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VOL. 125 | NO. 231 | Monday, November 29, 2010

Rotary Seeks Nominations for Dunavant Award

By Bill Dries

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The Rotary Club of Memphis East is seeking nominees for its 8th annual Bobby Dunavant Public Service Award, an event that honors distinguished work by public officials.

Honorees are selected in two categories, one for elected public officials and the other for non-elected public officials.

The deadline for nominations is Jan. 15. Nominations can be made through forms on the Rotary website at www.rotaryclubofmemphiseast.org.

David Leake, past chairman of the event for the Rotary Club of Memphis East and an attorney with The Winchester Law Firm, spearheaded the event in 2003, shortly after Probate Court Clerk Bobby Dunavant died.

“This was about the same time our local media was full of negative publicity about Tennessee Waltz and other local corruption investigations of local public servants,” Leake said.

“The idea was that an award should be established to recognize outstanding and less well known public servants in order to counter this negative publicity and because the overwhelming majority of public servants were performing the jobs in an admirable manner.”

Leake said public servants often do not receive positive publicity and acclaim so his organization launched the award to put criticism of public servants in perspective.

Dunavant, who was widely regarded “as the finest clerk in the judicial system” and the “model public servant,” retired in 1994 after 21 years of service. His portrait hangs in the office where he often waited on those filing documents with the court and helped type out court filings.

Leake admires Dunavant’s refusal to have a private office, preferring to work side by side with employees of his department while also dealing directly with lawyers, judges and the public.

Dunavant’s public service career spanned nearly 40 years, and he often cited his guiding principle: “My goal has always been to help attorneys in the practice of law and to help families in the trying times of their lives.”

Past winners include:

In 2009 Memphis city employee Jean Peirre Soucy and Germantown Mayor Sharon Goldsworthy;

In 2008 Memphis Police Director Larry Godwin and Memphis City Councilman William C. Boyd;

In 2007 Shelby County Attorney Brian L. Kuhn and Bartlett Mayor Keith McDonald;

In 2006 Environmental Court Judge Larry Potter and David Barber of the Shelby County Division of Corrections;

In 2005 Memphis Mayor A C Wharton Jr. (then Shelby County mayor) and Senior Assistant City Attorney Dorothy Osradker;

In 2004 Shelby County District Attorney Bill Gibbons and Joe Reeves, chief administrative officer of the Shelby County Register’s Office;

And in 2003 Circuit Court Judge Robert Lanier and Memphis Housing and Community Development Director Robert Lipscomb.

Nominees are judged by a committee of club members and members of the Dunavant family based on traits that Dunavant valued most, including honesty, unpretentiousness, accessibility, generosity, mentorship and attentiveness. The event is tentatively scheduled for April.

Attended by more than 500 people, the luncheon features nationally known elected and business leaders.

The award is co-sponsored by The Daily News. The University of Memphis is also a co-sponsor and will host a symposium on public service at the FedEx Institute of Technology.

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