POLITICS: GOP Commissioners in a Quandary 


As the Shelby County Commission prepares to vote Monday on its new chairperson for the next calendar year, the dope sheet is cloudier than usual -- with at least four of the seven GOP members acting like contenders.

They are:

  • MARILYN LOEFFEL, the second-term member from Cordova. The current vice chairman, Loeffel has a close working relationship with current chairman Walter Bailey, a Democrat.

    Ordinarily, she would be a shoo-in as the putative chairman-designate under a protocol that dictates that the parties take turns nominating a chairman. But she has managed to offend or disappoint or otherwise displease almost all her GOP mates during the last year.

    Some of them object to her habit of couching her votes in pieties, even when such rhetoric -- as in the case of her support last year for now cashiered commissioner adnministrator Calvin Williams, forced out for conflict-of-interest problems -- doesn't seem to fit.

    Others, like rival chairmanship candidate Bruce Thompson, a first-termer, see Loeffel to be a double-edged obstruction to their conservative cause -- first by vorting so as to enable what they see as questionable expenditures and then taking an adamant no-new-tax position that makes their own reluctant compromises look weaselly; second by offering no practical solutions to the county's worsening fiscal crisis.

    Loeffel has her own vote and a majority -- but probably not all -- of the Democrats, some of whom have indicated they're ready to desert her ship if the water rises too high.

  • BRUCE THOMPSON, who has become something a a spokesman, along with buddy and supporter David Lillard, for strict fiscal solvency and new budget-review procedures.

    Thompson's views are out of kilter with the commission's Democrats, though he has good personal relations with most of them and a vote or two among them ready to go his way.

    His problem is that he may not have enough fellow GOP members willing to commit to him. Some have privateLy opined that, as a first-year member, he is (in the words of one) "moving too fast." And some are, quite simply, rivals for the position of chairman.

  • TOM MOSS, now in his second term (his first full one). Moss last week advertised himself as a potential compromise candidate and is ideally positioned to be just that.

    Though his early acceptance of a compromise budget proposal containning a tax increase irked some of his fellow Republicans, most of them came around to seeing the necessity for one. And Moss's later efforts to cut the amount of the property tax hike mollified them further.

    Except for his dedicated support for most zoning proposals, homebuilder Moss (who had zealous support from the development community when he was voted onto the commission in late 2000) has no particular dogmatic ax to grind, votes flexibly, and has a sympathetic ear for the views of fellow members in both parties.

  • LINDA RENDTORFF, the veteran Republican whose name, easily enough pronounced, still confounds many of her colleagues despite a decade of service on the commission.

    That situation is something of a metaphor for Rendtorff's somewhat diffident career, during which she has nevertheless voted controversially enough to be targeted at election time by her party's arch conservatives.

    Rendtorff's surprise weekend announcement that her "hat is in the ring" was bad news for both Loeffel and Thompson and left the way open for both herself and Moss as fallback choices.

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