Longtime Bradley County Mayor D. Gary Davis has announced he is running for re-election.
Davis, who first ran for the position 15 years ago, shared the news with members of the Bradley Sunrise Rotary Club on Thursday during a presentation that served as the latest venue for the longtime leader to assess the county’s successes in 2013.
He explained that, while many employees have evaluations of their performance done each year, his came in the form of an election every four years.
“It’s evaluation time,” Davis said. “We haven’t agreed on every issue, but I can assure you we’ve worked very hard.”
He said that, at the age of 57, he is not ready to retire and added he “genuinely enjoys going to work every day.”
A formal announcement of Davis’ bid for re-election will be published in a later edition of the Cleveland Daily Banner.
Prior to Thursday’s disclosure, Davis gave members of the club an update on the county’s progress over the past year, just as he had at other civic clubs over the past week.
“We’re working hard to make Bradley County a great place for everyone,” Davis said. “I’m just happy to have been a part of it,”
After a video presentation to Sunrise Rotarians that spoke of efforts to make economic progress in the county and across the region, he shared a few highlights of his own. They included examples like an increase in the number of local industries and lower unemployment rates.
Companies like Wacker, Mars Chocolate, Olin Clor Alkalai, Duracell/Procter & Gamble and others have continued to invest in the county. Bradley County has also seen the lowest unemployment rate it has had in years — 6.4 percent.
Davis said that number continued to be lower than the unemployment figures found in other counties. For example, he said Hamilton County was facing an unemployment rate of 7.1 percent, while Rhea County has faced a whopping 10.3 percent.
“It was a really good year considering the overall economic climate,” Davis said.
Other focuses of 2013 included upgrading some of the county’s highways and byways and working to provide more emergency services to a growing population.
Bradley County built, stocked and staffed three new fire stations and gained 34 new firefighters. He said it made the county a safer place to live, and said the new fire stations would likely bode well for an upcoming ISO audit that measures that for insurance purposes.
Progress has also continued on projects to make changes to the bridge at Exit 20 off Interstate 75 and the Durkee Road and Benton Pike area, near the Whirlpool plant. Additionally, a project to revamp an interchange along APD 40 is set to begin next year. All the pending infrastructure upgrades have become necessary because of the area’s continued growth, Davis said.
On the budgetary side of things, the county’s most financial audit released by the state comptroller’s office showed the county assets “exceeded liabilities.”
The county paid off $3.8 million of its outstanding debts. However, those paying close attention to the audit will notice the county’s overall debt was only reduced by $1.1 million. The county paid off some of the debt then borrowed close to $2 million to pay for the fire stations, Davis said.
Another county accomplishment during 2013 was choosing to contract with the SPCA to provide animal control services to local residents. The brand new contract will begin in March after an agreement between the county and the city ends.
During a question-and-answer session afterward, a Rotarian asked about what that contract meant. Davis said, unlike many other counties in the area, Bradley County will be using animal lovers rather than law enforcement officials to make sure animals find homes. He argued that “it’s not something the government should be doing.”
Another question concerned possible predictions for future industrial growth in the area.
“There’s always new industries in the pipeline,” Davis said.
However, he said nothing is announced until decisions are made final. Still, he predicted continued progress to the Spring Branch industrial park and other areas could lead to companies like auto parts suppliers wanting to be near Volkswagen in Chattanooga could set up shop in the county.
When someone asks what the county was doing to help small businesses — not just big companies — in the county, Davis said any industry that comes to the county can help bring more spending to small businesses.