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VOL. 130 | NO. 250 | Thursday, December 24, 2015

City Hall Shuffle Moves Into Christmas Eve With 8 Positions Cut

By Bill Dries

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Memphis-Mayor elect Jim Strickland announced on Christmas Eve that he will eliminate eight positions in the current administration, one of them vacant. And a ninth positon will become a part-time position. Strickland will also follow through on his long-held desire to end the city’s involvement in and funding of the Memphis-Shelby County Music Commission.

The Thursday, Dec. 24, moves are the latest as Strickland prepares to take office January 1.

The positions being eliminated and the people who currently hold them are:

  • Parks and Neighborhoods Deputy Directors Lasonya Hall and Joseph Lee.
    Hall came to City Hall in 2003 during the administration of Mayor Willie Herenton as deputy director of the executive division, the mayor’s office. She became one of several parks deputy directors in 2010 at the start of the administration of Mayor AC Wharton.
    Lee is a former city finance division director and president of Memphis Light Gas and Water Division, both during the Herenton administration.
    Strickland, as a council member, has long questioned the need for deputy directors, particularly in the parks division.
  • Community Affairs Manager Bobby White. White is the former chief of staff for Wharton who took the community affairs position earlier this year when Wharton changed his inner circle and moved George Little out of the chief administrative officer’s position and Jack Sammons into the CAO’s position.
    In Strickland’s administration there is no chief administrative officer. There is a chief operating officer and Strickland has appointed Doug McGowen to that position.
  • Library spokeswoman Stephanie Jones-White. This is another level of positions that Strickland has questioned as a council member. Jones-White is the wife of Bobby White.
  • Deputy Chief Administrative Officer Demar Roberts. Roberts first surfaced at City Hall shortly after Sammons became CAO. He was the person from the administration who told city council members the administration no longer backed changes to the Civilian Law Enforcement Review Board. He did so just as the council was about to take a third and final vote on the ordinance after numerous delays.
  • Intergovernmental Affairs coordinator Dedrick Brittenum. This is the city lobbyist position, the person who sees to the city’s interests primarily in the state capitol in Nashville. The city, through several mayors, has also used Nashville-based lobbyists to make the city’s case during legislative sessions on specific issues.
    Brittenum, an attorney, is a former interim city council member who after his time on the council was parliamentarian to the Shelby County Commission before returning to City Hall to work for the Wharton administration.
  • City Hall Security coordinator Gerald Fanion. Fanion came to City Hall with Wharton in late 2009 from Wharton’s tenure as Shelby County Mayor where Fanion held a similar position.
  • Strickland is also eliminating the deputy Public Works division director’s position vacant since Robert Knecht became interim public works director following the exit of Dwan Gilliom to direct public works operations in Shreveport, La. earlier this year.
    Strickland has reappointed Knecht to a four-year term as public works director in his administration.

The salaries of the positions eliminated comes to approximately $1 million in savings with Strickland using about a third of the savings for raises to the six chiefs who report directly to the mayor as well as to pay those holding the new appointed positions between the chiefs and the division directors.

Strickland still has some more positions to fill in his administration which will affect the net figure of how much less or more the new administration and its new structure cost taxpayers.

He campaigned on a platform of cutting those costs.

Strickland announced Thursday the annual salaries of the six chief positions, as well as other positions he has appointed.

  • Chief Operating Officer Doug McGowen, $155,000
  • Chief Finance Officer Brian Collins, $140,000
  • Chief Human Resources Officer Alexandria Smith, $140,000
  • Chief Communications Officer Ursula Madden, $140,000
  • Deputy Communications Director Kyle Veazey, $75,000
  • Chief Legal Officer Bruce McMullen, $90,000
    McMullen will be a part-time city attorney, splitting his duties with those as a shareholder at the Baker Donelson law firm. It’s an arrangement the city had when Robert Spence was city attorney during the Herenton administration.
  • Interim Police Director Toney Armstrong, $150,000
  • Chief of Staff Lisa Geater, $104,000
  • Special Counsel to the Mayor Alan Crone, $90,000
    Like McMullen, Crone’s job at City Hall will be a part-time position.
  • Special Assistant on Strategy, Policy and Accountability Haley Simmons, $70,000.
    This too seems to be a part-time position although that could not be verified Thursday.

The joint city-county music commission gets $250,000 in city funding along with county government funding.

Executive director Johnnie Walker is paid $92,000.

Strickland served notice Thursday that he won’t be reappointing Walker and that he is firing the commission’s paid staff person.

He has questioned the duplication of public and private efforts to promote the city’s music industry and its musical heritage.

PROPERTY SALES 68 162 2,781
MORTGAGES 60 97 1,880
BUILDING PERMITS 148 769 6,470
BANKRUPTCIES 61 172 1,149