The City of Chattanooga, Tennessee was chartered in March 1866, just over one year after the end of the Civil War. On April 11, 2023, Chattanooga’s City Council made history as Members elected Raquetta Dotley to lead the legislative body as the first African American woman to do so in the 157-year history of City government.
Chairman Dotley graciously afforded her time to answer a few questions as she has the opportunity ahead. Be inspired by this woman’s story and share it with the young adults and upcoming adults. As author Alex Haley, of Tennessee, has said, “Find the good and praise it.”
Chairman Raquetta Dotley is some of the good borne from determination, grit, and grace.
CNC: “Historic” has been repeated in describing your newly assumed role when you were passed the gavel and are the first African American woman selected by her peers to lead the legislative body for our city.
What other words do you want all Chattanoogans to associate with your first several months as chairman and throughout your tenure?
Other words would be integrity, transparency, community, and leadership.
CNC: During your opening remarks in thanks, you recognized Council Member Demetrus Coonrod, along with others there in support of your ascension. Reviewing your work and other comments, teamwork and cooperation are woven throughout your approach to service. Speak to your leadership approach.
Recognizing that collaboration is one of the many keys to success, my hope is that the spirit of collaboration continues as we make strides to enhance the quality of life for all Chattanoogans.
CNC: Your young life story is remarkable. You and your family lived in the old Boone-Hysinger housing project that was later the Harriet Tubman property in East Chattanooga. A successful woman rising from public schools – Mary Garber Elementary, Orchard Knob Middle, and Brainerd High Schools – and finding encouragement from a school guidance counselor to go to UT Chattanooga, you present our community with a living, breathing model of perseverance and personal responsibility to keep pressing on.
Who has been the greatest influence in your life? How have your life experiences fashioned you for this moment to serve?
The greatest influence in my life is God. We are all created for a purpose, for a reason and I serve God by serving others. In addition, my mom, Cheryle Thomas, is the biggest influence in my life. She persevered, endured, and made sure that my sister and I were always taken care of and that we always had a heart of service.
CNC: Having an extraordinarily diverse district which includes the urban core, areas sought by those seeking a taste of metropolitan living in a smaller city, as well as growing businesses, the racial and ethnic diversity is obvious, along with the socio-economic mix of residents. What do you see as issues common to all of these citizens that transcend District 7 and are essential priorities for the City?
Common issues all encompass the idea that everyone wants to live in a thriving community that has access to great places, spaces, and people. Essential priorities include addressing housing, increasing economic opportunities, and fostering a sense of community.
CNC: Knowing that families of young men and women are reading your responses and will be watching your leadership, what do you want to say to inspire, encourage, and challenge their potential?
First and foremost, always make God your priority. Staying in tune to God’s direction through prayer and study is paramount to maximizing your potential. Secondly, I love this quote by Coretta Scott King, “The greatness of a community is most accurately measured by the compassionate actions of its members, a heart of grace, and a soul generated by love.” We all have a responsibility, not only to ourselves but to the next generation, to make the space we occupy better than how we found it. That only happens when we work together as a community in the spirit of collaboration.