Norris, Geater Named Dunavant Award Recipients

By Bill Dries

Tennessee State Senate Republican Leader Mark Norris of Collierville and Lisa Geater, chief of staff to Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland, are the recipients of the annual Bobby Dunavant Public Servant Awards to be presented in May by the Rotary Club of Memphis East.


The Daily News is a sponsor of the awards that honor one elected official and one non-elected public official each year.

The award is named after the late Probate Court Clerk Bobby Dunavant based on Dunavant’s leadership skills as both an elected leader and a non-elected employee of local government.

The award committee, composed of Rotarians and members of the Dunavant family, takes nominations from the public and considers nominees from past years as well.

Norris was first elected to the state Senate in 2000. He is running unopposed in the 2016 elections for a fifth four-year term.

He represents state Senate District 32, which takes in part of Shelby County and Tipton county.

As Senate Majority leader, Norris carries most of the legislation proposed by Gov. Bill Haslam as the sponsor in the senate.

The most notable exception to that was Haslam’s controversial Insure Tennessee legislation.

Before his election to the state Senate, Norris was a Shelby County Commissioner starting in 1994, the first year partisan primaries were held for the commission seats.

An attorney when he began his political career, Norris is special counsel in the litigation practice group of the Adams and Reese LLP law firm.

He is also a farmer with a 170-acre family farm.

Born in Akron, Ohio, Norris earned his law degree from the University of Denver College of Law in 1980 with an undergraduate degree in political science from Colorado College.

Geater was the administrator of the Memphis City Council before becoming chief of staff to the mayor as Strickland took office in January 2016.

She was nominated for her work as the council’s administrator.

Geater ran the council office, including its staff, on a full-time basis for a group of 13 council members who are considered part-time citizen legislators.

She worked in the council office for 27 years, through seven versions of the council including the turnover of nine council seats in the 2007 city elections, the largest change in council seats in the 48-year history of the mayor-council form of government.

A one-time University of Memphis intern for the Tennessee General Assembly, Geater earned a master’s degree in public administration from the university and a bachelor’s degree in political science from Arkansas State University.

She is also a graduate of the University of Tennessee Local Government Leadership Program.

The awards will be presented at a May 11 luncheon at the University of Memphis Holiday Inn. The ceremony will feature past winners of the awards and a keynote speech by Spence Wilson, chairman of the board of Kemmons Wilson Companies.