There is about to be a new sheriff in town, as Shelby County’s top lawman Shelby County Sheriff Floyd Bonner Jr. closed on a house in Memphis proper.
The Bonner family’s pending move from Bartlett is an effort to scratch the residency requirement off the to-do list for the Memphis mayoral hopeful. Bonner is a declared candidate for Memphis mayor in the Oct. 5 city elections.
Property records show Bonner and his wife, Audrey, purchased an East Memphis home near Humphreys Boulevard on Jan. 23. The pair of empty nesters are expected to move this month. He has been a Bartlett homeowner since 1994.
The residency requirement comes from a 1967 provision in the Memphis City Charter that mayoral candidates need to live in the city for five years ahead of Election Day.
Although Bonner’s move falls short of the language of the Charter, the Memphis City Council’s attorney Allan Wade last fall wrote an opinion to Shelby County Election Commission Administrator Linda Phillips that aspirants only needed to reside in the city by Election Day.
“A person’s qualifications to serve as mayor or city council member are determined at the time he or she is elected … Your office should not refuse a candidate’s petition based on questions about residency,” Wade’s letter stated.
Wade’s opinion also benefits other familiar names who have thrown their hats in the mayoral-race ring, such as former Memphis mayor Dr. Willie W. Herenton and former Shelby County Commissioner Van Turner Jr. The former owned a home in Collierville until mid-2020, while Turner lived in an unincorporated part of the county while serving on the commission.
And while it would not affect the crowded 2023 mayoral race, there reportedly now is a move in the works on the part of some Memphis City Council members to have voters decide by referendum whether a mayor be required to reside in Memphis for at least a year before taking office.