VOL. 130 | NO. 245 | Thursday, December 17, 2015
Departing City Council Members Remembered at Last Session
By Bill Dries
Before the Memphis City Council’s final session of 2015 on Tuesday, Dec. 15, the 13 council members got around to something they should have done four years ago: take a group picture in the Hall of Mayors at City Hall.
The Memphis City Council that leaves office at the end of December did something at their last council meeting Tuesday that they didn’t do at the start of the four-year term – posed for a group picture at City Hall.
(Daily News/Andrew J. Breig)
The new council, including its six new members, will take their own group picture next month.
But chairman Myron Lowery wanted to leave office by adding the 2011 council’s portrait to the city’s archives.
There were few speeches from the six departing members, whose terms run out at the end of the month.
But their personalities continued to come through.
“I wanted to make sure I was part of all things that are fair and equal across our great city,” departing councilwoman Wanda Halbert said. “I’ll be a taxpayer, and I will be listening and watching.”
Before the remarks, Halbert kept intact an eight-year record of reminding other council members of what she has seen as problems in communicating the details of proposals to all members before they vote on those items.
Her comments received no pushback from others on the body who have been equally insistent in the past that such information has been available to all council members.
Lowery honored councilmen Jim Strickland and Edmund Ford Jr. for their perfect attendance over the last four-year term.
The resolution honoring Halbert noted that while her attendance wasn’t perfect, she has been known for attending council committee sessions by teleconference call from work.
And she never hesitated to speak up when the connection was fuzzy. The teleconferencing also established a precedent for the council with a legal opinion that a member attending by telephone could not vote in committee.
In the resolution honoring Lowery, his colleagues noted his status as the council’s longest-serving member, having been elected in 1991 and surviving the 2007 turnover of nine council seats.
The resolution also noted Lowery’s frequent admonishment to council members to “stay focused” during debates and discussions that frequently can veer into other subjects.
While Lowery is the body’s longest-serving member, the eldest by age and time at City Hall in a variety of roles is councilman Bill Boyd.
Boyd was working in the old commission form of government in the 1960s when city government moved from the Shelby County Courthouse to the then-new City Hall in 1966. Boyd laid out the office plans and coordinated the move.
The resolution honoring Boyd noted his ancestor, Marcus Winchester, was Memphis’ first mayor.
Strickland’s resolution was the only one in the set to mention his future plans – namely becoming Memphis mayor on Jan. 1.
It avoided mentioning Strickland’s introduction of a constantly beeping timer that became the sound of the new council policy in recent years of limiting members to five minutes each in most debates.
Councilman Harold Collins was remembered for his advocacy for Whitehaven, a part of town he calls home. He and Ford have shared representation of the area, with Elvis Presley Boulevard serving as the boundary between their districts.
Collins also was lauded for the personal stories he’s shared during his two terms on the council. He has talked frequently about the requirement he and his wife set for their two daughters when sending them off to college: In return for tuition, the girls would come back to live and work in Memphis for two years after graduation.
One story Collins mentioned during his mayoral bid didn’t make the resolution. His ambition once was to be a Secret Service agent following the assassination attempt on President Ronald Reagan in the 1980s.
Collins took a different path but remains a walking encyclopedia of facts about the White House, Air Force One and the history of the Secret Service.
Councilman Alan Crone leaves with Strickland in January for the seventh floor of City Hall, where he will serve as special counsel to the mayor after a stay of less than a year on the council.
Crone served as an interim member, filling the vacancy created by Shea Flinn’s departure for a job at the Greater Memphis Chamber.
Like Strickland, Crone brought the work habits of an attorney to the council – though those habits have manifested themselves differently.
Strickland’s questions on an issue would usually come from a legal pad, with him checking off each question after he got his answer.
Crone usually worked without notes and after the questions would usually move directly into the conclusions he had formed based on the answers.
The council also honored Flinn with a resolution he didn’t get in his rapid move to the chamber to head up the Chairman’s Circle, the organization’s political wing .
The new job means Flinn is still at City Hall frequently. He’s just not voting anymore.
Flinn said the council’s “class of ’08” has seen “challenging times.”
Characteristically, he added a challenge of his own to the seven council members re-elected this year, many of whom are entering their third term.
Flinn said he and the other five who passed on re-election bids this year did what they set out to do in two terms.
“It’s OK. You’ll get there,” he quipped. “Keep believing.”