It's official! Well, not quite, since candidate petitions for this year's city election aren't even available yet, and won't be until April. But if there was any remaining suspense about Carol Chumney's mayoral intentions, it was laid to rest at the University of Memphis-area Holiday Inn on Central Avenue Thursday evening.
Before an appreciative crowd of more than a hundred well-wishers in the hotel's second-floor Kemmons Wilson ballroom, the maverick first-term city council member from Midtown, declared loud and clear: "I want to be mayor!" Likening herself to the innovative Wilson, late co-founder of the world-famous hotel chain, Chumney promised to apply original thinking to the problems of Memphis - including crime, out-migration, and an up-and-down economy.
To accomplish her goals of civic regeneration, Chumney promised she would build a wide-ranging coalition. She also went out of her way to praise local media for its attentive coverage of her activities over the last few years.
Chumney spoke in front of a montage of Wilson's autobiographical statements, including one which read: "I had no master plan. I just rolled with the punches."
That last part certainly describes the former six-term state legislator's experience during her own brief but dramatic tenure on the council.
Displaying the same combative spirit that has earned her something of a following citywide but cold shoulders within the ranks of city government itself, Chumney made it clear that she is likely to throw a few punches herself in this year's campaign.
In the course of a single sentence, she condemned both the Fed-Ex Forum garage deal which enriched the Memphis Grizzlies' management but ultimately cost the city $6 million in federal funding and the ill-fated Networkz investment initiative pursued some years ago by Memphis Light Gas & Water.
The former mischance can be laid, arguably, at the feet of one opponent, incumbent mayor Willie Herenton, and the latter one can be blamed on a second likely opponent, former MLGW head Herman Morris. Morris was also plainly targeted by a Chumney jibe at would-be candidates who, unlike herself, had not yet brought themselves to announce.
Meanwhile, lawyer Jim Strickland, a Chumney opponent during her District 5 council race four years ago and a candidate for that seat again this year, was holding a well-attended fundraiser a few blocks away at the East Memphis home of current city councilman Jack Sammons.
Strickland, who battled a name recognition problem back then, starts out the favorite in this year's race. He made his own semi-official announcement for the council race in a news release earlier Thursday and netted some $41,000 at Thursday night's affair.
To say that Tuesday was a day of surprises in the Tennessee state Senate would be a classic understatement. The bottom line: After 35 years as Speaker of the Senate and bearer of the title of Lieutenant Governor, 85-year-old John Wilder of Somerville, a nominal Democrat and a legislative institution, lost his latest and last try to continue in both offices. Ron Ramsey of Blountville, who had been the GOP's majority leader, defeated Wilder by an 18-15 vote.