This story was originally published in the 2016 January/February Issue of Chattanooga Magazine.
Chattanooga City Attorney Wade Hinton is driven by a commitment and passion for making Chattanooga the best city it can be for everyone – a city where people from all communities and backgrounds come together for the common purpose of moving the city forward. His path in life has given him a unique perspective on the city’s challenges and potential, which led him to come back to Chattanooga, his hometown, in the fall of 1999 after graduating from the University of Memphis School of Law.
One of my closest friends and mentors in law school was very community minded and was active in the community in a major way,” says Hinton. “It made me think about my own community and planted a seed to come home to Chattanooga.”
Hinton’s professional career in town had given him experience across multiple sectors, including positions with Volkswagen Group of America, Miller & Martin, PLLC, and Hamilton County’s Office of the Mayor, where he directed several initiatives for former Mayor Claude Ramsey. Hinton has also been a business owner, serving as a partner and co-founder of a law firm for nearly five years after he returned home to Chattanooga. In June 2013, he was named Chattanooga City Attorney and Chief Legal Officer, a multi-faceted position that draws on his depth of experience and allows him to impact policies and programs benefiting the community.
“I have been very blessed to have had some amazing opportunities,” says Hinton. “I did not chart a plan – these positions came along at the right place and right time, and I was ready to step up for the challenges and opportunities.”
Hinton has been named one of the nation’s 40 best advocates and business leaders under the age of 40 by both the National Bar Association and Network Journal, respectively, and he is a member of Harvard’s 2015 Young American Leaders program. He has also received the Thurgood Marshall Award from the Chattanooga Hamilton County NAACP and the Top 45 Under 45 Award from the Tennessee NAACP, which recognizes young professionals who demonstrate leadership excellence.
“Through Wade’s leadership and commitment as the Charter President of the Urban League Young Professionals, the group gained national recognition and has had a significant impact on the community,” says Warren Logan, president and CEO of the Urban League of Greater Chattanooga. “Wade has consistently shown a balanced approach to his leadership and service in the community and understands the importance of cross cultural communications and the necessity of factoring in all positions and groups in resolving issues.”
An active community leader, Hinton currently serves on the board of the Benwood Foundation and University of Chattanooga Foundation and is a member of the German Marshal Fund Transatlantic Leadership Development Advisory Council. He has previously served on the board of numerous community organizations, including the Community Foundation of Greater Chattanooga, Chattanooga Chamber of Commerce, Friends of the Festival, and Tennessee State University. He was also a co-founder and board member of STAND, a nonprofit that led a community visioning process across the city from 2010-2011 with a vision to engage community members to express their ideas for the future, organize around common purposes, and translate vision into action.
“With his strong commitment to Chattanooga and experience leading a variety of community initiatives, Wade has been a vital asset in overseeing the direction and investments that the Benwood Foundation makes in the community,” says Sarah Morgan, president of the Benwood Foundation. “Chattanooga needs more young leaders like Wade who are passionate about making Chattanooga a more inclusive, vibrant city.’
Through his work with Benwood, he has been able to help engage more young professionals with the forward progress of the city. “Young professionals are hungry to figure out how to get engaged,” says Hinton. “Benwood has been very supportive and active in trying a group to meet CEOs various cities, or taking a group to Harvard Business School, or housing discussions with various elected officials.”
The desire to ensure all people are at the table and benefit from the city’s prosperity continues to drive Hinton in his career and community service. “Growing up in the Westside, I feel like I have experienced two Chattanoogas in many ways,” says Hinton. “We have to address issues around education and workforce and make sure that everybody is able to participate in the success that the city has experienced over the last few years and that they will be a participant moving forward.”
With the city poised for continued growth through the Innovation District and other initiatives, Hinton believes the city can reach its potential.
“I am proud of my city,” says Hinton. “My hope is simple – for Chattanooga to be a city for everyone, ensuring that all Chattanoogans in all neighborhoods are a part of the growth and success.”