- A happy Chism accepts congratulations from audience members after the vote.
As expected, Democrat Sidney Chism got his second consecutive term as chairman of the Shelby County Commission on Monday, over what amounted to nominal, but symbolic, opposition from Republican commissioner Mike Ritz.
Chism had already lined up enough votes from both Democrats and Republicans to prevail on the first ballot of voting by commissioners, and he was aided in his effort to break with tradition by what amounted to a payback effort mounted by commission Republicans against one of their own, current vice chair and chairman pro tem Mike Carpenter.
Carpenter has frequently angered other GOP members by his willingness to vote with Democrats on key issues, and he withdraw from the chairman’s race last week in recognition of the fact that he lacked enough votes to ascend to the chairmanship for 2011-12, as would normally have been the case for a vice chair.
Chism said after the vote that he had wanted the second term because questions regarding the form of a pending merger between Memphis City Schools and Shelby County Schools, including a commission plan to appoint a new all-county school board, remain unresolved. U.S. District Judge Samuel Hardy Mays has said he will rule soon on litigation regarding the matter.
“And there’s another reason,” said Chism. That was to dispel the habits of partisanship which he said had damaged the commission and which, according to him, were embedded I the now broken tradition of alternating chairmen by person and by party each year.
Interestingly, though, Chism consistently cast his votes for Republican candidates in the several ballots taken by the commission to elect a vice chair. The two original candidates were Democrat Henri Brooks and Republican Chris Thomas, but neither could muster the seven votes necessary to prevail.
Subsequently the vice chairman’s race became a contest between Democrat Steve Mulroy and Republican Terry Roland, and, when neither of them could gain a majority, either, eventually GOP member Wyatt Bunker was nominated, and, with help from votes by Chism and Democrat Justin Ford, finally got elected.
It remains to be seen whether Bunker is able to restore the former tradition and gain elevation to the chairmanship next year. Chism has said he will not seek a third straight term as chairman.