What normally would have been a routine re-appointment to the Memphis Light Gas and Water Division board of directors took an unexpected turn Tuesday (July 25).
During a meeting of the council’s Personnel and Government Affairs Committee, Michael Pohlman was up for a reappointment vote.
Councilmember Cheyenne Johnson, however, proposed a delay, while she seeks the input of “top candidates” for mayor in the upcoming election.
Pohlman was nominated by Mayor Jim Strickland, who is in his second and final term. Johnson has announced she is not seeking re-election to her council seat.
There were 19 mayoral declared candidates going into the noon deadline on Thursday (July 27) for such candidates to withdraw. The winner will assume office on Jan. 1, 2024.
“I want the new mayor, whoever he or she may be, to have an opportunity to appoint someone. It’s not a reflection of Mr. Pohlman whatsoever. It’s just a different way of thinking,” said Johnson.
Johnson’s proposal did not gain traction and committee members voted to recommend Pohlman’s reappointment to the full council at the first council session in August.
A mechanical engineer, Pohlman is also the CEO and president of the Pickering Firm Inc., an engineering and architectural design firm.
During discussion, the nominee also was asked about MLGW’s decision to stick with TVA as its electrical energy supplier, which was criticized as “skewed.”
The city-owned utility also was accused of failing to seek alternative suppliers, particularly ones with renewable energy sources to market.
“It was pretty obvious, from what we had reported to us, that the last process we went through was skewed. And it was skewed in such a way that I’m not sure the data we got back was accurate, or would help us make long term planning decisions,” said Councilmember Jeff Warren.
Last September, MLGW rejected a 20-year contract with the energy supplier. It opted to sign a rolling five-year extension, instead. During the process, Tennessee-based energy provider Franklin Haney Company accused the utility of bias against its bid.
The negotiations also drew the ire of environmental activist groups and concerned citizens.
“We have had, with TVA, a very good run. They’ve been reliable. I do this for a living and negotiate all over the country… It’s difficult,” said Pohlman.
“Everybody tells you what they want you to hear. None of them perform. Constantly, usually, we’re singing two and four-year contracts…We’re very unique here in the valley. I’m disappointed in the TVA. I don’t think they do enough for West Tennessee. And we have been pressuring them.”