Court records show newly elected Councilwoman Demetrus Coonrod has a criminal past. In the late 90's she pleaded guilty to charges of child abuse, assault, and theft. She was sentenced to 7 years in prison. Tuesday, Coonrod unseated veteran councilman Yusuf Hakeem in the run-off election for District 9, which includes Eastdale and Glenwood.
Coonrod tells Channel 3, she was open about her criminal past during her campaign, and she's not ashamed to talk about it now.
Coonrod grew up in poverty and with parents addicted to drugs. It wasn't until after she served time in jail when she realized things needed to change. Both for herself and the city of Chattanooga.
“I had time to think about my life. Like what am I doing? What am I not doing? How can I make things right. I knew I did not want to come outside of prison being the same person I was going inside prison,” said Demetrus Coonrod. Newly elected City Councilwoman Demetrus Coonrod said she’s focused on where she's headed, not where she has been. “I began to knock on every door. Reach out to elected officials saying hey I need some help. I need you to help me help my community.”
She wants to serve as a role model to the young people of District 9 and encourage them to focus on their future. “I want to help everyone of them that has traveled the path I have. I want to touch them, I want to reach them, I want to cause a domino effect.”
Officials with the Hamilton County Election Commission said Coonrod was eligible and qualified to run for office. Her voting rights and citizen rights were restored in November 2016. She obtained the 25 signatures needed to qualify. “I just thought about everything that was taken away from me once I committed that crime and I wanted to get it back.”
Channel 3 reached out to the council about the Coonrod's past. The ones who returned our calls said they were aware of her history and her time spent in jail doesn’t bother them.
Darrin Ledford who represents District 4 said, “Her past is her past. She was elected by the people.”
Erskine Oglesby with District 7 said "It was no secret. I admire her; she is a role model and will shape the future of the city. I am proud to serve with her on City Council."
Anthony Byrd with District 8 said, “She made it clear up front. If you put your mind to something and put God first, the sky is the limit.”
Coonrod is thankful for the support from her fellow council members and grateful for the men and women of District 9 who gave her this second chance at life. “I can run for office, and that was the way I could get in and really effective change,” said Coonrod.
Currently there is nothing in Chattanooga’s City Code against a convicted felon being able to hold public office.
Coonrod and the rest of the City Council will be sworn in next week.