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VOL. 127 | NO. 196 | Monday, October 8, 2012

Shelby County Redistricting Process to Formally End

By Bill Dries

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Shelby County Commissioners will vote Monday, Oct. 8, on putting a formal end to the redistricting process, 10 months after the new district lines were due.

The commission meets at 1:30 p.m. at the Vasco Smith County Administration Building, 160 N. Main St.

The commission’s new set of district lines, which are redrawn once a decade to reflect population shifts recorded in the U.S. Census, was due by the end of 2011. But the commission deadlocked with no plan getting the nine-vote majority required for passage on third and final reading.

During the deadlock, several commissioners filed suit in Chancery Court over the issue. And Chancellor Arnold Goldin ruled in June that a plan that got a seven-vote simple majority was the new redistricting plan. That plan converts the commission from its set of four multi-member districts and one single-member district to a set of 13 districts with one commissioner for each district.

The Shelby County charter required the nine-vote, two-thirds majority to pass the measure on final reading and the commission appealed Goldin’s ruling as a way to defend the charter requirement from a future legal challenge.

But those commissioners now favor dropping the lawsuit.

“I think next time there is a redistricting of the County Commission … it’s best that we leave it just the way it is,” said County Commission chairman Mike Ritz. “Commissioners and the commission can handle it when they get there.”

Commissioner Heidi Shafer, however, thought the commission should stay in court to defend the charter.

“I do think we have an interest in defending the charter,” she said. ‘I would recommend that we not withdraw this. … It won’t be cheaper to do it later.”

“I think next time there is a redistricting of the County Commission ... it’s best that we leave it just the way it is.”

–Mike Ritz
Chairman, Shelby County Commission

But commissioner Sidney Chism likened an appeal to “rolling the dice”

“If we take it any further, we don’t know what we’ll get out of another judge,” he said.

The resolution to end the legal action had seven votes in committee sessions last week.

Commissioners also vote Monday on hiring a chief administrator of the commission office.

Whoever gets the appointment will succeed Steve Summerall, who retired earlier this year. The administrator oversees the commission office and its day-to-day affairs. In a change of commission procedures, the new administrator will appoint the deputy administrator. In the past, the commission has appointed that position as well as the administrator.

A total of 10 citizens had applied for the job as of last week. Commissioners interviewed nine of the applicants last week during Wednesday committee sessions.

The two who garnered open support from several commissioners were deputy commission administrator Clay Perry, who has been interim administrator for the last five months, and Del Gill, who worked recently as an appointed administrator in the General Sessions Court Clerk’s office.

Gill is best known politically for his time on the local Democratic party’s executive committee.

“You point him in one direction and he’ll run into that wall and keep going instead of backing up,” Chism said of Gill. “His resume says he is more qualified than anyone else we’ve got up here.”

Perry ran in the 2010 Democratic primary for Probate Court Clerk and was district director for former U.S. Rep. Harold Ford Jr.

Commissioners favoring Perry cite his knowledge of the workings of the office as well as the way he has run the office in the last five months.

“I think you are sending a bad message if you don’t promote from within,” said commissioner Terry Roland.

Perry also demonstrated the political line the chief administrator must walk in serving the needs of an elected body with seven Democratic commissioners and six Republican commissioners – each with a vote on who gets the job.

“Who’s the best or one of the best Republican commissioners you know?” Roland joked.

“There are five others, but you are one of the best,” Perry answered.

Meanwhile, a commission vote on a residential home and assisted living center for the elderly on the southwest corner of Baylor Road and Brunswick Road has been delayed for a month. The Land Use Control Board has recommended rejection of the facility in a residential single-family district.

PROPERTY SALES 92 480 7,835
MORTGAGES 115 551 8,785
BUILDING PERMITS 325 1,167 17,068
BANKRUPTCIES 39 311 5,159