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VOL. 130 | NO. 57 | Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Sammons Appointment Stalled, Wharton Makes Other Moves

By Bill Dries

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His plan to make Jack Sammons his new chief administrative officer is stalled – at best – but other parts of Memphis Mayor A C Wharton Jr.’s election-year overhaul of his administration are starting to move.

While George Little remains CAO, he has already started to roll out details of new strategies for the police and fire departments, part of his job as the newly created chief operating officer.


There is no sign of a bill in the Tennessee legislature that would permit Sammons to continue in his role as chairman of the Memphis-Shelby County Airport Authority and become Wharton’s CAO. Holding both positions currently is banned by state law.

It’s been three weeks since word of Wharton’s inner-circle shake-up leaked. Wharton has since said there could be other changes.

That includes an “Office of Performance Management” whose goal is to “bring transparency and accountability to government operations.”

Wharton is using the nonprofit Mayor’s Institute for Excellence in Government to “incubate” the new office of city government. A one-year grant from Memphis Tomorrow is funding the effort.

The institute was chartered in 2011 and is housed at the Community Foundation of Greater Memphis.

Wharton’s plan, as outlined in an executive summary circulated last week by Memphis City Council chairman Myron Lowery, is for the new office to set metrics for the performance of city government across numerous functions.

The effort also includes developing a “dashboard” so the public can follow those results; the administration will review them twice a month in a process billed as MEMFacts.

The summary said the dashboard and its results will facilitate meetings “using a data-driven approach to improve decision making and transparency, and to ensure that goals are consistently being met.”

Wharton announced a week earlier in another Friday evening email copy from Lowery his proposal to move the city’s Community Redevelopment Agency overseeing the city planning aspects of the Uptown and Highland Row redevelopment projects to the Economic Development Growth Engine – or EDGE – organization. The agency is currently overseen by the joint city-county Office of Planning and Development.

Wharton and Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell are taking the proposal to the city council and Shelby County Commission respectively.

The creation of the performance management office continues Wharton’s pursuit of city divisions and offices that partly rely on private funding for what are considered government duties and obligations.

The best example is the city’s use of funding from the Bloomberg Philanthropies to run its Innovation Delivery Team. The team is best known for its MEMFix and MEMShop concepts of temporary fix-up efforts and retail openings in areas the city has targeted for broader redevelopment.

Wharton campaigned for mayor in 2009 with the promise of such innovations that would redefine or at least alter the traditional management chart of city government.

Five years later, Wharton’s executive division includes the entity he spoke specifically of – the office of talent and human capitol.

Wharton also talked of having an office of vision.

Five years later, Wharton’s critics, including some of his challengers on the October ballot, are publicly questioning why it has taken Wharton so long. The public-private combination has long drawn opposition on the council, which has at times blocked city funding to match Bloomberg funding.

PROPERTY SALES 23 23 1,365
MORTGAGES 21 21 1,068
BUILDING PERMITS 117 117 3,173