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VOL. 130 | NO. 222 | Friday, November 13, 2015

Strickland Vows to Grow Memphis’ Minority Contract Percentage

By Bill Dries

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Memphis Mayor-elect Jim Strickland says the next month may be the most important of his administration, even though he won’t take office until Jan. 1.

Jim Strickland

Strickland told a group of 200 supporters Wednesday, Nov. 11, that he and his transition team are considering who to appoint to lead city divisions as well as what the structure of his administration should look like.

“Right now, I’m focused on hiring the best possible people I can,” he told the group at a post-election fundraiser at the Crescent Club in East Memphis. “The next 30 to 45 days may be my most important 30 to 45 days. I need really good people to surround me at City Hall to get the job done in the next four years.”

The gathering of black business leaders included a core group who backed Strickland’s challenge of outgoing Mayor A C Wharton. It also included some who backed Wharton as well as mayor’s race rivals Harold Collins and Mike Williams.

The central issue for leaders from all of the campaign camps is a larger percentage of both city contracts and private business for local minority- and women-owned businesses.

Jerry Hall, one of the three event co-chairs, acknowledged that backing Strickland at an early stage was “unpopular at the time.” Roughly one year ago, a core group of black leaders, including Hall, met at Downtown’s Blue Plate Cafe to officially back Strickland.

“I was committed to doing it,” he said. “He convinced me and he told me what he would do and why he would do it. It’s not because the population is 65 percent (black). It’s because it’s the right thing to do and it makes sense.”

Strickland echoed that sentiment again at the $500-per-person event.

“For the future of Memphis, we have to do a better job at that. We just have to. And we will do a better job,” he said. “We will measure those results, and we are going to publish those to you.”

Among the appointments Strickland is to make is a director of the city’s division of minority business, which Wharton created in the last year.

“I’m going to appoint one person in charge, and I’m going to hold that person accountable,” Strickland said. “If the number is 8 to 9 percent (minority participation) … that person may need to find another occupation.”

Strickland also reiterated the point he made frequently during the campaign that city government has to be “really good at the basics” including making the city safer statistically and in terms of perception.

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