Friday, September 29, 2017

David Lenoir Makes It Official: He's a Candidate for County Mayor

County Trustee makes long-awaited entry in race, boasting his record and a tax-cutting agenda, and meanwhile signaling an intent to ignore any provocations from an opponent — specifically those of Terry Roland.

Posted By on Fri, Sep 29, 2017 at 8:56 AM

click to enlarge Trustee Lanier, announcing for Shelby County Mayor on Thursday - JB
  • JB
  • Trustee Lanier, announcing for Shelby County Mayor on Thursday

County Trustee David Lenoir, wearing a dark business suit, cap-toed shoes, and a composed, no-nonsense mien to match, strode to the lectern set up in the lobby of Crye-Leike Realtors on Poplar, acknowledged the generous introduction of him by host Dick Leike, nodded appreciatively to a heartily applauding gathering of supporters, many of them prominent members of the business community or the local Republican rank and file, and proceeded to present the case for his election as Shelby County Mayor.

He began by characterizing himself as “the county’s banker” and as a “bottom-line kind of guy.” He spoke of boyhood experiences cutting grass and helping his parents with a start-up business, of going to the University of Alabama on a football scholarship and getting an accounting degree, and later operating three small businesses of his own, while his wife Shannon, who had been his sweetheart both in high school and at ‘Bama, would end up as a small-business owner herself.

A little bit of Horatio Alger that, updated to the 21st Century standards of the nuclear family (the Lenoirs have sons, “our two young men).

Lenoir said three objectives — or “issues,” as he referred to them — should predominate in the mayoral campaign: “great schools, great jobs, and a mayor who understands how to run an efficient operation and can reduce the tax burden.”

If the last part of that triad was meant to indicate either of his two GOP primary opponents — Millington County Commissioner Terry Roland or Juvenile Court Clerk Joy Touliatos — it did so very obliquely.

In fact, Lenoir seems to be proceeding on the assumption that his record of low-keyed professional competence in his two terms as Trustee (involving a progressive shrinkage of the county debt from $1,800 per capita to $1,000) and his status as a mainstream, vaguely middle-of-the-road Republican should speak for themselves. And, in particular, he apparently intends to ignore the ad hominem provocations of opponent Roland.

Two facts in evidence of that: 1) It was clear to all observers during the County Commission’s climactic budget sessions in early summer that Roland meant to indict Lenoir’s performance with his highly public proposal to re-designate for other purposes money earmarked for lawyer Lang Wiseman, an employee of the Trustee’s office. “He don’t show up for work!” Roland claimed via his characteristic vernacular. (He also challenged the line items of Juvenile Court clerk Touliatos.)

For his part, Lenoir ignored the obvious political context and professed an ignorance of Roland’s charges when he turned up at a later commission budget session and simply made a detailed, mathematically based explanation of his employees’ salaries and workloads, including Wiseman’s. He kept all his budgeted money.

More recently: 2) Roland suggested at a recent fundraiser that Lenoir was the candidate of the county’s political/financial establishment and made it all sound like the machinations of a cabal. Alluding to the banker character in “The Beverly Hillbillies” TV sitcom, the Commissioner affected a shucksy mode and said, “I didn’t know I was going to be running against Mr. Drysdale, but I guess I am.”

Asked about that after his announcement on Thursday, Lenoir maintained a poker face and said, “I don’t know his comment. I’m proud of my background… I worked in the business community for 20 years. As far as his comments, I’m not familiar with them.”

Maybe so, maybe no. But it seems clear that Lenoir in any case has no intention of responding to Roland on the commissioner’s own terms. And, in fact, the basic line of Lenoir’s campaign staff, as expressed by one of its prominent members on Thursday, is: “We see our main opponent to be Touliatos.”

Again: maybe so, maybe no — though another of Lenoir’s statements Thursday, that the next mayor should be someone “tested in various arenas and cool under pressure,” would seem to be directed elsewhere.

As did Lenoir’s skepticism, during a Q-and-A with reporters, that the tax-rate reduction achieved this year by the County Commission (a point regularly touted by Roland) did not necessarily equate to an actual reduction of the tax load.

In any case Lenoir’s long-awaited declaration of mayoral candidacy is now official, he will definitely have significant financial and GOP-network support, and his major task now, one shared with Touliatos, is that of profile-raising. Roland long ago succeeded, for better or for worse, in getting people to know who he was.

It’s up to both Lenoir and Touliatos to achieve a wider degree of public awareness ,too. There’s little doubting that David Lenoir will have the means and the opportunity to do that.

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