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Q&A with Linda Kerley,

Former mayor of Collierville

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Call it a sign of the times. In this harsh economic climate, even the former mayor of Collierville is struggling.

After serving nine years as mayor and four years before that as a Collierville alderman, Linda Kerley recently resigned her post because of financial reasons. New mayor Stan Joyner took office last Monday.

Throughout Kerley's tenure as mayor, she and her husband, Ken, also worked as real estate agents. Earlier this year, the Kerleys realized they weren't bringing in enough money. The Collierville mayor's salary isn't enough for one person to live on, and with the real estate business going south, Kerley had no choice but to give up her post. — by Bianca Phillips

Flyer: What's the Collierville mayor's salary?

Kerley: $15,000. I could make more at McDonald's. I worked 50 or 60 hours a week, and I was on call 24/7. I was always going to different church services on the weekend or some kind of event, like Boy Scout ceremonies. It takes a lot of time.

The Collierville mayor's salary needs to be changed to a living wage. It's very much a full-time position.

When did you realize you were going to have to find a new job?

The deadline for getting your petition [for reelection] in was Thursday, August 21st, and I made the announcement on the Tuesday before. I literally waited until the last second to see if I would get some real estate commissions and sell some houses, so I could seek reelection. But it didn't work out.

Was the lack of real estate business related to the economy?

I think most of our problem stems from February when an alderman accused me of an ethics violation because, at that point in time, [my husband and I] changed from one real estate company to Crye-Leike. Crye-Leike ran a very nice ad welcoming us, as they do with all agents. One of our aldermen filed a formal complaint with the town against me for using my office to seek financial gain.

I was exonerated when [Crye-Leike founder] Dick Leike wrote a letter stating that I had nothing to do with the ad. Unfortunately, the ad appeared in all the newspapers several times, and from that point on, we have not had one new client. People are making the biggest investment of their lives, and if someone has been accused of an ethics violation, would you make that contract with them?

I don't know if I'm overreacting, but I know other people in real estate who are doing great. It seems very coincidental.

How did you get into politics in Collierville?

In 1994, there was a development that was going to the Board of Aldermen for approval called Oakmont. It backs up to several subdivisions off Byhalia Road, and our family lives in one of those subdivisions.

We were concerned about construction traffic, and we went to the meetings and were told to shut up and sit down. We took offense to that. Some friends and I went to Destin a few weeks after the meeting, and too many piña coladas later, they talked me into running for alderman. In May 1995, I ran and was elected as the first female alderman in Collierville. I ran for mayor in 1999.

What are your plans now? I'm going to try to get a job, so if anyone out there is hiring ex-mayors, tell them to call me.

Would you consider running for elected office again someday?

I truly loved serving the community, and I love Collierville, but would I get back into it again? I believe the board is going to be successful as well as all the people appointed to the commissions. I don't think it will be necessary for me to get back into it.

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