The new year
Happy New Year! This is one of my favorite weeks on the calendar because it gives us an excuse to wipe the slate clean, make resolutions, set goals, try new things, and dream big. Whatever you have in mind to do this year, I pray for many blessings over your plans.
One goal I have this year is to improve my communication with constituents. This newsletter will be a new way to share what’s going on in our community, and to highlight some of what’s being discussed at the Shelby County Commission.
The Daily Memphian is out with a story today on what officials in Bartlett and Lakeland expect from 2023. The article kicks off with some of my reflections on the biggest local developments in politics, economics, infrastructure, public safety and education.
The new term
The 2022 County General Election in August brought us the beginning of a new term of office and a new Board of Commissioners (pictured above).
From a partisan perspective, this board is more heavily Democratic than the previous one. The Democratic majority increased from 8-5 to 9-4. Six new members were elected to the board, all of them Democrats. Among the members returning for their second and final term, four are Republicans and three are Democrats.
The board’s demographic makeup is noteworthy, being majority female for the first time. Black women represent five of the board’s 13 districts, an historical first. And we have the board’s youngest-ever member.
As for their professions, among the thirteen members: seven are teachers, instructors, or education administrators; four have experience in non-profit leadership and social services; and three work in sales-oriented business roles. We also have a former pastor, a former flight attendant and security consultant, and a former research analyst.
This year our chairman is Mickell Lowery, who has given me the following committee leadership assignments:
- Chair of Facilities, Real Property, CIP
- Vice Chair of Hospitals & Health
- Vice Chair of Law Enforcement, Corrections & Courts
- Vice Chair of the Public Safety Ad Hoc Committee (pictured below)
Speaking of public safety, 2022 was another violent year in Memphis and Shelby County. This community was in the national spotlight during a particularly grim period in our history, and we continue to face a terrible crime wave.
Last year, the Commission took the following actions to address the surge in violence and the growing need to hire more law enforcement officers.
- Approved an historic pay increase for sheriffs deputies, corrections officers and other county employees
- Gave one-time stipend to sheriff’s deputies
- Passed legislation to expand the pool of potential law enforcement officers
- Agreed to the Memphis Shelby Crime Commission’s safe community action plan
- Launched the Public Safety Ad Hoc Committee
- Accepted grant funding for violence interruption services
- Accepted grant funding to hire a Senior Crime Analyst dedicated to prosecuting sexual assault cases
- Amended budget to fully fund construction of a new juvenile detention center
- Selected eight new judicial commissioners and approved construction of a new bail hearing courtroom
We certainly have much more work to do in this area, and public safety will remain a top priority of mine for the duration of this term.
Memphis-Shelby County Schools has recently made agreements with Germantown and Millington to transfer ownership of the four schools being operated within their municipal borders. As part of the agreement, Shelby County government will dedicate an additional $72.5 million toward building a new high school to serve the displaced student population in the Cordova area.
While I am happy for Germantown (Millington, and Cordova), I voted against the agreement because there was no funding source identified and because this major investment will not benefit each of the seven school districts, as is generally required by law.
Going forward, it will be important for the county commission to continue pushing for a long-term facilities plan to right-size Memphis Shelby County Schools, to ensure municipal systems are receiving their fair share of funding as they grow, and partnering with educators in the important work of preparing the next generation for success in adult life.
Recently, I was proud to join the Bartlett Education Foundation for a series of check presentations (pictured above) at some of the schools embracing a creative new way to inspire young people to read.
The infrastructure serving Shelby County was tested by severe weather for a second time in the calendar year, leaving thousands without power and safe water during the Christmas holiday.
Meanwhile, growth and development outside Memphis continues to be hindered by MLGW’s lack of sewer treatment capacity. Thankfully, state leaders are expected to take on infrustructure needs during the coming term. Such investments would have a major impact on our economy.
With unanimous votes in December, the Shelby County Commission has asked the state for two related measures, as part of the county’s “legislative agenda”:
1. to provide “$200 Million in funding for Shelby County to expand sewer infrastructure in the eastern section of Shelby County”
2. to “consider and approve legislation requiring municipally owned utility facilities to provide board seats to county customers”
In addition, the board’s largest request of the state deals with another local infrastructure need: $350 million for capital improvements at Regional One Health (“Regional One”), our regional trauma facility.
Upcoming public meetings
Jan 4 – Standing committees, 8:30 a.m.
Jan 7 – Memphis Shelby Crime Commission community forum, 10:30 a.m.
Jan 9 – Commission meeting, 3 p.m.
Jan 11 – Public Safety Ad Hoc committee meeting, 12 p.m.
Jan 18 – Standing committees, 8:30 a.m.
Jan 23 – Commission meeting, 3 p.m.
Stay in touch
If you have a question or concern, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can speak with the Commission office by calling 901-222-1000.
I always welcome your feedback on Facebook (@CommissionerMickWright) and Twitter (@mickwright).
Thanks for reading. May your New Year be a happy one.
Shelby County Commission – District 3