Even as county commissioners ponder the stalemate facing them in selecting an interim Shelby County mayor, the former county chief executive offers a way out. Reflecting on the situation in his new 7th-floor penthouse office in City Hall last Friday, Memphis mayor A C Wharton had this to say:
“If you want something to talk about, one way to get out of that dilemma would be for them to say, ‘Well, we really don’t need anybody to do anything. A C’s been over here. Why don’t we sign an inter-local agreement. We can sign a contract with the city to run this thing for a year.’ And, bingo, consolidation!”
Sporting one of those patented Wharton half-grins that suggest a thought part-whimsical, part-serious, the mayor continued: “Go to the lawyers. You can sign an inter-local agreement to do anything. And I wouldn’t charge anything, because, see, under the charter I’m not supposed to have outside employment.”
Wharton professed not to be surprised by an outburst last week from commissioner Joe Ford, who squared off against fellow commissioner J.W. Gibson in a 24-ballot marathon that left them deadlocked,with five votes each.
Ford had reacted to commissioner Deidre Malone’s nomination at one point of county CAO Jim Huntzicker in an abortive move to break the stalemate. That prompted Ford to thunder against the “former administration” — i.e., Wharton’s, in which Huntzicker also served as CAO — as one in which saw “disastrous” fiscal mismanagement.
“It didn’t shock me,” Wharton said. He’s done that before. I recall when we closed Oakville Hospital, he really tore into me.”
Ford, by the way, picked up an endorsement over the weekend from the Shelby County Democratic Women, who in a press released praised “the leadership and the experience that Commissioner Ford will bring to office of Shelby County Mayor.”