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Millington public safety on ballot as aldermen selected

By , Special to the Daily Memphian Updated: October 20, 2022 4:00 AM CT | Published: October 20, 2022 4:00 AM CT
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Millington’s public safety is the key platform issue on the November ballot when only a single alderman slot of four is contested.

Chris Ford, 54, an insurance salesman, will defend the Position 3 alderman seat against Tom Stephens, a retired firefighter.

Stephens did not respond to requests for an interview on his candidacy.

<strong>Chris Ford </strong>and <strong>Tom Stephens&nbsp;</strong>

Chris Ford and Tom Stephens 

Election Day is Nov. 8, and polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. that day. Early voting began Wednesday, Oct. 19, and continues through Nov. 3.


Early voting for local, state, national general election begins on Oct. 19


The winner will inherit four years of leadership near the top of a government that is seeking ways to stabilize its police department.

The Board of Mayor and Aldermen selected a new police chief from within the ranks in July, but historically, the department has seen a revolving door of chiefs over several years. And hiring and keeping rank-and-file officers has been challenging.

“We have to figure a way, whether it’s retention bonuses, higher pay, or some combination of that,” Ford said. “We want to make sure our people feel protected, that they can live here in peace.”


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Ford was appointed only this year to finish the term of Jon Crisp, who resigned to head the Millington Industrial Development Board.

Seven people sit on the Board of Mayor and Aldermen, but Millington uses a staggered method to retain or replace the individuals. Positions 1, 2 and 4 also will be on the ballot, but they are uncontested.

Positions 5, 6 and 7 will be determined in another election year. Thomas McGhee, Don Lowry and Mike Caruthers, respectively, hold those aldermen jobs.

Despite the selection of Christopher Stokes as police chief, Ford believes the department is still struggling.

That’s not a slam on Stokes, a Millington native and a former lieutenant who took the job in July. A lot of police departments are facing challenges, Ford said, due to a shift in the conversation about law enforcement’s role in society.

In Millington’s case, however, offering police officers enough pay to come and stay is an additional layer.


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“We shouldn’t lose candidates so quickly,” Ford said.

Millington was offering certified officers between $18.75 and $22.97 an hour in December when a huge complement of officers and a police chief quit. The higher figure is about $47,700 annually.

The competition includes surrounding law enforcement agencies that offer better pay.

Ford hopes the city can offer packages that will at least keep officers long enough to get them vested in the Millington community, a method that may help retain them. He also wants to take a look at other city wages.


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“Everyone needs to feel valued,” Ford said.

The three unopposed candidates for aldermen positions are:

  • Bethany Huffman, 54, a certified public accountant, is also interested in attracting and retaining quality employees, especially in law enforcement, and a salary study will help officials gauge whether Millington offers competitive wages. Meanwhile, she wants to see existing codes enforced “to make sure the city looks attractive for new development.”
  • Al Bell, 78, a retired firefighter and paramedic supervisor, is an incumbent who has served two terms as an alderman. While the city’s amenities foster growth, he said officials also must stay ahead of “environmental issues … such as dilapidated buildings, trash, grass, damaged streets, sidewalks and parking lots and see that codes pertaining to these issues are enforced.”
  • Larry Dagen, 64, a small business owner who’s in real estate, too, will be stepping into a fourth term as alderman. He said city leaders are pulling together as a team but could communicate efforts better to the general public to circumvent misinformation. “I have experienced and learned an awful lot that will make me better moving forward,” he said.

Topics

millington 2022 Millington election Chris Ford Tom Stephens
Toni Lepeska

Toni Lepeska

Toni Lepeska is a freelance reporter for The Daily Memphian. The 32-year veteran of newspaper journalism covers a diversity of topics, always seeking to reveal the human story behind the news. Toni, who grew up in Cayce, Mississippi, is a graduate of the University of Mississippi. To learn more, visit tonilepeska.com


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