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



Roy Exum: Let’s ‘Pay It Forward’

At 7 a.m. on Wednesday morning, this at a Starbucks coffee store located at 2186 Tyrone Blvd. in St. Petersburg, Fla.,  an unidentified woman who was first in line at the drive-through window, politely told the drive-through window clerk she would like to “pay it forward.” The clerk checked the next order – it was a caramel macchiato – and the first customer paid for both her ... (click for more)

Families In Public Schools Fight Common Core, But Won't Get Out

The alarm among Christians who patronize government-run schools has a clear cause. Common Core, the name of the latest spate of reform, promises further control by Washington. What are moms and dads to make of the opposition to Common Core, particularly if they are Christian or home educators? How worked up should we get?  We’ll let Tony Perkins of a Washington G Street ... (click for more)

Jury Finds In Favor Of Texas Sheriff In Suit Brought By Chattanooga Photographer

A Federal Court jury on Friday found in favor of a Texas sheriff and his chief deputy who had been sued by a Chattanooga photographer. The jury in the courtroom of Judge Curtis Collier awarded no damages to Donna Johnson. In his closing argument after a two-week civil trial, attorney John Anderson said, "This is about the Fourth Amendment." Attorney Anderson represented Ms. ... (click for more)

Justin Wilkins Selected As Deputy Chief Of Staff For Mayor Berke

Native Chattanoogan Justin Wilkins will serve as Mayor Andy Berke's deputy chief of staff, it was announced Friday. Mr. Wilkins has spent the last several years serving as the Tennessee state director for multiple advocacy and electoral organizations, including Organizing for America and Organizing for Action. Prior to that, he worked as project manager at Profit Plans LLC ... (click for more)

Signal Mountain "Grounds" East Hamilton, 28-19

Signal Mountain was determined to run the football and take time off the clock Friday night in the second half of its 28-19 non-district victory over rival East Hamilton before a standing-room-only crowd at Hurricane Hill. “That’s our kind of football,” Eagles coach Bill Price said after the season opening game for both teams. “It was a tough football game and we just got out ... (click for more)

Maynor Leads Soddy Daisy Past Hixson, 49-36

If you wanted to see a lot of offense in a high school football game, then you should have been at  Soddy Daisy's Robert Talaska Field Friday night. Defense was all but non-existent on either side as the host Trojans took advantage of five touchdown passes from southpaw senior quarterback Hunter Maynor to outlast the Hixson Wildcats, 49-36. The last two minutes of the ... (click for more)