chapman with a memo for her use in the lawsuit “in which … board chairman Phil Smartt, [referred] to Ms. Chapman as a ‘New York Yankee Jew’, [and] told Loftis he wanted her replaced.”
Local media reporting on the lawsuit began in May 1992.
In a striking coincidence the Chattanooga News-Free Press reported on June 3, 1992, that the County Commission decided to replace Mr. Smartt on the school board by a five to four vote. (News-Free Press - 6/03/1992)
The lawsuit seems to have disappeared from the face of the earth. However, Ms. Chapman remained in her position until her untimely death in 2002.
All the above items, although over 20 years ago, bring up serious issues concerning Mr. Smartt’s ethics, integrity and worthiness to hold public office.
Waste Water Treatment Authority (WWTA)
Mr. Smartt was never elected by voters to serve on the board as, again, he was always appointed.
Mr. Smartt resigned from the WWTA board in 2011 after 11 years of service. However, it should be noted the WWTA was looking at “a loss of $887,000 . . . in the fiscal year” and expected a loss of “more than a $1 million . . . for the year” when he did so. (Times Free Press – 6/18/2011)
Concerning his claims to have stopped annexation dead in its tracks, reference the following item that appeared in the Times Free Press on August 15, 2009: “At an anti-annexation meeting earlier this month, Mr. Smartt said he would vote to abandon those areas -- potentially costing the city millions to build new sewers -- if it would stop the annexation push. But he stressed that he has only one vote on the 12-member board.
Richard Beeland, spokesman for Chattanooga Mayor Ron Littlefield, said WWTA actions -- whatever they are -- wouldn't stop the annexation. They will build sewers if needed, he said. ‘It's in the plan of services,’ Mr. Beeland said.”
In 2008 the Hamilton County Commission, on which he now wants to serve, had to threaten the WWTA with a lawsuit to force the board “to reveal who their customers are and how much they're paying for sewer service . . . The action comes after constituents' complaints about being charged extra sewer fees, without knowing they actually receive the sewer service.” (Times Free Press, Nov. 6, 2008)
C. Smartt Campaign Mailer
On a recent campaign card Mr. Smartt pledges to work for:
“Parental Choice in selecting . . . . . school.” In other words, open enrollment.
“Local schools selecting their standards.”
“Stop all unfunded federal and state mandates.”
“A new state-of-the-art vocational-technical high school.”
“We need much more money to actually get into the classroom.”
He opposes the $100,000 discretional fund for each commissioner.
It appears Mr. Smartt should consider reviewing the actual legislative authority and responsibilities of the county commission. Clearly, he is making campaign promises on issues about which the County Commission has no actual legislative power to address. The county government acts as a pass-through agent for school tax dollars. The superintendent and the school board make all the policy and spending decisions. The commission does have a vote in terms of bonding for school construction as was displayed by its recent vote to approve the $48 million construction request from the school district. Obviously the commissioners can lobby for changes they would like to see addressed. Finally, it is easy to voice opposition to a policy when there is little or no chance of the policy being changed.
Clearly several factual questions exist concerning Mr. Smartt’s claims that his WWTA board experiences were a plus and have prepared him to serve the residents of the 7th district as a commissioner.
I represent citizens of Chattanooga who reside in the 7th district of the county. Ms. Turner is energetic, empathic, above reproach ethically and will bring insightful new leadership to the commission.
I endorse Sabrena Turner because she has proven herself as an active participant in the affairs of the East Brainerd community, within the Hamilton County Republican Party, Pachyderm Club, as a small business owner, all the while a mom with a busy family. No other candidate for the Commission’s 7th district seat can make the same claims.
She will take the same dedication, energy and ethics she has already displayed in her years of community service and as a business owner to the county commission. I endorse Sabrena Turner, and the citizens of the 7th district can rest assured she will capably follow in the steps of the current industrious and laudable Larry Henry.
Chattanooga City Councilman, District 4
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I am a 50 year resident of District 7 and a staunch supporter of Sabrena Turner.
I first met Sabrena over a decade ago. A family member had just completed a tour of duty in Iraq and had property for sale. His construction trade was slow and he needed to sell a tract of land. After unsuccessfully listing "by owner," he hired Sabrena Turner who obtained a contract on the property and at closing reduced her commission to make the sale happen. This was my first interaction with Sabrena and I commented that it was an incredible financial gesture for her to make. She simply looked me in the eye and said "that's the least I could do as he was overseas fighting for our freedom, so we can earn a living and raise our families knowing the sacrifice they are making."
Sabrena is for the people:
A few years later I hired Sabrena to sell our house on Fuller Road. We had lived in it for over 15 years. The entire process including negotiating was done professionally and pleasantly for both parties involved. Sabrena is a professional negotiator who strives to maintain fairness and "win-win" in all deals. I have seen her in action countless times as a realtor.
Sabrena is for the people:
The debate over annexation has been discussed numerous times by all of the candidates. All I'll say is that I appreciate someone giving up two years of their personal time on the front lines organizing and fighting this issue while I sit in my favorite chair sipping ice tea. There were thousands involved in the Littlefield annexation and benefited from this passionate citizen's efforts.
Sabrena is for the people:
My daughter spent the past weekend taking the family dog to the Dog Park at Heritage Park. There were many enjoying this public recreational area on a beautiful spring day. There were many people involved in making Heritage Park a reality, and Sabrena was again instrumental in making this happen as a private, concerned citizen.
Sabrena is for the people:
I heard Sabrena advocate the need for a middle school for East Hamilton long before the campaign began. She has stopped questionable developments that would impact surrounding property values. She is well known among existing city and county officials and has worked closely with them to help improve the quality of life for all residents.
We need a commissioner who understands responsible growth, the importance of maintaining and increasing property values, and keeping infrastructure and maintenance a top priority.
Sabrena was recently elected realtor of the year by over a thousand of her professional peers, and this speaks to her professionalism, abilities and candor in dealing with financial decisions. Sabrena "gets it." She lives her life by the principle that the more you give, the more you receive. How refreshing is this for a politician?
This is what we can expect from Sabrena Turner.
I hope my fellow residents will join me in voting for Sabrena for County Commission District 7.
Resident of Hamilton County District 7
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There are many things that are important to the people of District 7 in Hamilton County such as roads, schools, safety in the community, and how their money is being spent to name a few. Who we have representing us and fighting for the causes that are important to the people of District 7 is critically important.
When I first met Sabrena Turner before her debate at East Hamilton High School, I was so impressed. She was the only candidate who took her time to come up to every individual she saw to introduce herself and explain what she is all about. That one instance was all it took for me to get hooked on her charisma. After watching that debate it was clear to me that not only had Mrs. Turner been successful in the real estate business due to her shrewd and efficient way of conducting business and making deals happen, but also that she would be the perfect person to represent me on the County Commission.
She presented new and innovative ways of paying for different things that we need to be done around the area (without raising taxes). In my few years of following politics I have realized that the “good ole boy” system is alive and well in this area, and Mrs.Turner embodies such a huge contrast to those ways. Sabrena Turner represents a new era of politics where elected officials actually get things done. We need a commissioner that will put the community first, that will fight always for what is right for all of our citizens from students to senior citizens and every family in between. We need Sabrena Turner in District 7 .
As an 18-year-old I am just now able to vote ,and I could not be more proud for my first ever vote to go to Sabrena Turner for District 7 County Commissioner.
Brandon Williams May
Senior @ East Hamilton High School