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VOL. 130 | NO. 62 | Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Sammons Picks CAO Job

By Bill Dries

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Former Memphis City Council member Jack Sammons is going back to City Hall and giving up his position as chairman of the Memphis-Shelby County Airport Authority board.

SAMMONS

In an email to The Daily News late Monday, March 30, Sammons said, “I have accepted Mayor Wharton’s offer to be the next CAO (chief administrative officer). It’s been a very difficult decision for me.”

Memphis Mayor A C Wharton Jr. is expected to take his nomination of Sammons to a Memphis City Council committee on April 7.

The decision ends a monthlong political drama in which word of the election year shake-up in Wharton’s administration was leaked.

Wharton originally wanted to appoint Sammons as chief administrative officer while Sammons continued to serve as chairman of the airport authority board, an unpaid position that is considered part-time.

But a state law specifically bars holding the two jobs simultaneously, and Wharton’s plan for legislation to undo the prohibition came after the deadline for filing bills in the Tennessee Legislature for this year and went nowhere.

That left Sammons with a difficult choice.

Since he became chairman of the airport authority board in 2013, Sammons has been the front man and salesman-in-chief for the local effort to remake Memphis International Airport after Delta Air Lines dehubbed it in 2014.

The transition is not only a switch to domestic air carriers but is also a transformation of the airport from one dominated by connecting flights to one focused on origin-and-destination traffic.

Although it came with no pay, the board chairmanship was a role Sammons relished just as much as his seven-month role as chief administrative officer, starting under interim Mayor Myron Lowery following Mayor Willie Herenton's resignation in 2009, and lasting into the first three months of Wharton’s tenure.

Sammons’ decision means the airport authority board has a vacancy at the head of its table, and Wharton and Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell, who appoint the board, are certain to have thoughts about who Sammons’ successor should be.

Before the first stint as chief administrative officer, Sammons served on the Memphis City Council from 1988 to 1995, and he returned to serve from 1999 to 2007. He was appointed to fill a council seat in 2008.

Earlier this month, Sammons likened his time on the council to being in a prison and he likened being CAO to being warden of the prison.

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