The county mayor's race is still some distance down the calendar, but at least one candidate — Republican Terry Roland, a Millington store-owner and Shelby County commissioner — has been running in public for a year or more.
On Saturday, he brought his campaign to the newly renovated Houston Levee Community Center in North Cordova, where he gave a fair-sized crowd his patented mix of country vernacular, governmental shop-talk, class-action rhetoric, and, where need be, a little topical pop talk.
Before he got started, he and his helpers fired up a grill and laid out a generous supply of hot dogs, hamburgers, and what Roland described as some "great Italian sausage." Campaign associate Cary Vaughn — who would follow up Roland's remarks later on by likening him to Joe Montana and calling him "the only candidate who understands urban and suburban" — jested on the front end that "we're picking pockets all over Shelby County."
That was an apparent tongue-in-cheek reference to the fact that the late-morning rally, fifth in an ongoing series across the county, would double as a fund-raiser, but there would, in fact, not be much of a hard sell to the attendees, most of whom seemed to be Roland loyalists already.
In his talk, Roland ran through a miscellany of his platform planks, including a boast on behalf of the commission's recent two-cent property tax decrease, a recommendation of de-annexation as a way for Memphis to conserve its resources and pay for more police (and to avoid having to borrow deputies from the Sheriff's Department), a ringing endorsement of TIF (tax-increment-financing) projects as an alternative to PILOT (payment-in-lieu-of-tax) arrangements, a pledge that his would be a "blue collar vs. blue blood" campaign, and finally some Lowell George.
Roland, a onetime country/rock singer himself, quoted some lines from "Roll Um Easy," a favorite lyric by the Little Feat lead singer:
"I have dined in palaces, drunk wine with kings and queens,
But darlin', oh darlin', you're the best thing I ever seen. ..."
Except that Roland, to accommodate the plurality of his audience, made that "y'all are" rather than "you're."
At the moment, Roland remains the only formally announced mayoral candidate, though County Trustee David Lenoir is known to be planning a county mayor's race on the Republican side, and former commissioner Sidney Chism has informally touted his own candidacy as a Democrat. Roland has wasted no time in gigging Lenoir. He made an effort during the recent budget season to defund part of the trustee's budget, and on Monday afternoon — in a session called to discuss a draft of a "Strategic Agenda 2017-20" — he complained about what he said was the trustee's laxity in selling off tax-defaulted property.
The Strategic Agenda project was overseen by the 2016-17 commission chair, Democrat Melvin Burgess Jr., who has let it be known that he, too, is likely to become a candidate for county mayor. "We've got to have a plan," he said over and over on Monday, both in his public remarks and in private conversation.
• To no one's surprise, GOP Commissioner Heidi Shafer, the past year's vice chair, was elected county commission chair for 2017-18. The vote was by acclamation, and the sense of unity was underscored by the fact that her nominator was fellow Republican Steve Basar, with whom Shafer has often been an odds.
The vote for vice chair went to Democrat Willie Brooks, also by acclamation after the withdrawal from contention of fellow Democrat Eddie Jones. Brooks' victory owed something to his bridge-building endorsement of a formal resolution by Republican David Reaves opposing a proposed charter school in Bartlett.