On Eve of Dual Inauguration, Assertive Wharton Gives Fair Warning to Future Opponents

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A C Wharton at Friday nights fundraiser
  • JB
  • A C Wharton at Friday night's fundraiser
Speaking of firsts, Monday marks the first time — and maybe the last time — when a new Shelby County mayor and a new Memphis mayor are sworn in on the same date.

First, in a 10:30 ceremony in the Shelby County Commission chambers comes the inauguration of commission chair Joyce Avery, a Republican, as acting mayor of Shelby County. Avery will assume the office being vacated by A C Wharton and will serve as mayor for 45 days, at which time the commission will designate an interim mayor, whose term will run until the installation of a duly elected county mayor in the general countywide election of 2010.

Commission chair pro tem Sidney Chism, will assume the duties of commission chair.

Next, at noon, comes the inauguration in the Hall of Mayors of Wharton as Mayor of Memphis. In keeping with the demonstrated universality of his voter base in an election which saw him garner 60 percent in a 25-candidate field, the new mayor is expected to make an appeal to unity.

In remarks made Friday night at a downtown fundraiser for his longtime friend, State Representative G.A. Hardaway, Wharton presented a somewhat different side, alternately playful and tough.

Deferring to Hardaway and to TV’s Judge Joe Brown, his former law partner who had preceded him, Wharton began with a modest note but quickly escalated that into an unusually assertive statement: “I am not the mayor, but I’m the man of the minute. This is just the intermission. I’ve taught him [Hardaway] how to stomp people. It ain’t enough just to win, G.A. You’ve got to stomp people….”

Wharton would conclude his brief remarks this way: “If you let the so-called experts tell you they know this city and who the voters are, they don’t know jack. We know, and the numbers show it. We know, and let me tell you right now, anybody who contests or tells you they know better where the hearts and minds of Memphians are, they do so at their own peril. If they didn’t learn this time they’ll learn next time.”

Next time, presumably, is the regular general election of 2011, and the new mayor’s challengers have been duly warned.

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