Roy Exum: We Need Gwen Tidwell

Tuesday, July 15, 2014 - by Roy Exum
Roy Exum
Roy Exum

Of all the political races that will be decided in Hamilton County on Aug. 7, the one that concerns me most is the office of Criminal Court clerk. Two people who I consider as friends, incumbent Gwen Tidwell and challenger Vince Dean, are vying for votes in what is expected to be a tight race and, as is my custom whenever friends are involved, I hope both do well.

Technically that is impossible, of course, but allow me to let you in on another secret – there is no way this race should be close. When I remove friendship and admiration of both from the equation, it is easy to see that Gwen Tidwell is head-and-shoulders above any possible challenger – not just Vince – and she should be elected in a demonstrable landslide to begin her fifth consecutive term in office.

Her qualifications are a given and the fact she has a law degree and once was a practicing attorney assures such excellence. Hers is an administrative post – the clerk makes no policy – and a growing list of endorsements from over 75 trial lawyers who depend on her office every day is a well-deserved tribute. Her staff adores her – this from a co-worker whose name must be anonymous for obvious reasons – and a long list of ringing endorsements from politicians starting with former Deputy Governor Claude Ramsey can’t be ignored.

Her detractors point to some $50 million in uncollected court fees and jail costs but they never “finish the sentence.” It is true there is a huge amount that has not been collected but she can also show she has taken in – drum roll – over $70 million. Another truth is that Tidwell’s office has the highest collection percentage among criminal courts in the state – more than Nashville, Memphis and Knoxville. Let’s squelch that misperception right now

Don’t you see? The $50 million in uncollected fees is meant to be a political ruse. Everybody knows a repeat offender, one in and out of jail regularly, has no way of getting a job and paying court and jail fees. Gwen can garnish bank accounts, payroll, and prison commissary accounts but thank God she is the type of court clerk who will not decimate some guy’s total savings because it would accomplish little more than driving him back to crime. That’s what makes Gwen Tidwell such a joy.

Vince Dean neither has the experience nor the credentials that Gwen Tidwell has used over the past 20 years in office. His biggest asset is that he is a Republican in a super-majority state while Gwen is a Democrat. The antidote is that anyone who votes for a party rather than a person is making a profound mistake. Tidwell’s office is not political at all, instead offering a service. There will be some hard-line Republicans who will vote for Dean while hard-line Democrats will vote for Tidwell but wisest voters will ignore the party in every contest and instead pick the person best qualified.

There is no room to doubt that Gwen Tidwell is the best qualified of the two. Vince served as a policeman for 27 years before serving admirably in the state legislature. He is a nice guy who was a city councilman in East Ridge before retiring as the town mayor.

Vince is well-respected in the legislature but hardly has the background or the expertise to run the Criminal Court clerk’s office. This isn’t meant as criticism, not at all, but voters should be assured political party has nothing to do with the mammoth task of overseeing the Criminal and General Sessions Courts.

Some believe anyone running with a (D) behind their name is “doomed” in the conservative South but in Gwen Tidwell’s case it hardly stands for “dumb.” She is a great servant to the people and a great favorite at the Justice Building. If Hamilton County voters believe they should fix “something that isn’t broken,” I believe our local courts will suffer as a result. I have a list of about 80 lawyers who will readily agree.

Let’s keep Gwen Tidwell right where she belongs. We need people like her more than ever before.

royexum@aol.com



Outrageous To Give Vehicles To Nation Of Islam Neighborhood Patrol

Chief of Police Fred Fletcher of the Chattanooga Police Department has recently decided to give two surplus patrol vehicles to the Nation of Islam Neighborhood Patrol. This is an insult to the life and memory of PO Philip Cardillo who lost his life in April 1972 at the hand of the members of the Nation of Islam Mosque No.7 in Harlem and his fellow officers who were savagely beaten ... (click for more)

Joe Smith Will Make An Incredible Difference

While now in retirement several hundred miles from Chattanooga, I was still quite excited to hear that my friend and colleague of many years, Joe Smith, had decided to run for the District 3 seat on the Hamilton County Commission. What an incredible difference he will make as he serves your community.  For a number of years I served in a counseling position at McCallie School. ... (click for more)

Commissioner Smedley Comes Up With Another $25,000 To Do Away With Porta Potties At East Hamilton

County Commissioner Sabrena Smedley has come up with another $25,000 to try to do away with porta potties at East Hamilton Middle/High School. She earlier pulled $100,000 from county funds for the project. Commissioner Smedley said the initial projected cost was $100,000, but the price tag has gone up. The money would be used to build a restroom facility and concession ... (click for more)

Investor Sues Dyer, Brennan For $37,500, Plus $1 Million Punitive Damages

A man who said he invested $37,500 with Douglas Dyer and James Brennan is suing them for that amount, plus attorney fees and $1 million punitive damages. The complaint in behalf of David T. Hardegree was filed in Circuit Court. Also sued were Alison Dyer and Carole Brennan as well as Broad Street Ventures. Mr. Hardegree said he turned over the money to the men for the purchase ... (click for more)

Signal Mountain Beats Red Bank On Senior Night

It was Senior Night at Signal Mountain on Wednesday as the Lady Eagles played their last regular-season volleyball match at home before they host next week’s District 7-AA tournament and all went pretty much as planned. It was a battle of regular-season district champions as the 6-AA queen Red Bank Lionettes provided the opposition for the 7-AA winning Lady Eagles. Signal ... (click for more)

No. 3 UTC Travels To ETSU Saturday

The third-ranked Chattanooga Mocs are back on the road this week, visiting ETSU for the first time in 13 years.  Game time is set for Noon (E.D.T.) on Saturday, Oct. 1, at Tipton Stadium at Science Hill High School in Johnson City, Tenn.   Chattanooga is off to a 4-0 start for the first time since 1979, but is 2-0 in SoCon action for the third year in a row.  ETSU ... (click for more)