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VOL. 133 | NO. 12 | Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Roland Pulls Petition For Mayor, Running As ‘Uniter’

By Bill Dries

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Shelby County commissioner Terry Roland has been campaigning for Shelby County mayor since last year.

TERRY ROLAND

When he pulled his qualifying petition Thursday, Jan. 11, to formally enter the May Republican primary for mayor, Roland did so with a slogan of bringing “positive change to Shelby County.”

“A lot of people think I’m a fighter. I am a fighter. But I fight for the right reason,” Roland said. “I’ve done a lot of work in the inner city and all of the different municipalities.”

In two terms and almost eight years on the commission, Roland has been an outspoken conservative. The West Tennessee director of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign has been a vocal opponent of the merger of the county’s two public school systems in 2012 as well as a failed attempt to consolidate city and county governments.

“The things we used to fuss over – the schools and consolidation – that stuff has been settled,” Roland said. “We need to come together like never before because our competition is around our borders.”

Roland says economic development efforts locally should use more tax increment finance, or TIF districts than PILOTs – payments in lieu of taxes. Both involve property taxes, but TIFs use future revenue to finance improvements while PILOTs abate taxes owed for a period of time. And he cites Nashville’s use of TIFs over PILOTs.

The city and county have started to use TIF districts in recent years, with the first development financed with a TIF being the Shoppes at Millington Farms development in Roland’s commission district. The expansion of the Graceland campus in Whitehaven is also partially financed with a TIF.

“You are not giving away the farm with a TIF,” he said. “It’s like Nashville … they are building on every square inch.”

Roland also favors cutting the county property tax rate more than the 2 cents the commission cut it last year after the tax rate was recertified following the countywide reappraisal of property.

Roland cites the bipartisan commission vote for the tax cut and an indication of his ability to work across party lines. The 13-member commission has a Democratic majority.

Roland is part of a three-way May primary for county mayor that includes Trustee David Lenoir and Juvenile Court Clerk Joy Touliatos.

“I’m running against two really decent people. But the stark difference is they’ve never had to make a hard decision,” Roland said. “They’ve never had to make laws or policies. To be county mayor, you’ve got to know how these laws are made so you can administer what is sent down from the commission. I think that’s what gives me a big edge.”

Lenoir and Touliatos have said their ability to manage significant budgets approved by the county commission as well as manage workforces make them qualified to be county mayor. And both have called for a lower county property tax rate as well.

State Sen. Lee Harris, in the Democratic primary for county mayor, has put a heavy emphasis on the impact of Trump White House policies in Washington on the majority Democratic voting base in Shelby County.

Harris, who faces opposition from former county commissioner Sidney Chism in the Democratic primary, has positioned his campaign as being about local resistance to Trump policies.

Roland said the county races won’t be about Trump.

“Absolutely not,” he said when asked whether Trump should be a factor in who wins the mayor’s race. “You can look at my record. I’m a uniter, not a divider.”

He was also critical of Harris for giving up his City Council seat early to run for the state Senate and is now running for county mayor after one four-year term in the Legislature.

Meanwhile, several more candidates have filed for the May primary ballot ahead of the noon Feb. 15 filing deadline.

Tami Sawyer has filed in the Democratic primary for county commission District 7, the seat being vacated by Democrat Melvin Burgess. Burgess is term limited and has said he will be running for Property Assessor.

Eric Dunn has also pulled for the Democratic primary in District 7 and Sam Goff is running in the Republican primary.

Jonathan Lewis has filed in the Democratic primary for commission District 9, a seat now held by Justin Ford, who is term limited and has pulled a petition to run for state Senate starting with the August Democratic primary.

With a month to the filing deadline, District 9 has the largest field of prospective contenders of any commission race with six candidates pulling petitions. Lewis is the first of the six to file.

Charlie Belenky has filed in the Democratic primary for commission District 13, joining George Monger in the August contest. Republican incumbent Steve Basar is running for re-election and could face a primary challenge from Brandon Morrison.

Michael Finney has filed in the Republican primary for Circuit Court Clerk – Mondell Williams in the Democratic primary for County Clerk.

The Republican primary for Juvenile Court Clerk seems set with Robert Hill, Bobby Simmons and George Dempsey Summers all filed. So far, no Democrat has pulled for the race.

Keith Alexander has pulled petitions in the Republican primaries for Assessor and Trustee. He was the Republican nominee for Assessor in 2014, the last election for Assessor in that even-year election cycle before the race was moved to its current cycle two years ago.

Alexander, an attorney, ran an aggressive campaign in 2014 with a ubiquitous yard sign presence and questioning property values for taxation purposes set by the Assessor’s office. He garnered 41 percent of the vote in the general election won by Democratic incumbent Cheyenne Johnson.

This time Johnson is not seeking re-election.

RECORD TOTALS DAY WEEK YEAR
PROPERTY SALES 57 280 1,209
MORTGAGES 55 244 916
FORECLOSURE NOTICES 8 52 151
BUILDING PERMITS 158 699 2,751
BANKRUPTCIES 37 157 618
BUSINESS LICENSES 12 77 276
UTILITY CONNECTIONS 0 0 0
MARRIAGE LICENSES 0 0 0