The Memphis City Council filled three vacancies in the first meeting of the new year on Tuesday after wrangling over the District 1 position led to four members walking out on an election to fill that seat in December.
The new council members are Sherman D. Greer, Cheyenne Johnson and Gerre Currie.
Greer was elected in the District 1 position on a nomination from the floor by Vice Chairman Patrice Robinson. He received eight votes and two passes.
Before his election, Greer addressed the council and said his family has lived in Dist. 1 for 29 years. He is a father of three.
“The city council is a very important position,” he said. “This is where the rubber meets the road. I know District 1. I lived in Frayser for nine years before I moved to Raleigh…”
He now lives in Cordova.
After the election, Greer told reporters, “I want to fill the pot holes…” and do the other things that will be of service of people in the district.
“Frayser is one of the best communities in the whole city…,” he said.
Former Shelby County Property Assessor Johnson was elected to fill the Super Dist. 8 position vacated when Janice Fullilove was elected Shelby County Juvenile Court Clerk.
After the election, she said,“I believe I can make a difference.”
Johnson said she is now retired.
Currie, a banker, was elected to fill the District 6 seat formerly held by Edmund Ford, Jr. after he moved on to the Shelby County Commission.
Currie said she is vice president of community development at Financial Federal Bank. Her main opponent was Edmund Ford Sr.
Before the vote, vice chairman Patrice Robinson praised Edmund Ford Sr. for his long public service but said that in Memphis we have never had four African American women on the city council.
“ Maybe tonight we’ll set a new precedent and do something great,” she said.
Currie won the election with seven votes to three for Ford and one pass.
Talking to reporters, when asked what she thought about having four African American women on the council for the first time, Currie said, “I think it adds an added layer to the thought processes. I think it will be a benefit to the council because sometimes it’s not so much the data but the… heart that goes into some of the decisions.”
She said she likes to focus more on the fact that there are four “strong women, four professional women, four friends” on the council. “Frankly they’ve never had a banker on the city council, now they have a banker.”
It took several rounds of voting to elect Currie when she repeatedly failed to beat Ford, a former city council member, with both coming up short of the seven votes needed to win. After abstaining from voting several times, Johnson finally voted for Currie, ending the stalemate.
This was after a short break called by newly elected council Chairman Kemp Conrad.
Conrad was also elected Monday as well as Robinson as vice chairman.
The attempts to fill the District 1 seat went back to a Nov. 20 meeting when the council split largely on racial lines in its decision between Lonnie Treadaway, who is white and Rhonda Logan, who is black.
Two weeks later, council members Joe Brown, Martavius Jones, Patrice Robinson and Jamita Swearengen walked out of the meeting during the voting, leaving the council without a quorum to continue.
At that time Jones said, “We would rather walk out and not be a part of a sham to put somebody in that position who is not entrenched and not invested in the community.”
The four council members who walked out are all African American. The only other remaining African American council member was then Chairman Berlin Boyd, who sat out on the majority of the more than 100 votes the council cast on the Dist. 1 appointment.
The four council members walked out when a pair of votes cut along similar lines on Logan and Treadaway and the council voted to reopen the candidate consideration to the full slate of six finalists.
After more than an hour away from the dias, Boyd and council members Frank Colvette, Worth Morgan, Kemp Conrad, J. Ford Canale and Reid Hedgepeth returned to their seats and asked the city attorney and Memphis Light, Gas and Water attorneys to file action in Chancery Court to “compel the attendance” of the absent council members.
The council then met the following Wednesday, Thursday and Friday in attempts at reaching a quorum, without success. The council also met the following Tuesday in a special called meeting, still without a quorum.
On Dec. 18, the last meeting of 2018, the council conducted some transactions of business allowed under the home rule charter after consultation with attorney Allan Wade. No attempt was made to elect someone to the Dist. 1 position vacated by Bill Morrison when he was elected Shelby County Probate Clerk.