End of an Era: Hamilton County Commission Chairman Fred Skillern loses his re-election offer

Fred Skillern


Hamilton County Mayor Jim Coppinger defended his title in today’s primary against challenger Basil Marceaux.

Coppinger left with 15,003 votes to defeat Marceaux, who received 1,442 votes.

Coppinger was named district mayor in January 2011 after former Mayor Claude Ramsey left to join Governor Bill Haslam’s administration, and was later elected mayor in a 2012 special election.

He will run against independent candidate Richard Ford in the general election in August.


District 1

Randy Fairbanks (R) – 1,249

Fred Skillern (R) – 1,198

District 2

* * Jim Fields (R) – 1,628

District 3

* Marty Haynes (R) – 2,091

District 4

Warren Mackey (D) – 889

Pam Ladd (D) – 305

Kirkland Robinson (D) – 140

District 5

Greg Beck (D) – 1,597

Isiah Hester (D) – 724

District 6

* Joe Graham (R) – 1,014

* John Brooks (D) – 350

District 7

Sabrena Turner (R) – 1,966

Phil Smartt (R) – 744

Perry Perkins (R) – 647

Ezra corn (D) – 238

Don Brown (D) – 203

District 8

Tim Boyd (R) – 883

Curtis Adams (R) – 674

Brent Lambert (R) – 468

* Kenny Smith (D) – 498

District 9

* Chester Bankston (R) – 1,865

* Melinda Bone (D) – 306

* Without resistance

Note: All results are unofficial until confirmed by the Electoral Commission.

Tuesday marked the end of an era for Hamilton County politics.

“I guess my kind of politics is over. I’ve always been very independent, and I think I’ve voted independently for long enough that I have enough people to stand up against me,” said Fred Skillern, chairman of the Hamilton County Commission.

By the time the votes came in Tuesday, Skillern had lost his Republican primary by 51 votes to challenger Randy Fairbanks, a Soddy-Daisy CPA.

Skillern received 1,198 votes – or 49 percent of the vote – while Fairbanks moved in 1,249 – which equates to 51 percent. Attributions were less than 1 percent.

With no Democratic candidate for the post, it means Fairbanks will slide into the District 1 commission seat after the August 7 general election. Tuesday’s results are unofficial until Hamilton County’s electoral commission confirms them.

Fairbanks said he had a lot of respect for Skillers, but residents wanted new blood.

“I respect Mr. Skillern, he has worked hard for many years and done a lot of good for District 1,” said Fairbanks. “The District 1 people just said they were ready for new leadership, and that’s what we’re going to offer – that’s what they chose.”

Skillern has been in office since 2001 when he was named to succeed Jim Vincent. He was elected to the body in 2002, 2006 and 2010.

But his years in public service go back decades.

He was appointed to a seven-year school board for the first time in 1976 after having just lost an offer for another seat in the school months earlier, according to newspaper archives. He lost a commission race in 1982 but served on the district school board until 1996, a period that spanned several years as chairman. In total, he had served in office for 33 years, he said.

District 1’s results surprised some of Skillern’s fellow commissioners who successfully defended their posts.

“Are you kidding me?” Democratic Commissioner Warren Mackey said after hearing the news of Skillern’s loss. “It’s a shock right there. I didn’t see that happen.”

Commissioner Tim Boyd said Skillern’s loss, along with his own defeat for former longtime Commissioner Curtis Adams, signaled a new direction for county politics.

“It’s a changing of the guard,” said Boyd. “They had some sort of political structure in Hamilton County, and the torch is being passed on.”

Boyd said he, Fairbanks and District 7 Republican candidate Sabrena Turner are committed to transparency. And Skillern suffered a severe blow in March when he directed District Mayor Jim Coppinger to have private conversations about new school construction projects instead of discussing them publicly.

“We have to be open,” said Boyd. “And I think that’s what the voters are looking for.”

Boyd said he would now focus on uniting District 8 Republicans for his August election against Democrat Kenny Smith.


Turner took over the Republican post in District 7 with 58 percent of the vote.

Turner received 1,966 votes. Their challengers Phil Smartt and Perry Perkins received 744 and 647 votes, respectively.

When the results came on Tuesday, Turner’s victory was evident. She thanked God, her family – and her team of campaign workers.

“We really got out there and met people and listened to them,” said Turner. “It was a very competitive race. I worked hard and I had a great team that worked as hard as I did. I owe many people thanks.”

Candidate Ezra Maize won the democratic place with 238 votes. That corresponded to 54 percent of the vote. His opponent Don Brown had 203 votes, or 46 percent.

Some commissioners were spared the main competition but still have to focus on the parliamentary elections in August.

Acting District 6 Commissioner Joe Graham will face former Democratic Commissioner John Allen Brooks in the general election. And Chester Bankston, Republican District 9 commissioner, will also face Democratic challenger Melinda Bone.

Only Commissioners Jim Fields and Marty Haynes let through this election cycle. Neither was challenged in the primary, and neither face Democratic opposition in August.

Contact author’s assistant Kevin Hardy at [email protected] or at 423-757-6249.

Contact Louie Brogdon at [email protected] or 423-757-6481.

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