With the 2022 Democratic Primary now less than four months away, Ken Moody is taking a shot at convincing enough Shelby County voters that – as mayor – he can foster the unity needed for the county to move forward.
An assistant to City of Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland and a former University of Memphis basketball player, Moody announced Thursday that he will seek the county mayor seat that incumbent Lee Harris has declared he wants to keep.
With about 30 supporters on hand for the announcement at Midtown’s Hattiloo Theatre, Moody took aim at what he termed “a lack of willingness in that (Harris’) administration to partner with municipalities, but more importantly to partner with Memphis. …
“This county government, specifically in these last 3 ½ years, has failed to support city government and municipalities. And that is what you will get from me as county mayor.”
Last September, Moody announced that he was exploring a bid for county mayor, detailing that if elected he would focus on building better relationships among Shelby County municipal leaders and a more active role in economic development efforts.
His decision pits him against Harris, who announced his re-election on December 8. Harris vowed to keep talking to voters and “not concentrating on issues that do not matter to them.”
“Four years ago, we built from scratch a multi-racial, multi-generational coalition that spanned our entire county,” said Harris. “We showed that a kid from Whitehaven, the son of a high school guidance counselor and a repairman, could serve and lead in our community.
“Together, we changed the conversation. We showed that our greatest strength as a community is our people. Our community is full of young and young at heart, successful and hopeful, native Memphians and millennials who chose the 901. Our community is the Heart of America.”
Moody was introduced at the Hattiloo gathering by Vickie Finch, the widow of iconic University of Memphis coach and player Larry Finch. She said Moody helped their family when Finch’s health began to fail.
“Kenny didn’t wait for me to ask for help,” said Finch, who shared that she was standing in for her late husband.
Touting Moody as a family man and a team player with a heart to serve, Finch said of Moody, “He was right there to help us with whatever we needed.”
Moody said the county needs a mayor that does not “sit back and show up at events to cut ribbons.” Harris’ administration, he said, “lacked the commitment and lacked the service” to move the city forward.
The way Harris sees it, his administration – with citizen support – has “accomplished so much.” He sought to make the case in his re-election announcement.
“We aggressively made the case for a living wage, expanding the number of residents who make at least $15 per hour. We led the fight for paid parental leave to support families. We launched a pre-apprenticeship program so that kids can get early exposure to the trades,” said Harris.
“We devoted millions in county funding to transit and to early childhood education, so that every family in Shelby County can access opportunity in our community. We changed the conversation. If we all come together, I believe we can do it again.”
Moody served as the director of public services and neighborhoods for Dr. Willie W. Herenton, the longest-serving Memphis mayor and the first African-American elected to that position.
The Carver High School graduate has made it clear that he plans to draw upon lessons he learned through the hard work of his mother as she raised 11 children as a single mother.
His faith, he has said, is a big driver of his desire to serve.
The Democratic primary winner will face the Republican primary winner in the August General election. Memphis City Councilmember Worth Morgan has declared for the GOP race.