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



David Carroll: How To Contact Our Local Servicemen’s Families

Many of you have sent some incredibly kind messages about local news coverage of Chattanooga’s tragic day, July 16.  I haven’t had time to thank everyone individually, but please know I really appreciate the compliments, as well as the constructive criticism.  If you know me at all, you know I’d much rather report and write about upbeat stories.  But like so many ... (click for more)

Christians With Their Heads In The Sand

I recall how history tells us of the German people living next to the gas chambers, ignoring the smell and horror of over six million Jews being slaughtered, and then acting as though they didn't know it had happened.  I can also recall that Eisenhower was so disgusted with these callused and unconcerned people that he made them face their denial by marching them all past ... (click for more)

Zaxby's To Go In Across From Bass Pro Shop At New I-75 Exit 1 Development In East Ridge

A new Zaxby's will be built across from Bass Pro Shop at I-75's Exit 1 in East Ridge, developer John Healy said Thursday night. He said other restaurants and hotels are also coming to the Jordan Crossing site at the entrance to Camp Jordan Park. Mr. Healy said he hopes to make a "significantly larger" announcement soon. The East Ridge City Council, at a special called meeting, ... (click for more)

Young Man Involved In Incident That Led To A Murder Gets Diversion, Praise For Testifying

A young man who was involved in an incident that led to a murder has been given diversion and praised for testifying against co-defendants. Criminal Court Judge Barry Steelman said a conviction for facilitation of an aggravated robbery can be expunged if Dustin Hayes gets in no further trouble for six years. The judge said, "We wouldn't be dealing with 40 shootings a year ... (click for more)

Justin Brown Signs With Hiwassee College

Only weeks after signing Red Bank's Jalen Moore to a scholarship, Hiwassee head baseball coach Shane Gardner was back in Chattanooga on Wednesday evening. This time he was in the Scenic City looking for a player he described as "a spark plug, someone who could boost our team and contribute right away." He believes he's found that young man in former Chattanooga School for the ... (click for more)

Robert Powderly Still Active After All Of These Years

It didn’t take long for Robert Powderly to get fully involved in the running boom back in the late 70s. Millions of Americans joined the parade back in those days where running was their main source of physical fitness and Powderly was a big part of it. Powderly is now 68 and retired from U.S. Pipe where he worked in the accounting department.   He’s also had a couple ... (click for more)