Politics » Politics Feature

Reginald Milton

An office-holder who survived early struggles, heads to the next turn with thoughts of leadership.  

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Whether one is running for an office anew or is preparing for a reelection race, it is necessary to have a fund-raiser at regular intervals.

The most obvious reason for this is, duh, to raise funds. No one (or virtually no one) gets elected these days without having enough money to pay for mailers and other advertising, staffers, office space, etc., etc. Beyond the purely material, though, there are other reasons for doing fund-raisers. A good fund-raising event also serves as a mixer, whereby supporters, donors, staffers, the host, and — believe it — curious voters looking for a horse to back can get together, get a sense of who they are, and gauge something of the long-term outlook for the candidate in question.

And, finally, a good fund-raiser is a good party, as well as yet another occasion in a series in which the candidate gets to do his/her song and dance and perfect the campaign message.

All those qualities were working for Shelby County Commissioner Reginald Milton last Friday night at a fund-raiser for his reelection campaign held at the Peabody Avenue home of Allison Stiles and Robert Cohen. The address was good, the hosts were known to be quality folks, and the hors d'oeuvres and light libations made for sociability.

Most important was the mix of attendees — diverse by race, by gender, by class, and, perhaps most importantly, by party. Former Commissioner Mike Ritz, a Republican, was there. The guest speaker for Milton was 9th District Congressman Steve Cohen. Former Memphis Mayor A C Wharton was on hand. Organization Democrats were there in force, as were Republicans, independents, and candidates for other offices, taking advantage of the opportunity to show themselves in such company.

And Milton put in a good word for himself and his intentions, talking about his history as a proprietor of a nonprofit, working directly in his District 10 community.

All in all, the auguries were good for Milton, who may or may not have a significant opponent next year in his county commission reelection bid (in which case, said opponent — or opponents —  will surely also get their proper due in this space). The likelihood, though, is that, like most incumbents who have performed well (and well in this case means consistently, with effort, with effect, and with apparent sincerity) Milton should be in good shape for reelection.

It was not ever thus. Milton made several runs at elective office before finally winning his current seat in a 2014 nail-biter with Martavius Jones (now a city councilman). And he spent much of his first term learning by trial and error, as one does.

He seems to be peaking at a good time. In the last year he has been a prime mover of the commission's adoption of MWBE (minority and women business enterprises) and LOSB (Locally Owned Small Business) programs, designed to diversify the dispensing of county contracts in the interests of fairness. He also was the force behind the commission's Enhancement Grants, the device whereby each individual commissioner is allowed to determine the local beneficiaries of county grant funds, a not unimportant source of the current more generalized dispersal of authority that partly underlies the ongoing reapportionment of county power vis-a-vis the commission and the county admininistration.

Milton is one of four commission Democrats (of the current seven party members serving) who will be seeking reelection. The others are Van Turner, Willie Brooks, and Eddie Jones, and each of them no doubt harbors thoughts of offering personal leadership for a party contingent that stands a fair chance of increasing its numbers next year.

Milton has served notice of that ambition, by word and deed, and organized the joint filing of the (would-be) returning four at the Election Commision last week. So far he has gone largely unsung in publicity emanating from the commission — in this space and elsewhere. This column is in one sense a means of amending the balance sheet. The man indeed has a song — one likely to become louder in the course of time.

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