For those who like happy endings — or perhaps we should say "continuations" — to troubled stories, there's the saga of Jeff Sullivan, a veteran political activist who, in the county election year of 2010, guided the successful election campaign for sheriff of then chief deputy Bill Oldham.
During the year or so after that, Sullivan served as a governmental liaison and spokesperson for the Sheriff's Office and was often seen, for example, in the dock of the county commission auditorium making the case for this or that piece of legislation desired by the department. His wife Maura Black Sullivan, meanwhile, was also working her way up the governmental ladder and currently holds the position of deputy CAO for the city of Memphis.
Jeff Sullivan's career hit an unforeseen snag in the aftermath of a bizarre incident in Nashville, where he had gone on official Sheriff's Department business.
Late one evening, Sullivan, who admits to having had a drink or two in the bar of his downtown hotel, thought he'd seen an unauthorized person, a hotel employee, leaving his room, as he ascended to his floor in the hotel's glass-sided elevator. This was around 10 p.m., an odd time for a housekeeping mission, Sullivan thought.
Finding nothing amiss in his room, he nevertheless went downstairs and apprised the clerks at the front desk of his concern. "They didn't seem to care," Sullivan recalls. Later on, seeing the employee in the hotel garage, Sullivan voiced his suspicions to her, and the employee denied anything untoward. Sullivan shrugged and went upstairs.
An hour or two later, after he'd turned in, there was a knock on his door. He opened it to find the hotel night manager who told him, "You've got to leave."
Puzzled but in no mood to argue, Sullivan dressed and got his belongings ready to move to an adjoining hotel, where he intended to check in. He moved his car from the original hotel's parking garage to that of the adjoining hotel. As he was registering for the rest of the night, he was approached by Nashville police, who'd been tipped by a partisan of the employee whom Sullivan had suspected that Sullivan was inebriated, a fact Sullivan denied then and denies now.
The long and short of it was that Sullivan was booked and charged with DUI and with refusing to take a breathalyzer test. The situation was complicated enough that Sullivan was first suspended with pay from his sensitive job with the Sheriff's Department, then, as he awaited trial, saw his duties transferred to another employee. He resumed some real estate work that he'd been doing beforehand, and that might have been that.
Except that, several months after the hotel incident, Sullivan's trial came around, and he was exonerated. Period, end of story?
Not quite. As soon as another election season, that of 2014, began to loom on the horizon, Sheriff Oldham, who was as happy as Sullivan was about the not-guilty verdict in Nashville, decided he needed Sullivan's help again and asked him to come aboard as campaign strategist for his reelection race next year.
So Sullivan is back doing what he likes doing best, and, in the course of getting back in the political saddle, he has acquired at least one more client, magistrate Dan Michael, who's seeking to become Juvenile Court judge.
So it is that, as the holiday season approaches, the skies have cleared, the storm has lifted, and the planets are back in their orbit. For Jeff Sullivan, anyhow. Of course, he still has to worry about getting his guys elected.
• Oldham is not the only incumbent who'll be seeking reelection next year, of course, nor is he the only one making active preparations for his race. Juvenile Court clerk Joy Touliatos and District Attorney General Amy Weirich both had well-attended fund-raisers within the last week.
Touliatos' was at Ciao Bella in East Memphis last Thursday, and Weirich's was at the Pickering Center in Germantown on Sunday. Touliatos and Weirich are both Republicans.
• School board races, most of them uncontested and all of them drawing light turnouts, were concluded last Thursday in the six incorporated municipalities of suburban Shelby County that intend to operate independent school districts beginning in 2014.
In Germantown, focus of controversy these days because three of its schools are slated for use by the existing unified Shelby County Schools district, there was one contested race out of five. In that Position 1 encounter, Linda Fisher, with 1,094 votes, defeated opponents Paige Michael (877) and Edgar Babian (616). Other elected Germantown school board members were Mark Dely, Natalie Williams, Lisa L. Parker, and Ken Hoover.
Bartlett had two contested races — one for Position 2, in which Erin Elliott Berry (1,487 votes) won out over Alison Shores (415); and another for Position 5, won by David Cook (1,552) over Sharon L. Farley (365). Unopposed for the Bartlett School Board were Jeff Norris, Shirley K. Jackson, and Bryan Woodruff.
In Millington, there were three contested races — Cecilia Haley (306) defeating Oscar L. Brown (236) for Position 2; Jennifer Ray Carroll (394) winning out over Tom Stephens (113) for Position 6; and Donald K. Holsinger (289) besting Charles P. Reed (235) for Position 7.
Unopposed winners in Millington were Gregory Ritter, Chuck Hurt, Cody Childress, and Louise Kennon.
In Lakeland, the top five finishers of seven contenders become the board. They are: Kevin Floyd (642); Laura Harrison (639); Kelley Hale (610); Matt Wright (556); and Teresa Henry (475). Also running were: James Andrew Griffith (288) and Greg Pater (94).
Arlington, which plans to consolidate its school efforts with those of Lakeland, elected five board members without opposition. They are: Danny Young, Barbara Fletcher, Kevin Yates, Kay Morgan Williams, and Dale A. Viox.
Collierville also elected five board members without opposition. They are: Kevin Vaughan, Wanda Chism, Mark Hansen, Cathy Messerly, and Wright Cox.
• Radio talk-show host Michael Reagan regaled a packed Life Choices audience at the University of Memphis Holiday Inn on Central last Thursday night with stories about himself — and about his father, the late former President Ronald Reagan.
One tale he told concerned his father's morning-after preoccupation in 1981 with the fate of the brown suit he had been wearing when he was shot by the would-be assassin John Hinckley — and the then president's unusual suggestion as to how the Hinckley family might make amends.
Lamenting that his new brown suit had been cut away from his body and shredded at the hospital, the stricken president said he'd been told the Hinckley family had lucrative oil interests and wondered, "Do you think they'd ever buy me a new suit?"
The occasion, sponsored by the group's Ladies' Auxiliary, was a fund-raising dinner for the organization's Pregnancy Help Medical Clinics. The clinic promotes adoption as an alternative to abortion and provides medical and counseling support toward that end.
Another affecting story told by Michael Reagan concerned the affectionate relationship he developed with the affable but famously remote president relatively late in his adoptive father's life and how that relationship continued even into the final stages of Ronald Reagan's Alzheimer's disease.
That story concluded with an account of how the former president, unable to speak and with his ability to recognize kith and kin long gone, still retained enough memory, as his son recalled, "to know that I was the man who gave him hugs" and, by taking "baby steps" toward the door and miming, insisted on one as Michael Reagan was leaving the Reagan household one day after a visit with step-mother Nancy Reagan.
The thrust of Michael Reagan's remarks, in support of the host organization's goal, was to emphasize that he, at least one sister, and both of Ronald Reagan's wives, Jane Wyman and Nancy Davis Reagan, had been adopted children and were thus enabled to achieve productive lives. "We were a family put together by adoption," as he put it.