Coppinger sworn in as Mayor, Commission seat vacant - | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Coppinger sworn in as Mayor, Commission seat vacant

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By Gordon Boyd
Eyewitness News Reporter

HAMILTON COUNTY, TN (WRCB) -- Jim Coppinger doesn't know whether it's coincidence or providence to be sworn in as Hamilton County's new Mayor on 1/11/11.

But he's hopeful that he's luck with the number 11 holds in the year and seven months he will serve until the next election.

"Eleven was the number I wore when I played football for Hixson High School," Coppinger says.

Fellow County Commissioners selected Coppinger unanimously Monday to replace Claude Ramsey after four votes over two weeks produced 4-4 deadlocks.

Ramsey has resigned to become Deputy Governor (Chief of Staff) to Tennessee's Governor-elect Bill Haslam, who takes office Saturday.

As Chairman, Coppinger could have become Mayor by default once Ramsey's resignation took effect.  This past Saturday, however, Mayoral aide Mike Carter withdrew his candidacy after Commissioner Warren Mackey announced that he would switch his vote to Coppinger.

"I'm ready to put politics aside for a little while and go to work," Coppinger told those who witnessed his swearing-in at the Hamilton County Courthouse Tuesday.

Is that as easily done as said?

"Yes, and he is the guy to do it," Commissioner Joe Graham says.

Graham calls it 'sad ' that Tennessee law required Commissioners, rather than voters to choose who will lead Hamilton County for at least the next year and a half.

"The fact of the matter is that the people feel they didn't get to vote, and I feel they didn't get to vote, he says.

Nor will District 3 voters get a direct voice in choosing who will replace Coppinger as Commissioner.

Commissioners will choose that person, too.

"We'll begin that process Thursday," Vice Chairman Larry Henry says.

"I'd very much like to see a forum in District 3 in which the citizens can come and ask questions."

Henry would prefer a 'fast track' such that a new Commissioner would be in place by mid-late February.

The Commissioner who 'switched his vote', Warren Mackey, is hopeful that several women will ask to be considered. Women have served as Commissioners, but the current body is all-male.

"I don't believe it's so much their resume (that would sway his vote) as it is listening to people who know that person," Mackey says.

Pastor Mitch McClure confirms that he'll seek the appointment.

"I believe I'm a team player, I believe I understand our community," he says.

Pastor McClure tells Eyewitness News that he's talked to several people about the position, but that Mayor Coppinger isn't among them.

Coppinger says he will not endorse, nor formally encourage anybody, to support anybody.

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