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VOL. 133 | NO. 13 | Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Nomination Deadline For Dunavant Awards Feb. 1

By Michael Waddell

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Memphis is lucky to have an abundance of residents with a passion for public service and it is time once again to honor their commitment to improving this community.

Each year the Rotary Club of Memphis East recognizes the importance of public service by hosting the Dunavant Public Servant Awards.

Two public servants are honored – one elected official and one non-elected. The 15th annual event, co-sponsored by The Daily News, will take place on Wednesday, Feb. 28, at the Holiday Inn-University of Memphis on Central Avenue.

For current Shelby County Public Affairs Officer Steve Shular, being honored in 2015 for his work as a public servant was testimony to being surrounded by a highly effective team. As a problem solver for Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell, Shular handles everything from media requests to blight issues to crime issues, triaging them to an appropriate resolution.

“Our greatest goal here is to match that sense of urgency for the citizen,” Shular said.

Shular began his professional career as a reporter for WMC-TV in the early 1980s. His popular “What’s Bugging You?” segment, which dealt with a wide range of community problems, led to working with Memphis Mayor Dick Hackett’s action team on many of the same issues.

A key to his success – something he learned while working on Hackett’s action team – is regularly going out in the field with neighborhood leaders to get their input about problems in their communities and the fastest ways to address them.

“We reengineered the way we deal with people,” Shular said. “For going on 16 years, we have ensured that people have a very easy entrance to government. If the public calls the county or my office, I view myself as a church usher. You’ve got to have someone at the door, holding the doors open for people to come in, directing them where they need to go, and ensuring whatever they need gets accomplished.”

He thinks most people who call expect someone to answer the phone, but they don’t expect to still be working with them 10 years later.

“That changes everything in people’s ability to believe that the government is actually going to follow through on anything, and it puts the neighborhood leaders in direct contact with the people who are out there day by day doing things in the neighborhood,” Shular said.

Nominations for this year’s awards, which are due by Feb. 1, are open to the public. The nomination link can be found at http://www.rotaryclubofmemphiseast.org.

The awards began in 2004 as a way to honor Shelby County Probate Court Clerk Bobby Dunavant, who died in 2003, and to promote good government through the example of award winners.

Dunavant “was the epitome of a public servant” for decades and mentored many young lawyers, according to Rotary Club president J. Mark Griffee, a shareholder and partner with Black McLaren Jones Ryland & Griffee, P.C.

Griffee was one of those young attorneys who benefited from Dunavant’s willingness to serve.

The awards seek to honor public servants who are honest, unpretentious, accessible, energetic, involved, generous, empathetic and attentive to detail – all of the things that defined Dunavant.

Last year’s award recipients were Collierville Mayor Stan Joyner and Memphis Public Libraries director Keenon McCloy.

Past Dunavant honorees include Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland when he was a Memphis City Council member in 2012, as well as Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell in 2010.

The event is expected to draw 400 to 500 attendees. The keynote speaker for this year’s event is Carolyn Hardy, chairwoman of the Greater Memphis Chamber’s Chairman’s Circle and president and CEO of Chism Hardy Investments.

Other previous keynote speakers have included U.S. Sen. Bob Corker; FedEx Corp. founder Fred Smith; U.S. Sens. Lamar Alexander, Howard Baker and Phil Gramm; U.S. Rep. Harold Ford Jr.; AutoZone president and CEO Bill Rhodes; Tennessee Govs. Bill Haslam and Phil Bredesen; Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour; and Spence L. Wilson, chairman of Kemmons Wilson Cos.

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