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VOL. 124 | NO. 36 | Monday, February 23, 2009

County Commission To Fill Vacancy

By Bill Dries

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The Shelby County Board of Commissioners should return to its full complement of 13 members today.

The commission is scheduled to select a replacement for David Lillard, a Republican who resigned from the commission this month following his appointment in January as state treasurer. Whoever wins the appointment will serve the year and a half remaining in Lillard’s four-year term of office.

(For more on the commission’s full meeting, see agenda on Page 9.)

With Democrats the majority on the body, there is also the possibility that a Democrat could be appointed to the seat in a district that has always had Republican representation since partisan primaries in county elections were introduced in 1994.

The candidates for District 4 Position 3 are:

  • John Bogan, a retired U.S. Navy commander and an appraiser with the Shelby County Property Assessor’s office.
  • Jim Bomprezzi, former mayor of Lakeland and a three-time candidate for the County Commission, most recently in the 2006 election when he lost in the GOP primary to Wyatt Bunker.
  • Terry Roland, Millington business owner who came within 13 votes of upsetting Ophelia Ford in the 2005 District 29 state Senate race. Roland considered running for a different position in District 4, but instead backed Commissioner Joyce Avery in 2006.
  • Chris Price, who recently sold his Millington car dealership and is now a business consultant. His wife, Teresa Price, is a Shelby County school board member.
  • Rudolph Daniels, a business owner who briefly considered a run for the District 1 Memphis school board seat last year but didn’t have enough signatures on his qualifying petition.
  • Linda Kerley, former mayor of Collierville.
  • Tommy Hart, former county commissioner.
  • Adrienne Pakis-Gillon, a member of the local Democratic executive committee.
  • Matt Kuhn, former Shelby County Democratic Party chairman whose father is Shelby County attorney Brian Kuhn.

Kuhn and Gillon are the only Democrats vying for the appointment.

Hart and Kerley told commissioners in interviews last week they would not be candidates for the seat in the 2010 county elections.

The others offered a range of answers when asked about the possibility.

“I am running for the office and if you are going to run, you better have your “A” game on,” Roland said.

Kuhn’s answer was more representative.

“I can’t tell you that I will not run,” he said. “But I also can’t tell you that I’ve made a decision to do that.”

Price offered the same answer in almost the same words and tacked on a “God Bless America.”

“Spoken like a true car salesman,” joked Commissioner Wyatt Bunker, who is vice president of sales for Jimmy Moore Leasing, which leases cars and equipment.

The ambivalence is a political effect of the multiposition districts that make up most of the commission. Only District 5 is a single-member district. In the other four districts, prospective candidates will sometimes file for multiple positions in a district and pick their race on or near the filing deadline for candidates depending on which offers the best field for them.

For some on the commission, the possibility of running in 2010 will be a factor in today’s vote.

“I tend to go with the candidates that are saying no, they will not run again,” said Commissioner Joyce Avery who, along with Bunker, also represents District 4. “I want my constituents to have the opportunity to put someone else in the seat – whether it’s a Democrat or a Republican.”

Commission chairwoman Deidre Malone said last week that she will not feel obligated to follow an unwritten tradition of replacing departing commissioners with someone of the same political party.

“There are no traditions that exist in the written rules of order,” she said after Commissioner George Flinn said he wanted to ask each applicant if they would respect the traditions of the commission.

Local Republican Party chairman Bill Giannini said the idea of a Democrat winning the appointment “stinks to high heaven.” He believes Kuhn is the favorite among Democratic commissioners.

“The only upside to this is that should he be appointed, he will be beaten like a drum in 2010 – like a drum,” he added.

The commission, though, would have an 8-5 Democratic majority until then. The appointee will serve as critical discussions about education funding and local government consolidation continue.

“If we should have a change in government in the city, all of these ancillary issues … come into play,” Giannini said. “Democrats have not fielded a candidate in this district in seven years. This is by far the most Republican district in the county.”

Giannini said Republican commissioners, who were the majority on the body until the 2006 elections, had abided by a custom of replacing Republicans with Republicans and Democrats with Democrats repeatedly – even in filling vacancies in the Tennessee Legislature from Shelby County.

Last year the commission, which was then majority Democratic, appointed Democrat Paul Mattila as trustee to fill the vacancy created by the death of Republican Bob Patterson.

“You could make a valid argument on either side,” Giannini said. “Paul Mattila was there – had worked in the office as a Democrat. There was not a lot of resistance.”

Mattila’s appointment still angered some Republican commissioners. He won a special election that followed, giving Democrats a fourth countywide office going into the 2010 elections. The other three offices held by Democrats are mayor, property assessor and General Sessions Court clerk.

PROPERTY SALES 56 289 2,908
MORTGAGES 55 226 2,009
BUILDING PERMITS 108 1,002 6,703
BANKRUPTCIES 42 248 1,225