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VOL. 129 | NO. 5 | Wednesday, January 8, 2014

15 Vie for County Commission Seat

By Bill Dries

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Shelby County Commissioners will interview a group of 15 citizens Wednesday, Jan. 8, who want to become the newest member of the elected body.

During committee sessions Wednesday, Shelby County Commissioners will interview 15 candidates who are vying for an appointment to the 13-member body. The full commission votes on filling the vacancy at its meeting the following Monday.

(Daily News/Andrew J. Breig)

The committee session interviews come before the full commission is to vote Monday, Jan. 13, on a replacement for Commissioner Wyatt Bunker.

Bunker resigned this month following his election last year as mayor of Lakeland.

The appointee will serve the nine months left in Bunker’s four-year term on the commission.

The District 4 seat covers most of the county’s suburban communities and unincorporated areas, but it also takes in some parts of Memphis.

The field of 15 vying for the appointment reflects the large area covered by the district, as well as the downsizing that happens in the 2014 elections of that district and the four others that now make up the County Commission.

With the 2014 elections, the commission goes to 13 smaller, single-member districts.

The field of 15 includes three contenders each from Memphis, Bartlett and Germantown, and two each from Lakeland, Arlington and Collierville.

Five of those vying for the appointment have pulled petitions to run in the May County Commission primaries for three of the smaller single-member districts to which the commission is converting. Three of those prospective candidates on the 2014 ballot are running as Republicans, and two are running as Democrats.

Bennie Cobb, of Lakeland, is a retired sheriff’s deputy who currently owns Eagle Eye Security Services. Cobb ran for the Democratic nomination for Shelby County Sheriff in 2010.

Dennis Daugherty, of Arlington, is a Memphis firefighter who serves on the executive board of the Memphis Fire Fighters Association.

Diane George, of Collierville, is a real estate broker with Home Realty Co., a family-owned business. She is also a former Shelby County Schools board member, serving first on the legacy Shelby County Schools board and then on the transitional 23-member school board.

Frank Uhlhorn, of Germantown, is a residential homebuilder who owns his own construction company. He was a Germantown alderman for 14 years, including three terms as the city’s vice mayor.

George Chism, of Collierville, is a banker with BankTennessee and is running for commission District 2 in the May Republican primaries.

There are 15 candidates vying for the Shelby County Commission position left vacant following Wyatt Bunker’s resignation.

Jackie Jackson, of Memphis, is a solution adviser for FedEx Services. She is also a candidate for commission District 4 in the May Democratic primaries.

Kevin Hardin, of Bartlett, is with Orion Federal Credit Union.

Mark Billingsley, of Germantown, is director of major gifts for Methodist Healthcare Foundation and a former Germantown alderman. He is running in the May Republican primary for commission District 4.

Rob Johnson, of Arlington, is managing architect for Brown-Forman, a company that specializes in the manufacturing and sale of spirits and wines.

Robert Escue, of Bartlett, is in sales at Consolidated Poultry and Egg Co.

Ron Fittes, of Germantown, is a retired Memphis Police Department major who is a security consultant for CarMax auto dealership and also with Pro-Tech Security. Fittes ran for the same commission seat in the 2010 Republican primary and lost to Bunker. He is running in the May Republican primary for District 4.

Van Turner, of Memphis, is an attorney and partner in Hagler Bruce Turner Law PLLC. He is also a former chairman of the Shelby County Democratic Party and is running in the May Democratic primary for District 12.

Leon Hurd Jr., of Memphis, is a tax consultant.

John Wilkerson, of Lakeland, is a retired certified public accountant, a former Lakeland commissioner and a longtime member of the Tennessee Republican Party’s executive committee.

Matt Kuhn, of Bartlett, is a business consultant and lobbyist. The former chairman of the Shelby County Democratic Party was appointed to the County Commission in 2009 and ran for General Sessions Court clerk in 2000. He also served as a deputy court clerk for the clerk’s office and was chief administrative officer to Juvenile Court Clerk Shep Wilbun.

Commissioners are likely, based on past appointments, to ask whether those seeking the appointment plan to run for the commission this year.

In recent years, a voting majority on the commission hasn’t favored giving anyone who might run for a seat a perceived advantage by appointing them to it before an election.

That was the case when Commissioner Mike Carpenter resigned in 2011. The commission appointed former Memphis City Council member Brent Taylor to fill the vacancy after Taylor said he had no plans to run for the seat. Steve Basar was later elected in a special election to fill out the rest of the term.

PROPERTY SALES 76 133 1,342
MORTGAGES 83 131 1,047
BUILDING PERMITS 190 277 3,028