Hicks, Johnson to face off for Germantown Alderman Position 3

By , Daily Memphian Updated: September 28, 2020 9:38 PM CT | Published: September 28, 2020 4:00 AM CT

Trust in elected officials is lacking in Germantown, according to candidates seeking election in the suburb this fall. Restoring that trust is a major theme for  Sherrie Hicks and Terri Johnson, the two candidates running for Position 3 alderman in the suburb. 

In recent years, the manner that the city grows has caused a divide among residents. Development led to visible change to the city, but some worry about the impact on the infrastructure. Growth spurred the need for a new elementary school and an expansion is on the books for Houston Middle School. Some hope new aldermen can help further support the schools.


Germantown Alderman Dean Massey withdraws from election


Three new faces will sit on the Board of Mayor and Aldermen after the Nov. 3 election. Dean Massey, the current Position 3 alderman is not seeking reelection after one term on the board.

Hicks serves on the Planning Commission and believes serving on Parent Teacher Organizations, her homeowners association and other city programs for the last 20 years prepared her to serve as alderman.


Sherrie Hicks to run for Germantown alderman


“The ability to work with people,” she said of her qualifications. “The ability to make good decisions based on what the group wants – whether we all disagree or not, but making a good decision in the end and moving forward.”

Johnson says she’s been involved in government at the state and national level for more than a decade. Knee-high water inside her home and many others during a June 2019 flood pushed her to pursue a more active role locally.


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“I think what you get in me is more of a crusader,” Johnson said, noting how closely she was forced to work with the city following the flood. “I’m extremely invested in representing our everyday citizen because of what I’ve been through, what I’ve learned from it and because of what I’ve heard from everyone else.”

Trust in elected officials

Germantown’s Board of Mayor and Aldermen meetings can have a routine series of 3-2 votes leaning to Mayor Mike Palazzolo’s administration and follow heated debate. Both Hicks and Johnson said they won’t fall on either side of that vote, but instead will vote on behalf of Germantown residents.

Hicks is concerned about citizens’ trust in their leaders.

“We have seen a lack of respect and decorum among our elected officials,” she said. “This has to stop. We need elected officials who can have civil discussions around their different opinions and work together to make the best decisions for our city.”

Johnson countered that the lack of trust in those elected is the biggest issue for voters.

“Citizens need to know that their elected officials have their best interest at heart,” she said. “City officials need to listen and need to be honest, have full transparency and really take the citizens’ needs and concerns seriously.”

She also said respect among aldermen must be restored.

Development

The city is landlocked and candidates agree the city must methodically plan use of the remaining undeveloped land. Both candidates recognize development can impact schools, infrastructure and public safety.

Germantown is 90% residential and Hicks says the city should strive to retain that ratio.

“That’s the charm of our city,” said Hicks, a 26-year resident of Germantown.

<strong>Sherrie Hicks</strong>

Sherrie Hicks

She said some of Germantown’s commercial development like Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods and Saddle Creek are amenities and help sales tax dollars offsetting further dependence on property taxes.

Property owners bringing proposals to the city have rights with existing zonings, but as alderman she can help “guide the outcomes.”

Johnson wants to make sure future development aligns with the desires of residents.

“Smart Growth isn’t smart if the majority of the people don’t want it,” she said of the suburb’s development goals for the central business district and the edges of the city.

Johnson said proponents of Smart Growth use the landlocked city as a reason to “bypass codes” and build high-density.

“We have to be super careful when we do that,” she said. “High-density comes with its own set of issues we will live with for generations. We need to be extremely careful and controlled in how we grow.”

Johnson does not want to stop commercial development, but said Germantown should be selective about its approvals.

<strong>Terri Johnson</strong>

Terri Johnson

“There is a balance we have to strike between commercial development and residential and keeping Germantown a quaint, small-town community,” said Johnson, a resident of Germantown for 18 years.

Johnson supports specialty retail and restaurants that bring people and sales tax revenue into the suburb, but opposes high-density development. She said development is “rapidly” coming to Germantown and, at some point, residents will pay for that in other ways.

Infrastructure

The city has a comprehensive drainage plan, and both candidates have their own stories to tell about flood possibilities.

Hicks was not in a flood zone but placed in one in 2013 by the Federal Emergency Management Association. The city could get her neighborhood, Dogwood Grove, out of the FEMA designation by funding drainage improvements for a nearby ditch. She said her neighborhood sought funding from the city for five years before improvements were made. The flood zone designation was removed the next year.

“It’s not a one-time fix,” she said. “It’s going to be something we have to continually watch.”

She said homes must be protected from flooding hazards ,and she acknowledged the June 2019 flood was terrible as homeowners without flood insurance were required to bear the expenses of their losses.

Johnson does not live in a flood zone, but her residence in Dogwood Downs was among those damaged in the 2019 flood. She couldn’t live in the home for five months during repairs and is passionate about addressing the city’s aging infrastructure. 

She recently has been “overwhelmed” as people from “every corner of (the Germantown) community” are struggling with drainage problem and said the city administration is not prioritizing the trouble.

“This is an issue that everybody deals with and we can’t continue to ignore it,” she said. “We can’t continue to push it down. ‘Kick the can’ is a child’s game. We need to address what we have, and we can’t rely on 40-year old infrastructure to handle everything we’ve thrown on in the last few years.”

She said Germantown has a lot of nice things that are not necessary. However she does not bash the city’s array of amenities.

“When you have citizens' homes and yards that are flooding on a regular basis, that’s something that needs to be addressed before we spend money on something that isn’t an absolutely necessity,” Johnson said, adding: “I want to take care of things that should be a priority before we indulge in things that are nice to have but not necessary. ”

Germantown Municipal School District

The school board and aldermen have not had a joint work session in more than two years although the education board has requested such a meeting. With change on both boards, some recognize potential for a better future relationship.


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Hicks says her support of the suburb’s high-performing schools is evident by her roles with Germantown Education Foundation and involvement with Parent Teacher Associations and Organizations.

“I know the need. I fought firsthand,” she said, noting more room at Houston Middle has long been necessary. “We need to be respectful and make sure they have the tools they need.”

The city decided to postpone funding the improvements to future budgets due to the pandemic.


School construction postponed as Germantown grapples with financial effects of COVID-19


Johnson said the city can do better to meet the needs of the suburban district. She also recognized the city needs to help the district fund the Houston Middle expansion. She too worked with Germantown schools on the PTO at Farmington Elementary.

“Schools are the reason people come to Germantown so they can put children in the best schools in the state,” she said. “We should do everything humanly possible to support our schools.”

Germantown aldermanic positions are at-large and elected officials are not bound to districts by geographic lines. Residents may also vote for Position 4 which John Paul Miles, Rod Motley and Brian Ueleke are seeking. Position 5 is also on the ballot as Jon McCreery and Brandon Musso face off for that seat.


Four petitions pulled for Germantown’s municipal election


Early voting begins Oct. 14 and Election Day is Nov. 3.

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Topics

Alderman Position 3 Terri Johnson Sherrie Hicks Germantown Board of Mayor and Aldermen Germantown Election 2020
Abigail Warren

Abigail Warren

Abigail Warren is a lifelong resident of Shelby County and a graduate of the University of Memphis. She has worked for several local publications and covers the suburbs for The Daily Memphian.


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