(Memphis) After spending nearly an hour calling each other sexists and racists, Shelby County commissioners have a new budget chair.
For the first time in county history, a commissioner challenged the chairman’s committee assignments, but he lost the fight and Heidi Shafer now presides over the county’s money.
Shafer wore a yellow rose, the symbol of the women’s suffrage movement, as her future committee chairmanship was debated.
Many supporters took the podium to challenge Commissioner Walter Bailey's objection to Shafer's appointment.
The commission chair always appoints his committees without objection, but this year Bailey challenged Chairman James Harvey in an attempt to replace her, saying Shafer will make big changes to the budget process.
“During our last budget process, her politics had her to vigorously fight to decrease the tax rate,” said Bailey.
Shafer supporters say sexism is to blame for the fight because Harvey and Shafer are in different parties and ideological differences haven’t been reason to overthrown an appointment before.
Bailey claims he couldn't support Shafer because she wanted to lower taxes over $50 million last year without a plan to pay for county services.
“Really I think it’s silly and it’s unfortunate that a so-called professional group of individuals would try to set new precedent,” said Commissioner Chris Thomas.
In a seven-to-five vote, the majority of commissioners sided with Harvey and Shafer, approving her appointment as budget chair.
“I feel very relieved and happy because this is a victory for the people over politics,” said Shafer.
Despite their differences, Shafer said she walked over to shake Bailey’s hand after the vote in an effort to move forward and change the way commission looks at the budget.
“I see a regular budget process just a little more finely tuned and a little more in-depth,” said Shafer.
Now that she’s gotten the job, Shafer says she doesn’t plan to waste any time. She will start the budget process next week.