Speaking to a room full of local Democrats, Chattanooga mayoral hopeful Andy Berke summarized goals for what he would like to work toward if elected to lead the city next year.
Berke, who is coming off two terms representing Tennessee's 10th Senate District, told the Hamilton County JFK Club he looked forward to a difference in roles if he is successful in replacing Mayor Ron Littlefield next March.
"Here's the great thing about being mayor," Berke said. "It's a true leadership position. You set the agenda for what's going to go on in our city, and that is a great opportunity."
Berke focused the majority of his remarks on areas where he would like to enhance the city's economic development and quality of life. The candidate included lowering crime and supporting the Chattanooga Police Department as two key areas where he thought elements touching both of his key goals could be achieved.
"Our police do a great job," Berke said. "We've got to have a mayor who supports them … There is no excuse for violence; you cannot get rid of all crime. But the numbers in the city are too high compared to other cities that are the same size as ours. We will change that."
Berke never mentioned any policies regarding law enforcement that have stemmed from Littlefield's administration that he would attempt to change, such as recent disputes over pay raises for officers or take-home cars. He later said his goal would be to come up with a practical plan that serves officers and community members best.
"We have to come up with a plan that makes sense for the community in terms of what we ask our police to do and support them when they do it," he said. "I'm looking in the future to see how it is that we can best structure that."
Berke also said he hoped to meet with law enforcement leaders in the coming months before the election.
Berke focused a portion of his remarks on his desire to continue fostering a beneficial environment to Tennessee's entrepreneur community, along with finding ways for the city to partner in public education programs with the county. He referenced certain items of legislation he worked on during his Senate tenure, such as an entrepreneur tax credit, his Tennessee Works Act and work on Tennessee's initiatives through Race to the Top as qualifying him for the job.
Berke, an attorney, faces only one challenger so far for next year's race.
Guy Satterfield, a former city transportation inspector, has picked up his petition to run for mayor.
Littlefield, who took office in 2005, is term-limited.
Municipal elections for the city of Chattanooga are March 5.