Local History: Lakesite Celebrates 50 Years of Municipal Government in 2022
In the late 1960s, after a “marginal area study”, the city of Chattanooga began a wave of annexations of areas north and east of the city, culminating in a trend encouraged by a change in the state’s annexation law mid-year. 1950s. One of the areas identified in the study was Middle Valley, which some members of the Lakesite community north of Hixson considered uncomfortably close. As Collegedale (1968) and Soddy-Daisy (1969) had done, in 1971 the residents hired local attorney Glenn McColpin to handle the myriad of legal details needed to protect the area from annexation by incorporating as a new city.
The proposed new municipality covered roughly 500 acres of the Lakesite Subdivision and had approximately 300 residents. A vote was taken on whether to “create a municipal corporation under the laws of the State of Tennessee” on January 20, 1972. The vote was 75 in favor and 15 against. In March of that year, a list of six candidates contested the election of the first three city commissioners, and Hans G. Bingham, Ray Dodson and Sydney P. Wood were elected. Bingham and Wood were salespeople and Dodson a lawyer. The three commissioners then selected Dodson as the city’s first mayor.
Almost immediately, Lakesite called on Hamilton County to repair some roads, promising to reimburse the expenses from planned public funds. According to Dodson, the county had been behind on road maintenance in the area for more than a year. County Judge Chester Frost thought the proposal was a bad idea but was defeated by a unanimous county council vote. Street paving remained an issue, and in 1978 some residents petitioned the Hamilton County Board of Elections for a vote on dissolving city government and returning to the county. The Lakesite Commission had voted to devote significant funds to road repairs. City voters rejected the initiative by 106 votes to 64.
A September 1981 newspaper article noted the town’s progress, with its population then rising to 951. The commission was still made up of three members, with Marcella Cornish as mayor, Bernard Gloster as vice-mayor, and Dodson as commissioner. Bingham, one of the first commissioners, was then city manager and chief of police. Cornish noted that the town and its residents have a pay-as-you-go attitude, noting that a new police car had recently been purchased in cash. The article also noted that the small municipality had purchased several lots for future planned buildings, planning to replace the green concrete block structure with a garage door that served as the center of city government.
In February 1992, UTC political science professor Dr. David Edwards was hired as city manager. Working only Thursdays, Edwards administered a budget of $112,532 in 1992 and oversaw a full-time police chief, two part-time police officers and two longtime employees, City Clerk Roberta Thomas and City Engineer Curt Blair. McColpin remained city attorney, and local attorney Arnold Stulce Jr. served as city judge. Dodson, having served as a Collegedale town judge himself, noted that Stulce only held court on occasion, observing, “We’re doing pretty well here.”
In 1994, residents of neighborhoods near Lakesite petitioned the city to annex them. So by 1995 Lakesite had doubled in size, ironically using the same annexation procedure Chattanooga had employed years before. The major addition was the commercial district located in the area of the Daisy-Dallas Road and Hixson Pike intersection, extending south some distance toward Thrasher Pike. The city government moved into a new city hall in 2000. The commission now consists of five commissioners instead of three, but the city still prides itself on its fiscal stability and close-knit community flavor. Bingham, Dodson, Wood, Cornish, McColpin, Thomas and Blair have since passed away, and Edwards recently retired after 30 years of service. The small town they helped create continues to thrive and serve its citizens.
Local attorney Sam D. Elliott has been the attorney for the town of Lakesite since the death of Glenn McColpin in 2006. He is a member of Gearhiser, Peters, Elliott & Cannon, PLLC and past president of the Tennessee Bar Associations and Chattanooga. For more information, visit Chattahistoricalassoc.org.