Coppinger to be sworn in Tuesday as County Mayor
By David Carroll
CHATTANOOGA (WRCB)- What had been a divisive vote for Hamilton County Mayor, ended up as a unanimous show of unity Monday morning.
Friday, District 4 Commissioner Dr. Warren Mackey announced that he would switch his allegiance from former Sessions Court Judge Mike Carter to District 3 Commissioner Jim Coppinger. Mackey became the first Commissioner to break from a deadlock that had been repeated four times in the past two weeks. After Mackey's switch, Carter withdrew from the contest, and may seek the office when it is on the August 2012 ballot. He is also resigning from his post as special assistant to the County Mayor.
Coppinger, who was voted in 8-0 by his fellow Commissioners, will be sworn in as Hamilton County Mayor at a ceremony Tuesday at 9:00 a.m. at the courthouse.
The ripple effect will include a new Commissioner for District 3, which includes Hixson and surrounding communities. That commissioner must also be selected by the eight other Commissioners, who were divided on a successor to Mayor Claude Ramsey after he announced his intention to join Governor-elect Bill Haslam's administration.
It will also mean that five of the eventual nine Commissioners will be serving their first term. Joe Graham, Chester Bankston, Tim Boyd and Jim Fields were all elected last August.
Also, when Jim Coppinger officially becomes County Mayor, that creates a vacancy for Commission Chairman. Coppinger was elevated to that position Wednesday, when Fred Skillern stepped aside, citing the increased responsibilities of caring for his son Rees, who is undergoing treatment for cancer.
At the same meeting, Larry Henry was elected vice chair by a vote 6-3. Henry will become Chairman when Coppinger is sworn in, necessitating the vote for a new Vice Chair. Skillern has stated he would not accept the position. That leaves Dr. Mackey, Greg Beck, or one of the five new Commissioners. Dr. Mackey and Beck are both Democrats, and might face a difficult path winning on the Republican-dominated Commission.
Middle Valley Church of God pastor Mitch McClure and recent School Board candidate Marty Haynes have expressed an interest in the District 3 Commission seat.
During the first two rounds of voting, in which Commissioners were asked to vote a total of four times, Commissioners Mackey, Beck, Boyd and Bankston all voted for Mike Carter; Commissioners Skillern, Graham, Fields and Henry voted for Jim Coppinger.
Coppinger has indicated he will run for a two-year term for County Mayor in August 2012.