Sheriff Luttrell Changes Mind, Will Run for County Mayor



Mark Luttrell
  • Mark Luttrell
What had been a virtually non-stop hot-boxing by local GOP officials and rank-and-file Republicans alike to draft Sheriff Mark Luttrell as a candidate for Shelby County mayor achieved its end Tuesday with an announcement from the sheriff that he, indeed, would run for the office of county mayor this year.
Luttrell’s change of heart and announcement of candidacy was made Tuesday, little more than two weeks before the filing deadline of February 18 for this year’s countywide election. (Party primaries for county offices are on May 4, and the general election will take place on August 5.)

The Flyer has learned that Luttrell’s resistance to running was apparently worn down when he was shown results of a GOP-commissioned poll demonstrating that the two remaining known Democratic candidates for county mayor — interim mayor Joe Ford and Shelby County commissioner Deidre Malone — were vulnerable to a candidate with his credentials.

Bartlett banker Harold Byrd’s withdrawal from consideration last week presented a transformed electoral landscape, and it is onto that landscape that Luttrell, a proven vote-getter across party lines, will tread.

Presented with the news on Tuesday, blogger/activist Tom Guleff, who had announced for county mayor as a Republican candidate last week, would say, “The GOP is really excited with Mark and his entrance into the mayor's race. Back to being Joe Citizen.”

Local GOP chairman Lang Wiseman heralded Luttrell's decision with this press release:

A Major Announcement: Leadership you can trust: Mark Luttrell


Our County faces tremendous challenges -- billions of dollars in debt, an under-educated workforce, lack of trust in public officials, and a sense that our best days are behind us.

Turning all of that around requires solid, trustworthy leadership. It requires someone who can heal our divides, bring honor to our government institutions, govern with fiscally conservative principles, and bring out the best in all of us.

For months now we have been searching for such a candidate, and today he stepped forward to stand in the gap.

Sheriff Mark Luttrell.

Mark has demonstrated unfailing integrity and an ability to earn the trust of a large majority of voters across partisan, racial, and geographic divides. He has kept his promises, including taking a county jail on the cusp of federal takeover and transforming it into a model institution. He was even recognized by his peers as THE best Sheriff in America.

If such a man can accomplish all of those things from the Sheriff's office, just imagine what Mark can accomplish as Mayor in these trying times.

This task won't be easy, and it will require all hands on deck. If you want real change, you will have to stand up and fight for it. So be ready. In the coming months, we will be asking you to organize your precinct, become a dues-paying member, join or start a Republican club, and contact voters to remind them about the election.

This is our moment – our opportunity to move this community forward – and we couldn't have asked for a better standard-bearer than Mark Luttrell to get the job the done.

UPDATE: In a conversation at a Tuesday afternoon “wine-tasting” reception/fund-raiser for him at Delta Wholesale Liquors, the sheriff explained that “no one factor, but several” inclined him toward running after many months of expressing reluctance.

At his Tuesday reception, Luttrell greets octogenarian Bobby Lanier, an aide to every county mayor since the '70s. - JB
  • JB
  • At his Tuesday reception, Luttrell greets octogenarian Bobby Lanier, an aide to every county mayor since the '70s.

The first two factors he mentioned were “my skill set” and “my poll numbers.” The latter was a reference to a fresh poll showed him this week by Republican boosters. Apparently taken in the wake of withdrawal of Democrat Harold Byrd (“for whom I have great regard”) from consideration as a mayoral candidate, the reassuring numbers and “looking at the candidates out there” convinced him that he a good chance to win.

Acknowledging that fellow Republicans’ non-stop efforts to talk him into running ”was a consideration,” Luttrell insisted, “A major part of my success is that I am not a partisan person,” and that he had worked across racial and partisan lines as sheriff and would do so again as county mayor. The job “doesn’t have the same scope that the city mayor does,” Luttrell said, but it still offered him sufficient additional challenges.

“Eight years ago, the sheriff’s department was a mess,” he said. “The sheriff’s department is no longer a mess.” He indicated that he relished the opportunity to tackle large problems like “poverty, education, public safety, the county debt, and school funding.” Asked if he thought that being mayor offered him a chance to redefine himself after a career largely devoted to incarceration and law enforcement, he answered, “In a sense,” and went on to say, “I’m looking forward to a new test.”

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