The 11th annual Bobby Dunavant Public Servant Awards in 2014 will be awarded against a backdrop of the largest election ballot in Shelby County history.
The once-every-eight-year August ballot features not only county races held every four years but judicial offices for terms of eight years, U.S. Senate primaries and primaries in the governor’s race.
The awards given by the family of the late Probate Court clerk and the Rotary Club of Memphis East and sponsored by The Daily News and the University of Memphis are an opportunity even in a busy election year to take a longer-range look at what makes a good public servant.
Each year one elected official and one non-elected official are given the award.
A committee of Rotary East members and Dunavant’s family are taking nominations from the public until noon Jan. 17 via a nomination form on the Rotary website, www.rotaryclubofmemphiseast.org.
The award is named for Dunavant because of his 21 years of service as Probate Court clerk and his service as a county government employee before he was an elected official.
Dunavant’s portrait hangs in the Shelby County Courthouse near the desk he took as clerk that was at the counter where attorneys file their papers for the court to hear.
Dunavant retired in 1994 and died in 2003, which is when the awards in his name began.
The nomination form asks for a description of how a nominee meets characteristics that marked Dunavant’s tenure in public service. The qualities are honesty, unpretentiousness, accessibility, energy and involvement, mentorship, empathy, interest in those served, caring for employees and being family oriented.
“Most of the people who have been getting nominations are people who have a career of dedicated service,” said Bob Chandler of the Rotary Club, who is coordinating the awards program this year.
The date of the awards luncheon and a speaker are still being arranged along with a symposium that will delve further into the issues of good public service.
The 2013 Dunavant honorees were Memphis City Council member Jim Strickland and Shelby County Jury Commissioner Clyde ‘Kit’ Carson. The 2013 awards luncheon featured Brad Martin, who has since become interim president of the University of Memphis, as the keynote speaker.
Other past winners include Joe Reeves, chief administrative officer of the Shelby County Register’s office; Bartlett Mayor Keith McDonald; senior assistant Memphis city attorney Dorothy Osradker; and Shelby County Attorney Brian Kuhn.
District Attorney General Amy Weirich is among those elected officials honored for their service as non-elected officials, in Weirich’s case for her career as a prosecutor before she was appointed district attorney general and then elected to the post.
Organizers of the luncheon also encourage the past winners and others to invite public officials, elected and non-elected, to the event as well.