Guy Satterfield is not without merit or beneath consideration. But then again he has the luxury of a candidate who cannot match nor expect to equal Andy Berke’s widespread support and hefty campaign war chest. Satterfield candidly acknowledges this, says his opponent is the likely winner, yet still paints himself as a viable alternative, sans Berke’s impressive education and resume, whose basic platform he says reflects the interests of the majority of Chattanoogans. And as a retired city employee with more than 30 years of experience, his ideas are hard to ignore.
Satterfield is very much the Everyman. Unlike Berke, whom we were scheduled to meet and met in his busy law offices on the North Shore (with the requisite wide-eyed, young staffer in tow), Satterfield publishes his sometimes dysfunctional cell phone number on his website, inviting any and all to call him. We did.
Satterfield, 59, spent 39 years in the city’s public works department, and spoke frankly and candidly with us for more than 45 minutes before excusing himself to attend another opportunity to present his ideas at yet another public forum, most of which have gone undocumented by the local media.
To be clear, Satterfield readily acknowledges himself as an extreme longshot, but has not written himself off. “I think he thinks he’s already got it,” Satterfield was quoted recently in the Times Free Press. Satterfield also affirms he is a conservative who says that while he and Berke share the same ultimate goals, he finds fault with a vision that lacks specifics. In contrast, Satterfield said he knows the halls of city government intimately after a career as a public works employee cut from similar, but not the same cloth as Ron Littlefield. To be sure, there is a homespun appeal, an underdog attraction to Satterfield that cannot be denied.
“We can turn it around,” Satterfield said. “We’ve got a spending problem, not a revenue problem. Chattanooga’s like a drunk sailor, but even the sailor quits when he runs out of money.”
We’ll give him this: Satterfield is nothing if not specific, at least with regard to the same topics we broached to Berke. He’d return the ailing AEC to Parks & Rec, dismiss Crutchfield, abandon the city’s multicultural mission, lease or sell the Tivoli and Memorial Auditorium, as well as The Chattanoogan Hotel, dispatch the various servants to the mayor’s office and cap the black hole of waste, bloated salaries and spending that have plagued the Littlefield administration.
Then, he said, he’d meet head on the many challenges the city faces—police and fire protection, water and utilities, the core mechanisms that working Chattanoogans complain have been neglected, if not robbed from them by the purchase of yet another Blue Rhino. “I appreciate art and sculpture,” he said, “but that’s not sustainable.”
Besides the latter, we applaud him. These are the bottom-line concerns of any city. But Satterfield comes from a generation whose leadership ignored Chattanooga’s progressive destiny. The city is not London after the Blitz, nor is it still struggling to overcome the old “Dirtiest City in America” tag.
Therein lies the rub. A competent administrator can cure the common ails, but can he also pave the way to destiny? History has told us unequivocally and emphatically, “No.” To Satterfield, we say “Appreciate-cha,” but we’ll pass.