City Council turnover begins before 2019 elections

By Published: November 16, 2018 2:37 PM CT

With a proposal to extend City Council term limits rejected, the stage is set for the first significant change on the 13-member council since nine new members were elected in 2007.

But the turnover of seats won’t wait until the October 2019 Memphis elections.

Next week, the council appoints someone to fill the first of three vacancies coming by the end of November. And the council plans to fill the two other vacancies at its last council meeting of 2018.

The city charter amendment put before voters on the November ballot this year would have extended term limits for council members and the mayor from two to three consecutive terms. That would have allowed some existing council members to seek a third term, but the proposal was rejected by voters.

Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland, among those elected to the council back in 2007, said this week the turnover in council seats makes the 2019 elections “hugely important.”

“In my opinion, we have a really good city council right now,” he told the Metropolitan Memphis Hotel and Lodging Association at its monthly luncheon. “About half of them are going to be gone in a year. And that’s a huge turnover.

“You can make a real difference in these council races,” Strickland told them. “Contributions and support for these council members will make a big difference. To get down to brass tacks, the percentage of total donations – y’all would be a significant percentage of their donations and that helps.”

Noon Wednesday was the filing deadline for those hoping to win the appointment to the District 1 council seat vacated by Bill Morrison. Seven citizens applied for council consideration.

The council requires those applying for appointment to submit a petition with the signatures of at least 25 citizens. The signatures must be from voters who live in the council district, similar to the qualifying petition required to run in a popular election for the council.

All of the applicants also have to present proof they live in the district. Completing the application process does not guarantee an applicant will be nominated for the appointment by a council member.

Appointees to Morrison’s seat and the other two vacancies will serve to the end of 2019 when those elected to full four-year terms in the October 2019 city elections will take office.

Council members Edmund Ford Jr., Janis Fullilove and Morrison were elected to county offices in the Aug. 2 elections and had 90 days from Sept. 1 to leave their elected council seats.

Morrison is the first of the three to resign, effective Nov. 1. Fullilove and Ford gave notice Friday that the Nov. 20 council session will be their last.

Ford indicated earlier that he wanted to pursue some kind of transportation utility fee to provide a revenue stream to the Memphis Area Transit Authority from his seats on both the council and the commission. He also recently announced he will be taking a full-time position with Memphis Public Libraries as a financial literacy coordinator. The city position pays $78,000 a year.

In addition to these three vacancies, the Super District 9 seat now held by Ford Canale came from an appointment earlier this year following the April resignation of Philip Spinosa to become vice president of the Greater Memphis Chamber’s Chairman’s Circle. Canale then won a special election Aug. 2 to serve the rest of Spinosa’s term of office to the end of 2019.

Three more council seats will turn over in the October 2019 city elections because of term limits. Council members Joe Brown, Kemp Conrad and Reid Hedgepeth are serving their second consecutive four-year terms since term limits took effect in 2011.

Brown, who is one of the three council members from Super District 8, is the council’s longest-serving current member – elected in a November 1998 special election.

The exits of Morrison, Fullilove, Ford and Hedgepeth mark the last council members who came on the council in 2008. They were part of the largest turnover of seats in the 50-year history of the mayor-council form of government.

The nine-seat turnover in the 2007 elections was followed in 2011 by the biggest return of incumbents in council history, when 12 incumbents sought and won re-election. Lee Harris, who is currently Shelby County mayor, was the only new council member elected in 2011.

Most council members appointed to their seats seek election either in special elections or the next regular city election.

The three appointments to be made by the end of the year will mark the first time the council has had three appointed members serving on the body since the mayor-council form of government began in 1968.


Memphis City Council Jim Strickland Bill Morrison Mauricio Calvo Paul Boyd
Bill Dries

Bill Dries

Bill Dries covers city government and politics. He is a native Memphian and has been a reporter for more than 40 years.

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