Keith McGee Announces Retirement as City CAO: Updated

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Keith McGee, the sometimes controversial CAO of the City of Memphis under Mayor Willie Herenton, has announced his retirement effective July 4, 2009 to “further pursue his pastoral ministry and other consulting interest[s].

Mayor Herenton issued this brief statement: “Keith McGee has given the City of Memphis exemplary service as CAO. His performance and dedication has been of great benefit to our administration. I wish him the best during his retirement.”

No successor to McGee has yet been named.

As word spread of McGee's departure, a multitude of theories abounded among denizens of City Hall. The most obvious question was: Did he jump or was he pushed?

The weight of evidence — and the preponderance of insiders' conjecture — was toward the idea of a voluntary departure, especially now that the city's budget has been passed.

McGee had been roughed up badly on the recent controversy concerning the Memphis Sexual Assault Resource Center when — fronting for the administration on the issue and, some say, having hands-on influence beyond the role of spokesperson or mere factotum — he was unable to satisfy council criticism or to answer questions concerning the center's recent substandard performance. In the end, of course, Mayor Herenton was compelled to turn over MSARC to the county Health Department (itself a former shared venture, now the sole responsibility of Shelby County).

Another possibility is that McGee is preparing a personal transition from administrative service for Herenton (who single-handedly created McGee's public career) to the role of campaign aide as the mayor readies what increasingly looks like a real-deal congressional race against incumbent 9th District congressman Steve Cohen.

McGee's departure also leaves Herenton the possibility of building bridges and enlarging his electoral constituency by naming someone across political or racial lines as CAO.

And then, as always when the political talk turns to City Hall, there is the possibility that McGee's leaving is a precursor to the mayor's own departure from city office. That prospect — like the possibility of a Herenton indictment — is one that gets new life every couple of weeks. But there's no law that it can't be true at some point.


Here is the text of McGee's resignation letter:


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