How lack of leadership negatively affects Memphis, and how we can fix it

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. – Memphis is a city on a mission for greatness.

It’s a city on the edge, a city divided. But it’s ours, and this is our chance for a better tomorrow.

It’s time to heal old wounds, and create new stories of success, by educating our children and by making sure there are enough jobs and everyone feels safe in their own home.

In this chapter of Memphis: On a Mission, WREG’s Zaneta Lowe reports a major challenge Memphis faces is leadership, or lack thereof.

Every move by elected leaders makes a difference. Sometimes, problems and politics get in the way of progress.

“It's hard to be a leader in a community the size of Memphis if you're only thinking about your little, small area of either influence or interest,” Otis Sanford, a journalism professor at the University of Memphis and political commentator for WREG said.

He says it's that selfish mentality which led to years of bad decision making and ultimately a lack of leadership.

“Communication is the key, and I think sometimes our leaders have failed to adequately communicate that message in a strong and compelling way,” he said.

Communication is why Memphis Mayor A C Wharton says he's still explaining the changes to health care benefits for city employees. He also addressed the concerns of residents who feel their input is falling on deaf ears, saying they often get criticized for inviting cameras along for projects like taking it to the streets.

“’Why's he having a press conference on fixing potholes?’ Because I want everybody to know, whether you're in Midtown, downtown, box town or no-town, we care about your streets,” Wharton said.

“If someone out there feels like there's been a breach of trust, it is incumbent upon me to try to step in and mend that breach,” he added. “We need to conduct ourselves in a way that instills confidence in the minds and eyes of the public."

Confidence continues to erode for the Shelby County Commission. Questions about the county's policy on minority contracts got buried after a heated debate, bickering, and then allegations about commissioners not living in their districts.

Mayor Mark Luttrell admits these obstacles can get in the way of county business, but he says they mostly create mistrust and apathy.

“They're just not getting involved as voters and they're not getting involved as candidates,” he said. “As a result, the body of politics suffers."

Good leaders are also visionaries.  John Carroll is the Executive Director of City Leadership.

He said, "The worst thing that can happen for Memphis is batons aren't passed."

City Leadership is behind the campaigns Choose901 and Teach901 where the goal is to recruit the best and brightest millennials to the city.

Carroll says simply filling some of those roles helps prepare Memphis' next generation of leaders.



  • D.Slayer

    Unfortunately neither the city or the county have good leadership. We failed to correct this with the past county election this month. I’m curious what will happened during the city election.

  • donaknowsitall

    Nothing will change because the people don’t want it to change.
    The same politicians get voted in again and again and again, why, because the people are voting them in again and again again.
    The people complain about crime, education, roads, malls, etc but people are unwilling to change to make things better.
    Sad really.

    • ScienceMom1

      You are correct. I live an hour east of Memphis and it is even worse out here. For nine years, I have tried to help make it ia better place but it is so anti-intellectual, anti-change, I am angry at myself for ever returning home. I hope that I can get my family out of here at some point. It is a shame, it seemed a bit better when I was growing up in the midsouth but now it is just plain pathetic.

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