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Sheriff Bonner stakes his claim to a lane in the race for Memphis mayor

With Memphis at what he called “a critical juncture,” Shelby County Sheriff Floyd Bonner Jr. on Tuesday declared his candidacy for mayor.

Bonner, who is in his second term as sheriff, announced his intention at the Tower Room at Clark Tower as more than 100 friends and supporters signaled their backing.

Supporters of Sheriff Floyd Bonner Jr.’s bid for Memphis mayor. (Photo: Tyrone P. Easley/The New Tri-State Defender)

“So many great things are going on in Memphis right now, so much opportunity. But we’re in danger of losing those opportunities if we don’t get crime under control. So, I cannot sit back and watch that happen to the city I love and grew up in,” said Bonner.

“So, with lots of prayer … and with the support of my family and my wife, Audrey, today I am announcing my candidacy and my plan to become the next mayor of Memphis.”

A mayoral run by Bonner has been the source of much speculation in recent weeks, with Bonner neither officially confirming nor denying that he would enter the race. A flyer circulated a few hours before his announcement pointed to his decision.

The flyer detailed what was described as a Mayoral Candidate Meet and Greet set for 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Thursday (Oct. 27) at The Pocket at 115 Union Ave. Bonner was listed as one of four “invited and confirmed candidates,” along with attorney and Shelby County Commissioner Van Turner Jr., Downtown Memphis Commission President/CEO Paul Young and Memphis Shelby County Schools Commissioner Michelle McKissack.

Turner and Young have formally declared their candidacies. McKissack has said she was considering a run. Several other notables have indicated – directly and/or indirectly – their interest in succeeding term-limited Mayor Jim Strickland.

The Meet & Greet, which is set for 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., is sponsored by the Gen Next PAC, Shelby County Young Democrats, and the Mayor’s Young Professionals Council.

Supporters of Sheriff Floyd Bonner Jr.’s bid for Memphis Mayor include the Rev. William A. “Bill” Adkins Jr., senior pastor of Greater Imani Church, Memphis, the Cathedral of Faith, and his wife, Linda Kerr Adkins. (Photo: Tyrone P. Easley/The New Tri-State Defender)

“Many of you have been calling me, meeting with me, encouraging me to run for mayor of the city of Memphis,” Bonner said. “…When I was first approached about running for mayor, I was in the middle of my second campaign for re-election as sheriff.… I began to reflect on the skills which added value to me… I could be ready on day one…”

His experience as a law enforcement professional equipped him with a set of qualifications that no other candidate can claim,” said Bonner.

“I manage the largest sheriff agency in the state of Tennessee, with a staff of 2,000. And I have managed our budget of $182 million.”

Bonner, whose father was one of the first Black police officers, said as Mayor he could effectively “address the city’s biggest challenge: crime.”

He characterized his candidacy as a unifying one.

“Memphis needs a mayor to bring this city together because we are faced with too many challenges, too many big challenges, if we’re not all headed in the same direction,” he said.

Over the next 11 months, Bonner plans to listen to the concerns of Memphis residents as well as share what his goals are as mayor.

“There are some issues which will be front and center of my agenda,” said Bonner. “Reducing crime will be priority one, recruiting and retaining officers, hiring more civilian staff so commissioned officers can be out on the street patrolling, using data smart policing as well as smart dispatch so that we can combat this plague we have of crime….”

The pandemic led to the reduction of programs that were making progress … which must be brought back up to full-scale, said Bonner, adding that summer youth job programs, spring break camp and assisting opportunity youth with finding careers were all effective in curtailing youth crime.

As Sheriff Floyd Bonner Jr. details his entry into the Memphis mayor’s race, supporters listen, record and share the moment via social media. (Photo: Tyrone P. Easley/The New Tri-State Defender)

Bonner’s mayoral vision also involves cleaning up neighborhoods by addressing blight, litter, overgrown grass, tires on the street, expanding dumpster days, and making it easier for people to discard trash.

As for jobs and economic development, Bonner referenced Ford’s Blue Oval project near Mason, TN.

“With the Blue Oval nearby, we cannot miss the opportunity to bring those next jobs into Memphis,” Bonner said.

“My first economic plan would be reducing crime. This is the most important thing we can do for economic development. It is the most important thing we can do to grow our population and tax base. It’s the most important thing we can do to attract tourism.… (N)national stories about crime have hurt us.…”

Sheriff Floyd Bonner Jr. engaged with supporters after announcing his run for mayor of Memphis. (Photo: Tyrone P. Easley/The New Tri-State Defender)

Inviting those at the announcement event to “look around this room,” Bonner said, “Democrats and Republicans, Black and white, young and old – this is the way I will campaign.

“And this is the way I will lead because when Memphis works together, there is absolutely nothing we can’t overcome.”

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