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VOL. 130 | NO. 15 | Friday, January 23, 2015

Ford Jr. to Headline Dunavant Award Event

By Bill Dries

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Former U.S. Rep. Harold Ford Jr. will be the keynote speaker for the March 25 Dunavant Public Servants Awards luncheon hosted by the Rotary Club of Memphis East.


The awards, now in their 12th year, honor one elected official and one non-elected public official within Shelby County who demonstrate the qualities and characteristics of longtime Probate Court Clerk Bobby Dunavant.

“You pick up the paper every day and you see one bad example after another of public servants who have crossed the line and brought disrespect on their fellow public servants,” said David Leake, past president of the Rotary Club of Memphis East and one of the founders of the program.

“Our mission is to bring to the forefront those people who do a good job everyday but don’t get much credit for it,” Leake said. “It applies to anyone who is a public servant from the lowest to the highest.

“What we are looking for is a good example that we can honor at the luncheon and have a story to share with the public about something they otherwise wouldn’t hear about.”

Last year’s award winners were Collierville city administrator James Lewellen and Shelby County Criminal Court Judge Chris Craft.

Past keynote speakers at the awards luncheon, which is sponsored by The Daily News, have included U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam, U.S. Sen. Howard Baker, Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour and FedEx founder, president and CEO Fred Smith.

Recipients are selected by a committee of the Rotary Club of Memphis East and the Dunavant family from nominations made by the public. The awards are given based on the qualities Dunavant showed as both an elected and nonelected public servant.

Nominations can be submitted by anyone.

The deadline for nominations is March 4 with an online nomination form at www.rotaryclubofmemphiseast.org.

Ford represented Tennessee’s 9th Congressional District covering most of Memphis and parts of Shelby County outside Memphis from 1997 to 2006. He was the Democratic nominee for the U.S. Senate in the 2006 elections, losing to Republican Bob Corker in the statewide campaign.

“Most of our speakers have been addressing what it takes to be a good public servant and some of their personal experiences and some of the issues they’ve dealt with,” Leake said.

Ford’s post-2006 life has been a mix of business and politics.

Since the 2006 campaign, Ford has moved to New York City and earlier this month was mentioned as a possible candidate for New York City Mayor in that city’s 2017 elections.

He is the former chairman of the Democratic Leadership Council.

Ford considered a bid for a U.S. Senate seat in New York in 2011 but ultimately decided not to run.

Ford is a managing director and senior client relationship manager for the Wall Street financial services giant Morgan Stanley and before that was vice chairman and senior policy advisor at Bank of America.

He also teaches public policy at New York University’s Wagner School of Public Policy and he is a contributor to NBC and MSNBC news.

Ford has also kept his contacts in Memphis. Earlier this month, he was involved in an effort through Memphis Mayor A C Wharton’s office to fund free showings of the movie “Selma” for Memphis students.

Ford is part of the city’s best known political family. His father, Harold Ford Sr., held the same Congressional seat for 22 years – the state’s first African-American congressman since Reconstruction.

When the elder Ford opted not to run for re-election in 1996, two years after the 1994 elections that saw Republican majorities elected in the House and Senate, his son ran in a crowded Democratic primary for the 9th District seat in his first bid for elected office.

In hindsight, the outcome may never have been in doubt. But going from a politically active childhood in a large extended political family to being a candidate was a memorable experience Ford has talked about as well as written about.

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