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VOL. 129 | NO. 10 | Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Newest County Commissioner Takes Seat

By Bill Dries

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The newest Shelby County Commissioner is not a newcomer to politics.


But there will be something of a learning curve for former Germantown Alderman Mark Billingsley because of the uniqueness of each local legislative body from boards of aldermen to councils to school boards. The uniqueness isn’t in the structures of those bodies as much as it is in the personalities that come together on them.

On the second ballot Monday, Jan. 13, commissioners appointed Billingsley to fill the vacancy created by the resignation this month of Wyatt Bunker, who became mayor of Lakeland last year.

Billingsley cited his background in education issues and his experience as an alderman in working on public safety and economic development issues.

“I submit to you that I will be a respectful team player who will work with you to address the challenges and celebrate the successes together,” Billingsley told the commission.

He serves the nine months left in Bunker’s term of office, which includes the coming budget season in which the commission will consider funding for Shelby County Schools and six suburban school systems including the Germantown Schools system.

“I’ve been through budgets before. I’m fiscally prudent but I also care about the citizens,” he said. “Coming from the nonprofit sector I think I have a real appreciation for stretching a dollar.”

Billingsley is also a candidate in the 2014 elections for a full four-year term in one of the smaller single-member districts the commission will convert to with the 2014 elections.

Billingsley, who is director of major gifts for Methodist Healthcare Foundation, is running in the Republican primary for the new District 4. The current district lines with four districts represented by three commissioners each is in place until the winners in the August county general elections take office Sept. 1.

The selection of a candidate in an upcoming commission race to fill an open seat is a change from the last three appointments the commission has made. Matt Kuhn, John Pelliciotti and Brent Taylor were each appointed to the commission because they specifically were not going to run for the seat they were appointed to. Pelliciotti ran for another position in the same multi-member district.

Billingsley was elected to the Germantown Board of Mayor and Aldermen in 2008, upsetting incumbent Frank Uhlhorn in an election that included a complaint to the District Attorney General’s office about a ballot Uhlhorn and two other candidates put out that looked very much like an official Shelby County Republican Party ballot but wasn’t.

Four years later, Billingsley was upset by Forrest Owens.

And among the other dozen applicants for the appointment Monday was Uhlhorn.

Several of the contenders for the appointment were running in one of the new, smaller districts as well.

Billingsley’s closest competitors Monday were George Chism, a candidate in the new District 2, and former Shelby County Schools board member Diane George who is not running for commission. Each of them had two votes compared to Billingsley’s five votes on the first ballot.

Commissioner Sidney Chism nominated Dennis Daugherty, a Memphis firefighter from Arlington, who has pulled a qualifying petition to run against Commissioner Terry Roland in the new District 1.

Chism and Roland are locked in an ongoing ethics dispute in which Roland has formally complained that Chism shouldn’t have voted on schools funding because of his one-time ownership of a day care center that received federal funding. The ethics complaint is still pending.

Daugherty got no votes in the first or second round of voting – not even from Chism.

Uhlhorn got one vote in the first round.

Billingsley had seven votes beyond that in the second round of voting.

He took the oath of office minutes later and took his seat with other commissioners, voting on matters that came before the body at the remainder of Monday’s meeting.

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