Moody and McFadgon were recently criticized for their role in the problems at the Memphis Sexual Assault Resource Center, commonly known as MSARC.
At last week's press conference announcing his retirement, Memphis mayor Willie Herenton said other administration officials also planned to retire.
"In my business career, I've had a hand in a lot of turnarounds, and Memphis is definitely an enterprise that needs a turnaround," said Sammons, when contacted by the Flyer Friday. He added, "I've devoted a lot of time and a lot of thought to the needs of Memphis, and I've been fortunate to have had the opportunity to make contributions to the city. Being mayor would certainly allow me to do so in the future. So it looks very much like I'll run."
But Sammons said he was aware that other people with viewpoints and concerns similar to his own had expressed interest in a mayor's race, and he said he would be in contact with them "over the next two weeks" to make sure there was no duplication of effort. One potential candidate that Sammons said he'd already talked to is Jim Strickland, a first-term councilman who acknowledges an interest in running for mayor.
"I'm a big fan of Jim Strickland. I've had a fundraiser for him in my home," Sammons said. "But this is something that I, too, am interested in doing. So we'll be talking, and we'll see what happens."
Strickland confirmed that he and Sammons had talked. He said Sammons called him "about 7 or 8 p.m." Thursday, several hours after Mayor Willie Herenton's surprise announcement that he would be vacating the mayor's office on July 10.
"I feel the same way he does," said Strickland -- meaning, as he spelled that out, that he reciprocated Sammons's admiration but that fact would not dissuade him from making a mayoral bid, nor would Sammons' presence in the race necessarily do so.
"The way we left it, was that he pointed out that nothing had to be done until July 17th," Srickland said. That would be the provisional deadline for filing for the special mayoral election, which will probably take place on Thursday, October 8th. But Election Commission administrator Rich Holden said Friday that, while those dates are likely, they have not been certified yet by the commission, which is waiting on an official notice of election from the city council.
Testing is free and confidential and will use the OraQuick mouth-swab test, which produces results in 20 minutes. The groups will be offering free syphilis testing.
"He had enough."
John Branston has reactions from Dick Hackett, Jim Gilliland, Susan Adler Thorp, Julian Bolton, and others to the mayor's resignation.
Well, the mayor, who has famously “resigned” before, actually did it this time. The wolf was not only at the door, he was inside at the podium in the Hall of Mayors for what might have been, if not the last time, the most significant of his many appearances in that chamber. Someone in the teeming press corps gathered there to be teased one more time joked that Herenton would be punkin’ us all, that the press conference would be about his new plan for recycling.
As in a sense it was. There is no doubt that the new City Hall, the new city administration (to be presided over, beginning July 10th and ending no more than 90 days later, by interim mayor Myron Lowery), and the new city will be taken through some real changes. Recycling, indeed.
The very fact that Herenton, who was appropriately gracious throughout his leave-taking, could hand over the baton of city government as easily as he did to current council chairman Lowery, with whom he has had his problems, was a sign in itself of the finality of this announcement. Almost nobody afterward saw this departure in the same light as the previous one, a year and a half ago, when Herenton said he would be leaving his office on July 15, 2008.
That was predicated on the notion that he would be taking over his old job, then vacant, as schools superintendent. A recalcitrant school board, which insisted on looking elsewhere, scotched that plan. And so here it is, almost exactly a year later, and the deed is about to be done. And Plan B involves no longer the school board but the even chancier goal of the 9th District congressional seat, currently held by second-term Rep. Steve Cohen, whom the mayor had enthusiastically endorsed in 2006 and who has meanwhile established himself well enough to get reelected last year by a 4 to 1 margin over a well-funded black opponent.
Of course, Herenton is not Nikki Tinker, who has never been elected to anything. The mayor has gone asking to the constituency of the 9th District five times, and each time he has won its vote overwhelmingly – the last time giving him the breathing room he needed over second-place contender Carol Chumney.
Disregard all the insider talk and all the early polls: This will be a barn-burner of a race — a showdown that will give Herenton’s previous races, even the epochal victory in 1991 over the last white mayor, Dick Hackett, even his mano-a-mano over Joe Ford in 1999, the look of idle preliminaries.
It may be, in fact, that Herenton’s leavetaking has to be taken at face value —not prompted by looming legal threats or back-room negotiations or Machiavellian machinations but by the simple fact, as the mayor told an expectant media and a citywide audience on Thursday, that it was “the right time” to go. (The mayor's one brief moment of pique Thursday came when he was asked about the effect of an ongoing federal investigation on his decision. We all knew he was a "victim," Herenton said, and made it clear he would not dilate on the matter any further.)
Herenton will now be free to run full-time for Congress, if that is what he chooses. Gone will be the fundraising leverage of the mayor’s office, but there will be compensating advantages — a free hand, for one.
That’s always assuming the feds will leave Herenton alone long enough to make all the proper dispositions for his new political venture. Some weeks ago, Lowery may have spoken for many Memphians — certainly many in the media, who have wasted countless man- and woman-hours keeping vigil in Government Plaza downtown waiting for news of an imminent indictment. (Imminent every week for at least a year and half!)
The government should indict Herenton or get off the pot, Lowery said. We shall soon see what, if anything, it will do.
Meanwhile, what will the new man do? A 90-day wonder for now, by the terms of last year’s simplifying referendum on mayoral succession, Lowery left little doubt that he was a candidate for real in the special election that will take place after he leaves that temporary helm.
Never mind that, as recently as Saturday, at the annual Community Picnic of Herenton sidekick Sidney Chism, Lowery had said, “I am not running today. I may be running soon, though. We’ll have to see.”
He’s running now — and from the catbird seat. Lowery’s primary opponent will still be Shelby County Mayor A C Wharton, who has an early start and just possibly Herenton’s own blessing. Others in the race will be James Harvey of the Shelby County Commission, former city council member and 2007 mayoral runner-up Chumney, and most probably the Rev. Kenneth Whalum of the Memphis school board.
Councilman Jim Strickland has a boom going on at the moment, and another first-term councilman, Kemp Conrad, could take a shot at the job (or at least a shot at the notoriety that running strong would give him for later electoral races). The pathway for Strickland and Conrad has been eased by the certainty now of a special election that will put their perches on the council out of danger. They can still run for reelection in 2011 if they lose a mayor’s race sometime next year or later this year.
It is a cliché, but Herenton’s shoes will be hard to fill — certainly as a newsmaker and possibly in several other ways having to do with an overall positive legacy, once the bad feelings of a tenure gone wrong and gone on too long fade away.
Herenton handed out copies of a souvenir photograph of himself to everyone who came to the Hall of Mayors on Thursday — a photo of a lean and ambitious young man taken at the moment, around 1978, when Willie Herenton had first entered public consciousness as a newly named superintendent of Memphis schools.
You could imagine the thoughts of that pensive-looking young Long and Tall in the picture. An odd and touching momento for the older, wiser, and definitely sadder man to give us now — as if he expected us to miss him. And, to be sure, for better and for worse, we will.
At a press conference in the Hall of Mayors in City Hall, Herenton, 69, confirmed what he said himself has been clear for a long time.
I lost my zeal," he said. "I'm the kind of guy, I got to climb mountains. This was getting routine."
Herenton framed his legacy as a child of wedlock, born in the public housing projects, who became school superintendent and, in 1991, the first elected black mayor of Memphis. He made it clear that his legacy will be the foundation of his campaign for the 9th Congressional District seat in 2010 in a race against incumbent congressman Steve Cohen.
In the meantime, he will join his son Rodney in business working with the private sector and government entities. He said he rejected pleas to remain as mayor while he campaigns for Congress because he feels that is wrong. He made only a brief reference to the ongoing federal investigation of his real estate dealings, calling himself "a victim" and saying reporters are obsessed with the story.
He said he is leaving the city with $89 million in reserves and thousands of units of new housing that have replaced most of the old housing projects. He said he brought a diverse assemblage of black and white people into city government.
"When you come to City Hall today, there are so many black people they're running over each other," he said.
City Council Chairman Myron Lowery will become interim mayor for up to 180 days, during which time a special election will be held. Lowery said he will be a candidate.