VOL. 130 | NO. 180 | Wednesday, September 16, 2015
Roland Claims Shelby County Commission Chairmanship
By Bill Dries
After Terry Roland took the chairman’s seat at the Monday, Sept. 14, Shelby County Commission meeting, Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell congratulated him and pledged to work with him.
As he did, several commissioners chuckled.
“What did I say?” Luttrell asked.
Before they could respond, Roland interrupted: “Mayor, we’re going to be alright.”
The laughs are an indication of the tension between the two, especially since the county’s spring budget season.
Roland was among a minority on the commission pushing for a property tax reduction funded from a $6 million budget surplus. Luttrell gave the commission the authority to decide how to spend the additional funds.
He also accused Lutrell of using the $6 million to create commission discord.
Luttrell himself proposed a one-cent reduction in the property tax rate last year. He also proposed dropping the Rural School Bond Tax rate, a four-cent tax paid only by property owners who live outside Memphis’ city limits. But this year he argued the time wasn’t right for a further tax cut.
Luttrell expressed bewilderment over the charge that he was trying to incite friction among the 13 commissioners.
“It was painful – more painful that it really needed to be,” Luttrell said of the budget seasons. “I’ve never seen such a fight over a surplus.”
Then came county trustee David Lenoir’s news of $22 million more than expected in tax collections.
Luttrell in August proposed a budget summit to attempt a consensus on the new economic reality. But the differences between the mayor and the body became more apparent when Luttrell also opposed a $175,000 job-training grant to Seedco.
Luttrell said the county should not fund job-training efforts for minimum wage retail jobs like those in the program. Roland accused Luttrell of being “disrespectful.”
“He has run roughshod over this body for the last five years,” Roland added.
But when Roland contended that Luttrell “administers what we send him,” county chief administrative officer Harvey Kennedy pushed back.
“We don’t work for the commission,” he replied before adding: “We’ve got a good chance to work together.”
All of that conflict temporarily was put aside Monday.
Roland did banish the term “mulroy” to define a quick response or explanation delivered out of speaking order during debate.
The parliamentary move was named after former commissioner Steve Mulroy, who clashed with Roland frequently; it has been replaced by the golf term “mulligan.”
Roland’s selection as chairman came three weeks after commissioner Steve Basar was elected to the post and an hour later un-elected.
Basar’s seven-vote majority was picked apart when Roland flipped commissioner Eddie Jones.
It’s a move Roland has perfected over his five years on the commission as part of a six-vote Republican minority.
Roland won Monday, Sept. 14, with the votes of seven commissioners including two Democrats – Jones and Justin Ford.
Basar, also a Republican, had the votes of the other five Democrats and his own Monday but was one vote short.
The commission’s tradition is that the chairmanship rotates between the two parties. Roland succeeds Ford as chairman.
But Roland’s election, with most of his votes coming from fellow Republican commissioners, breaks a three-year cycle in which the chairman had been elected with most of his votes coming from commissioners of the other party.
The chairmanship is part of Roland’s already-declared path to a run for Shelby County mayor in 2018.
The mayor’s office will be an open seat in 2018 because of term-limited Luttrell. Roland also hits his term limit as commissioner in 2018.