As we have observed previously, the Shelby County Commission has become something like a permanent "Theater of Elections." Not only are several of its members patently angling for political races down the line, the current commission itself has had to decide between candidates for this or that vacancy an extraordinary number of times.
After Monday's commission meeting, which saw the body decide on two more contested outcomes, we think we heard Commissioner Mike Carpenter opining that there had been 17 such decisions made in the not-quite-four years he's served on the commission. We don't know if that's an exact number or a guess, or even an exaggeration, but it had the ring of virtual if not actual reality.
That said, the good news is that, after all this experience, the commission is getting it down. One of Monday's choices was for a successor to Matt Kuhn, the District 4 commissioner who resigned to become policy adviser to interim county mayor Joe Ford. Democrat Kuhn himself had been elected by the commission to succeed a previously departed Republican commissioner, David Lillard, who became state treasurer. In making its choice Monday, the commission, though still dominated by Democrats, seemed to have created a No-Fly Zone where party politics had ruled before. Either that or it was just that the 11 applicants for the position were all Republicans or leaning in that direction.
The final selection, from a field that included two active commission candidates in 2010 — Terry Roland and George Chism — was John Pellicciotti, a 35-year-old tech-meister and card-carrying conservative Republican who has made it plain that he has perspectives that transcend partisanship and understands the need for commissioners to work across party lines. In the end, he narrowly defeated Linda Kerley, the former mayor of Collierville and herself, though formally Republican, a political ecumenist.
The commission's other choice Monday was just as sensible. Johnnie Turner, the widow of the recently deceased state representative Larry Turner, was elected to succeed her husband, The new state representative, who has taken an indefinite leave of absence from her position as local executive director of the NAACP, had the sentimental tide working for her, to be sure, but, in her own right, she is seasoned and accomplished in the political universe. The two candidates she defeated, lawyer Errol Harmon and city code enforcer Eddie Jones, were also impressive, and their time will doubtless come down the line.
A C's Beginning
We were pleased, too, by evidence last week that A C Wharton seems serious about his pledge to forge our larger community into the "One Memphis" of his campaign rhetoric. Not only did the mayor, in an address before the downtown Kiwanis Club, reaffirm his intent to pursue the goal of city/county consolidation, he outlined goals in the spheres of education, public safety, and economic development that seemed forward-looking and attainable. And the public jobs forum he conducted later that day, in conjunction with representatives of local businesses and public and private agencies, was an obvious step in the right direction.