Mayor Tim Kelly announced Thursday that he will run for a second four-year term.
He made the announcement before a crowd of supporters at the former city community center on the Westside - an obsolete city building that he said will be repurposed to make way for new affordable housing on the Westside.
The mayor, who still has a year and a half left on his first term, said, "We've got a lot of work left to do."
Mayor Kelly's family was long in the automotive business before he made his first run for office.
Chattanooga mayors are limited to two four-year terms.
Among those in attendance was former Mayor Jon Kinsey.
“I’m seeking a second and final term so we can complete this work and see it through,” Mayor Kelly said. “We know it’s working and that a brighter future lies ahead. We are fixing the broken things, and the best is yet to come. I’m asking for your support and for you to join me so that together we can help Chattanooga realize its full potential as the best city in Tennessee and the best city in America.”
He said, "Today, job growth in Chattanooga is rising at twice the pace of the national average and the city recently notched the lowest unemployment rate in our city’s history. In fact, among the 355 largest U.S. counties, this community had the 12th fastest growing rate of job additions last year, and has set multiple records for high-growth businesses on the Inc. 5000 list.
"But that did not happen by accident. Back in 2021, city government was burdened by low pay and absenteeism, and was rife with staffing shortages, with quiet discussions about closing down fire stations and increased police response times, while homelessness grew and opportunity gaps widened.
"To combat this, we increased pay for essential workers across the board, including increases of 24 percent for police and firefighters, filling empty positions and restoring essential city services. For the first time in city history, he also added a local pay supplement for federally-funded Head Start teachers, giving Pre-K workers a raise without waiting for the federal pay scale to catch up.
"We doubled the paving budget to $40 million during his first term, repaving 160 lane miles so far, and launched the city’s first Pothole Patrol team, which led to more than 40,000 potholes and cracks being filled. Thanks to these efforts, the city’s plummeting pavement conditions began to reverse their decades-long slide and begin creeping upwards.
“I have always had a sense of urgency and an awareness of living on borrowed time, and being an elected official has not helped that. I was sworn in 872 days ago, and there are only 591 left in this term.”
He said he also stopped for the first time the flow of untreated sewage into the Tennessee River through the completion of 90 million gallons of wastewater storage, a huge milestone in the city’s yearslong attempt to fix its broken wastewater system.
He said he rolled out a plan to reduce gun violence through both intervention and prevention, tackling the root causes of crime, in addition to funding robust and smart police tactics in partnership with the U.S. Department of Justice. That effort has led to a homicide clearance rate of more than 90 percent - nearly twice the national average — which means getting violent offenders off the streets and sending a clear message to those who would do harm to their neighbors, he said.
Mayor Kelly said he "unveiled the city’s first Parks & Outdoors plan in a quarter-century, which will breathe new life into existing parks like Montague Park, as well as build much-needed new neighborhood parks within walking distance of where residents live, and double down on Chattanooga’s greatest competitive advantage - its green spaces."
He said already in his term, "the city has housed nearly 3,000 unsheltered people. The city’s housing-first strategy has earned national recognition for its effectiveness in helping reduce unsheltered homelessness in Chattanooga. The mayor also spurred the creation of more than 600 new affordable homes, and stopped nearly 300 Chattanoogans from being evicted.
"And just last month we unveiled his Affordable Housing Action Plan, which will supercharge efforts to create hundreds of new affordable homes that will give everyone a place to call home that they can afford - including firefighters, police officers, and teachers."
He said through his work "to revitalize blighted brownfields that have lain dormant and underused for decades, the city attracted $2 billion in new investment to Chattanooga, kicking off the transformation of more than 240 acres of wasteland in the heart of Chattanooga, and restoring jobs and opportunity to parts of the city that for too long have suffered from disinvestment.
“The work is working, and we can see it across those examples.
“Anyone who works with me or knows me knows that I’m rarely satisfied and that I’m always looking for a way to go faster, do better, and to think bigger. The central idea of my administration is to create lasting change by addressing root causes. It’s easier to go with a box of bandaids or a coat of paint because people see the immediate effect, even if it’s temporary – and that’s what a lot of politicians do. But that is not the approach I am taking. Unless we continue to address the structural problems, we’re not going to end up any place much different from where we started.”