In her four years as the assistant county attorney for the Shelby County Commission, Christy Kinard has been a key part of drafting three sets of Shelby County charter amendments and the first proposed metro consolidation charter to go to local voters in 39 years.
(Photo: Lance Murphey)
“I think that because of my strong research and writing skills, it only seems fitting that I moved into the legislative area,” Kinard said this week as her job description changed.
For the last four years, Kinard has been the commission’s parliamentarian, sitting by the chairman at the body’s twice-a-month meetings and attending the committee sessions on the weeks between the meetings of the full commission.
Kinard has been the voice viewers have heard reading items from the agenda during the webcast of commission meetings. Her duties have included providing legal advice to the numerous appointed boards and commissions that are also part of county government.
This week Kinard became part of Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell’s staff as legislative affairs adviser. She remains an assistant county attorney.
Her new job is representing the Luttrell administration locally and before the Tennessee legislature.
Kinard cited the influence of former Shelby County Attorney Brian Kuhn, who hired her as an assistant county attorney in 2006 after she worked in the office as a paralegal and had clerked in the office as a student at the Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law at the University of Memphis.
“I feel that I’ve followed the path of public service and I’ve been able to work in the legal field, which is something I was always interested in,” Kinard said.
But her interest wasn’t always exclusively on being an attorney. In high school, she wanted to be a police officer.
“Eventually, I ended up in the paralegal program at State Tech (now Southwest Tennessee Community College) and still found my way into the legal field,” she said. She worked for several attorneys starting in 1993 after earning her associate’s degree and then pursuing a degree in criminology and criminal justice at the University of Memphis.
“I had worked as an auxiliary probation officer volunteer through juvenile court, having done my internship there when I was an undergrad at the University of Memphis,” Kinard said. “I also interviewed with the Secret Service to work as a special agent. Then I applied to law school and got admitted much quicker than the other options were working out.”
For the charter amendments, Kinard’s job was to find the right legal wording for what the commission proposed to add and subtract from the existing charter. She also worked to word the amendments in such a way that people who aren’t attorneys or part of county government can understand them.
Another consideration was streamlining the charter so that a topic covered in one part of the charter was not repeated multiple times but still remained clear.
Kinard stresses her role as an attorney on that and other matters was very specific.
“We only advise on legal matters, not on policy matters,” she said. “My role was really about advising about what the law provides in terms of how they want to proceed (and) also to advise on how to make changes to particular laws in the event they were prohibited from doing things in the fashion they wanted to do it.”
The commission submitted two sets of charter amendments to voters in the 2008 referendum. Voters rejected one that included expanding the existing limit of two consecutive terms on the mayor and commission to three consecutive terms and including other countywide elected officials in the term limits.
The rejected set of charter amendments was revised to extend the current limit of two consecutive terms to the other countywide elected officials and was approved by voters in the last election of 2008.
By then, the proposal to consolidate the Memphis city and Shelby County governments was taking shape.
The metro charter was voted down in 2010. Like the charter amendments, part of Kinard’s role in the process was working with the appointed charter commission to reflect what the commission wanted in the charter in the simplest and most understandable wording possible.
There were also certain elements the charter had to have that are basic to any county government in the state.
Both commissions noted her attention to detail and organizational skills as both sets of proposals went to voters.