Both men are Chattanooga natives, and nearly one month stands between one of them and a new desk at the Mayor's office.
Andy Berke, 44, is a career attorney coming off a five-year stretch representing both Hamilton and Marion Counties as state Senator for District 10 in the Tennessee General Assembly.
Guy Satterfield, 59, is a retired city transportation inspector with 40 years of experience in public works, including more than 30 years at the Moccasin Bend Wastewater Treatment Plant.
The differences in their campaign strategies and long-term policy goals are easily gauged. Objectives for the only other candidate who will be on the March 5 mayoral ballot, Chester Heathington, are less easy to come by—multiple attempts by Nooga.com to reach the perennial candidate for this report were unsuccessful.
Berke declared his candidacy to a crowd of more than 150 supporters in May. Ever since, the candidate has been visibly campaigning across Chattanooga, hosting fundraisers, facilitating community discussions and building a core of grassroots support by knocking on doors, phone banking and volunteering.
Both gave an hour's time to Nooga.com to explain their goals.
Efficiency in government
At a McDonald's in Red Bank, Satterfield explained why he had been planning to run for mayor for more than a decade.
"I've seen the waste, I've seen the corruption. So I decided that when I retired, I was going to run," Satterfield said.
He has a laundry list of policies from the eight-year tenure of Mayor Ron Littlefield he'd like to put an end to. He argues that millions of dollars have been misappropriated, that the pockets of political allies have been padded, and that taxpayers have footed the bill for numerous unnecessary programs and services.
"Rome wasn't built in a day and eight years of economic insanity cannot be fixed overnight," a flyer for his campaign reads.
Satterfield's platform centers on cutting spending and righting a ship he sees as sinking. Within two years, he hopes to slash the city's annual budget by 20 percent, without cutting any basic services or implementing a tax increase. He would eliminate the city's Department of Education, Arts and Culture, do away with the Office of Sustainability, and remove the Office of Multicultural Affairs. He would cut multiple positions in the mayor's office, and work to restructure positions in the city attorney's office.
"Waste—it's just this waste of taxpayer money," he said. "That's our biggest problem in Chattanooga. And if someone doesn't do something about it, it's just going to get worse."
Berke lays out a different vision for serving at the city's top post, sitting in the board room at his law offices in North Chattanooga.
"We have to have clear goals and find ways to achieve them, because all these issues work together," Berke said.
For Berke, the issues break down into four main categories: crime, economic development, education, and efficiency and transparency in government. But unlike Satterfield, Berke suggests his approach would take on a more collaborative method, centering on discussion and seeking out specific areas where realistic action could be taken, rather than prescribing ways that the city's pertinent issues should be tackled beforehand.
When it comes to right-sizing government, Berke doesn't name-check specific departments and positions he would eliminate, like Satterfield does. Instead, the candidate said he wants establish goals first, hearkening to his time in Nashville as proof that he has been able to make difficult budgeting decisions when necessary.
"We shouldn't have government employees or things going on that don't add value to our city," Berke said. "In the state legislature, I voted for balanced budgets, which cut billions of dollars out of state government. I'm not afraid to have tough discussions that will result in reductions. But before we do that, we have to know what our goals are, and what we're trying to accomplish—so that we know what's necessary on the government side."
Berke has yet to go on record to say whether or not he would put forward a budget which includes a tax increase, only vowing to prioritize every tax dollar "in the best way possible." He points to his record in the General Assembly, saying he never voted in support of a sales tax increase and constantly supported balanced budgets.
Crime and law enforcement
Berke's approach of establishing clear goals first spills over into his plans for addressing issues pertaining to crime and law enforcement in Chattanooga. He says that crime in the city isn't simply a gang issue, but rather a pervasive mix of property crimes and domestic crimes, along with the gangs and violent crime which more often draws media attention and dominates public discussion.
"My administration will have an approach that goes beyond simply talking about gangs, and looks at all of the aspects that inhibit our quality of life and our economic development," Berke said.
When asked if he would continue Littlefield's Gang Task Force initiative, which includes two new administrative positions and a $75,000 assessment of gangs activity, Berke's answer is guarded.
"I'm telling you what my approach is going to be," he said.
Satterfield takes a less holistic approach, calling out problems that he sees and vowing to take action. On Jan. 23, Satterfield is able to count the number of shootings that have taken place in Chattanooga this year (12), and compare them to the city's total count for shootings in 2012 (94) and 2011 (116). From his view, the mayor's approach to combating crime hasn't worked.
"The mayor's created these two gang czars, which is costing the city about $190,000, counting their travel and other expenses," Satterfield said. "Haven't accomplished a thing. The way to deal with the gang problem is police presence. Do you think that two gang czars are really going to scare any gang members away?"
Satterfield suggests at least two areas where he would seek to reverse policies enacted under the Littlefield administration that affected the city's sworn officers. He would restore a provision allowing police officers to take home cars, and would propose a pay increase for police and fire employees who were not included in an across-the-board pay increase for city workers last year.
"The police and fire department have just taken a beating," he said. "These guys need to be rewarded for the work they do."
Berke agreed that the mayor should be a supporter of law enforcement, and facilitate any tools needed by officers to accomplish the purpose of their work. But before any specific actions can be taken, Berke repeated that goals must be defined.
"The mayor has to set clear goals and be a part of a discussion that says how we are going to achieve those goals," Berke said. "Once that occurs, we have to find the ways to give [officers] the resources they need to meet the goals that are set. We will do that."
Working with City Council
Debate on both the take-home car and pay increase decisions played out in the Chattanooga City Council chamber, and despite the guarantee of new faces on the bench in March, the 9-member group will determine whether or not key components of the next mayor's budget are enacted. Berke said his experience as a legislator would give him an insight to the deliberative process council members go through, and vowed to keep an open line to members.
"The mayor and the city council have to have a cooperative and open relationship, so that council members aren't surprised by what's going on and can feed back to the mayor what they're hearing in their particular district," he said. "I look forward to having an ongoing dialogue with city council members about how to best help their areas, because obviously they will be more concentrated on a particular neighborhood than I will be."
Satterfield didn't suggest what his approach to dealing with the city's legislative body would be, instead suggesting that several members of the current body would be voted out of office in March.
"It's going to be a completely different entity," he said.
The council will undoubtedly play a role in determining the balance of improvements across the city. But it will be the mayor who begins guiding proposals forward, and works to align interests with obligations already in place, such as the recently arranged $250 million federal consent decree which will require the city to repair its sewer system. With the addition of a newly proposed regional wastewater authority, the mayor will face decisions impacting residents of both the city and Hamilton County at large.
"That's a totally bad idea, they've miked that cow for all it's worth," Satterfield said, referring to the newly-formed wastewater authority. "The employees will suffer, our stormwater rates will increase, our sewer rates will increase, and it's just going to get worse."
Berke said that as mayor he would seek to manage resources related to the consent decree in the most "cost effective" way possible. But the candidate added his thought that longer-term issues like wastewater and sewers would have to be addressed with both city and county governments being on the same page.
"This is a place where the city and the county have to cooperate," he said. "They have to be on the same page in doing so. I will make sure I am seeking out the county on ways that we can utilize our infrastructure in the best way possible, to keep our fees down and deliver the services that our neighborhoods and businesses need."
Working with Hamilton County
When it comes to the possible unification of city and county governments—as was briefly pitched by Littlefield in 2011—Berke is less willing to say if he would be a supporter of such an initiative.
"I'm running for office because I want to be mayor for the current residents of the city of Chattanooga," he said. "If there are places we can consolidate services that will save taxpayer dollars and provide as good or better services to taxpayers, then I'm in favor or it."
Satterfield doesn't parse words.
"I'm not for it in any way," Satterfield said. "It has been rejected repeatedly by citizens, so I'm not for metro government at all."
Satterfield's thoughts on city and county partnership extend to education, an area where Berke has suggested collaboration could take place—despite the county's current oversight of public schools.
"The county runs the schools, and they do a good job," he said. "The city should encourage them, but it could turn into a department before you know it and cost taxpayers money."
Berke sees it differently, suggesting the city could partner in initiatives to test and enhance student's experiences in a way that encourages their strengths. The candidate vowed to share a responsibility with county officials in supporting education goals, mentioning the backing outside-of-school tutoring and mentoring programs as areas where he thought the city could lend a hand.
"If we're going to create opportunity in our area, we need to share responsibility in education," Berke said. "For far too long, in our community, we have pointed fingers rather than raising hands when asked who's responsible for educating our kids… Education is simply too big for the city to throw up its hands and say we have no responsibility. We will play a role in helping our children succeed."
Regardless of their viewpoints, campaign finances have played a role in Berke and Satterfield spreading their messages across the city. Money has also dictated the race's candidates, with Chattanooga businessman Rob Healy dropping out of the race after a month-long candidacy, suggesting that a difficulty to compete with a well-backed candidate, such as Berke, was a driving factor in his decision.
As of July, Berke's campaign finance records showed more than $262,000 cash-on-hand, with an additional $117,000 in his state Senate account which could be used if necessary. Satterfield has no campaign finance records currently on file with the Hamilton County Election Commission, and has not actively been raising funds.
"My campaign is strictly grassroots," Satterfield said. "I can't outspend [Berke]. If I'm elected, I want to be indebted to the voters, and not any special interest groups who donated to my campaign."
Berke bristles at the notion that campaign cash would be a determining factor in who wins the seat in March, and takes offense to the idea that contributions from donors would influence the performance of a future mayor upon his taking of office.
"We've knocked on thousands of doors. I go door-to-door every week. Our campaign makes thousands of phone calls to voters," Berke said. "This is not a situation where we have ignored grassroots—I would argue that this has been the most grassroots-focused campaign in our area in a long time. The reason that the campaign has the support that it does is because of the people who are energetic about our city. And I am proud to be associated with so many people who want to make our city even greater."
Early voting begins Feb. 13. Municipal elections are March 5.