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1997-2001 Jon Kinsey

Jon Kinsey 1997(November 11, 1954 - )

Jon Kinsey moved to Chattanooga at the age of eight.  Kinsey attended The Baylor School, and as a high school student, he showed great interest in politics.  Kinsey worked with several statewide campaigns, and in the summer of 1972, worked for the Democratic National Convention in Miami Beach.  Kinsey then attended Boston University before returning to Chattanooga.

Going into the building and development business, Kinsey was co-founder of Leonard, Kinsey and Associates and served as chairman of the Chattanooga Area Convention and Visitors Bureau.  In 1996, Kinsey announced his candidacy for mayor, and upon his election on March 4, 1997, he became the first person elected to the city’s top office from outside of city government in twenty-six years.  In his inaugural address, Mayor Kinsey emphasized the need to improve education, increase jobs, and revitalize neighborhoods.

During his first year in office, Mayor Kinsey eliminated the city’s Safety Administration Department in order to separate the Fire and Police Departments, led the City Council to lower property taxes and developed a plan to expand the city’s parks over the next ten years.  Mayor Kinsey also oversaw the establishment of a Department of Neighborhood Services to work with neighborhood associations, maintain housing codes, and act as liaison between tenants and landlords when necessary.

On November 24, 1998, Mayor Kinsey announced plans to take over the Tennessee-American Water Company, so that the city could maintain its own water system.  Over the next year, the city tried to condemn Tennessee-American Water’s property in order to gain control of the company. As a result, the company sued and sought a citizens’ vote on the issue.  On October 25, 1999, the City Council ended the attempted takeover process by agreeing to a settlement with the company.

Mayor Kinsey’s pledge to increase the city’s recreational facilities led the City Council to adopt his $65 million Recreate 2008 plan.  The first step in the plan changes the city’s Parks and Recreation Department to the Department of Parks, Recreation, Art and Culture.  On November 16, 2000, the city acquired 110 acres of land of DuPont Parkway for the construction of soccer fields.  The plan continued with further improvements and expansion in city parks.

Mayor Kinsey did not seek re-election.

Photo by Phillip Stevens and Matt Lea