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VOL. 133 | NO. 45 | Friday, March 2, 2018

‘Selfless Leadership’

Dunavant Awards honor work of humble public servants

By Michael Waddell

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Hard-working, compassionate, dedicated, deeply caring, honest. These were the words used to describe Shelby County chief administrative officer Harvey Kennedy and General Sessions Criminal Court Judge Tim Dwyer, the honorees at the 15th annual Dunavant Public Servant Awards luncheon.

More than 400 people came out to honor Kennedy and Dwyer at the Wednesday, Feb. 28, event, which recognizes the importance of the work of public servants year-round for our community.

2018 honorees Judge Tim Dwyer, left, and Harvey Kennedy speak to attendees at the 15th annual Dunavant Public Servant Awards luncheon Wednesday, Feb. 28. (Daily News/Houston Cofield)

The luncheon, held at the Holiday Inn University of Memphis, was co-sponsored by the Rotary Club of Memphis East and The Daily News

This year’s honorees demonstrate the type of model behavior that defined late Shelby County Probate Court Clerk Bobby Dunavant, including being honest, unpretentious, energetic, involved, generous, empathetic and attentive to detail, as well as being a strong mentor.

Carolyn Hardy, president and CEO of Chism Hardy Investments and chairwoman of the Greater Memphis Chamber’s Chairman’s Circle, was the luncheon’s keynote speaker.

“I know you will see that our recipients here today have caused a lot of people to unleash and achieve their personal best,” said Hardy, who shared some of her personal stories of growing up in Memphis. “I tell people I was born into poverty and I lived below the poverty line my entire childhood. However, this did not define me. Instead it only made me a great leader.”

Hardy challenged all leaders to be king makers, not dream slayers.

“Congratulations to Judge Dwyer and Harvey Kennedy for their selfless leadership, their willingness to change the world, especially in Memphis, and the heart to create a better Memphis,” she said.

As chief administrative officer of Shelby County government for the past eight years, Kennedy has overseen the day-to-day operations of its eight divisions, a job that includes everything from handling complex business negotiations to interfacing with all of the county’s elected officials to meeting with dissatisfied citizens. He has been instrumental in helping to balance the county’s budget and in reducing its debt.

“There are many, many people in county government who are just as deserving as I am, so I’m very appreciative of having been selected,” Kennedy said. “The award’s really special to me because public service has been my life.”

Carolyn Hardy, president and CEO of Chism Hardy Investments and chairwoman of the Greater Memphis Chamber’s Chairman’s Circle, was the luncheon’s keynote speaker. (Daily News/Houston Cofield)

Now 24 years into his service with Shelby County government, Kennedy spent the previous 26 years in the Navy. His last duty station was commander of the Defense Distribution Depot in Memphis, and he retired in 1993 with the rank of captain in the Supply Corps.

“I’ve had the good fortune to work with many fine professionals and hundreds of dedicated naval officers who made whatever sacrifice was needed to defend this great country of ours,” Kennedy said. “I was proud to be a part of that team. It was a pleasure, and I hope my service brought credit to the friends and families of people I knew.”

Judge Dwyer founded the Shelby County Drug Court in 1997 and has worked in county government for the past 36 years. In 1984, at age 30, he was elected to Division 8 as the youngest judge in the state of Tennessee.

“I’m deeply honored and truly grateful to receive the Bobby Dunavant Public Servant Award,” said a tearful Dwyer, who has spent the past 34 years as the General Sessions Criminal Court judge for Division 8. “I had the good fortune of meeting Mr. Dunavant back in the ’70s when I was a clerk in serving court, and our offices were located in the same building.”

Over the years, the drug court has helped more than 2,500 people get the help they need.

“Knowing that we have played a role in more than 2,500 people getting their lives back has been an awesome experience,” said Dwyer, who describes public service as our highest calling. “I just want to thank God for putting me in this position, and hopefully at the end of my career I can look back and say that I was at least half the public servant that Bobby Dunavant was. Then I’ll know in my heart that I was a success.”

Members of the Dunavant family were on hand for the event, which began in 2004 as a way to not only honor Dunavant, who died in 2003, but to promote good government through the example of other public servants. Since then, the Dunavant Awards have been given annually to one local elected official and one non-elected public official.

RECORD TOTALS DAY WEEK YEAR
PROPERTY SALES 0 133 1,342
MORTGAGES 0 131 1,047
FORECLOSURE NOTICES 20 39 190
BUILDING PERMITS 0 305 3,056
BANKRUPTCIES 17 135 753
BUSINESS LICENSES 0 53 329
UTILITY CONNECTIONS 0 0 0
MARRIAGE LICENSES 0 0 0