Eleven File For Council Seat

By Bill Dries

A field of 11 candidates had filed by today's noon deadline for an open seat on the Memphis City Council on the Nov. 4 ballot. Four of the contenders ran for the council just a year ago. Also at the deadline, three Memphis school board members were effectively re-elected when they failed to draw any opposition.

Scott McCormick’s resignation from the Super District 9 Position 1 council seat is effective at the end of the month. McCormick is leaving the council eight months after winning a second term in office to become executive director of the Plough Foundation. He said this week that he will not endorse anyone in the election or for the interim appointment.

Those filing for the seat on the Nov. 4 ballot are:

- Kemp Conrad, former chairman of the Shelby County Republican party and a candidate for the city council in the 2007 elections.

- Lester Lit, a business owner who also ran for the council last year.

- Arnett Montague III, a 27-year-old political newcomer whose grandfather has run periodically over for various offices over the years.

- Regina Newman, attorney and candidate for Circuit Court Judge in 2006.

- Jimmy Ogle, former Memphis Park Commission executive director and one-time Mud Island general manager.

- Antonio Parkinson, a firefighter who ran for a council district seat in 2007.

- Brian Stephens, a leader of the Cordova Leadership Council who ran in the 2007 council races.

- Paul Shaffer, business manager of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 474.

- Richard Stringer, a business owner who ran for the District 2 council seat in 1991 and 1995.

- Mary Wilder, Midtown neighborhood leader who served briefly as an interim state House member.

- John Willingham, former Shelby County Commissioner and past candidate for Memphis mayor and Shelby County mayor.

Election commission officials were still checking the signatures on some of the qualifying petitions at the filing deadline. The fields in some of the races could change because of that.

Shaffer and Willingham were among those filing in the last 20 minutes before the deadline.

Shaffer said he decided to get into the race overnight after former council member Carol Chumney announced she would not be running.

“I want to make the city more friendly for businesses to move in and build job opportunities for citizens and represent working people on the council,” Shaffer said.

Willingham is running a grudge candidacy. “I’m running because of Kemp Conrad,” he said referring to Conrad’s tenure as local Republican party chairman.

Conrad, who was standing nearby but didn’t hear the comment, told The Daily News later that he would focus his second bid for office in as many years on his ideas and not respond to Willingham.

“There are a lot of people out there who are losing faith in the city because of the crime, because of our taxes, which keep going up, and the service level, which keeps going down,” Conrad said

The fields were sparser for the five Memphis City Schools board seats also on the November ballot.

The three incumbents running unopposed are: District 7 board member and board president Tomeka Hart, District 5 board member Jeff Warren and District 3 board member Patrice Robinson.

Freda Williams, appointed to the board in 2007, is seeking her first full four-year term.

She faces a challenge from Cynthia Gentry and Menelik Fombi. Fombi ran for the same at large seat in the 2004 elections, losing to Wanda Halbert whose resignation to serve on the City Council last year resulted in Williams’ appointment to the seat. Fombi is the son of the late state representative and business leader, A.W. Willis Jr., and was among the first group of black school children to integrate Memphis city schools in the 1960s.

District 1 board member Stephanie Gatewood drew opposition from former school teacher and business owner Rudolph Daniels.

The four other school board positions are up for election in 2010.

All candidates who had filed qualifying petitions by today have until noon Aug. 28 to withdraw from any of the six races if they wish.

Meanwhile, candidates for the interim appointment to McCormick’s City Council seat continue to apply for what amounts to a two-month job.

The remaining 12 council members are scheduled to appoint someone Sept. 9 to fill the open seat until the November election is decided. Noon Sept. 4 is the deadline to apply.

Among those applying are for the appointment are Stringer and Ogle as well as former City Council member Florence Leffler.