Sanford: Judge Potter is a true innovator for Memphis

Shelby County government website

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — It’s not often that we refer to judges as true innovators. Usually they merely follow existing case law and past practices when making rulings, but the term fits Shelby County Environmental Court Judge Larry Potter to a tee.

He created the court 33 years ago to handle issues pertaining to blight and properties that had become a public nuisance.

On Monday, Potter announced his retirement effective March 1. His replacement will be chosen by the Shelby County Commission and Potter recommended  Public Works deputy director Patrick Dandridge as his replacement.

Despite the recommendation, the commission should perform its due diligence and consider all qualified candidates who come forward. But for now, Potter deserves tremendous credit for doing his part to keep Memphis clean and safe.

Over the years, he has held hundreds of absentee landlords accountable for abandoned properties that contributed to blight. He has shut down night clubs and juke joints under public nuisance laws because they were havens for drug dealing and other crimes.

On the other hand, Potter went out of his way to help save Aretha Franklin’s childhood home from demolition and even lit a fire under the owners of the Benchmark Hotel property to finish work on a new hotel at the site.

Without question, the environmental court under Judge Potter has made a positive difference in Memphis. Hopefully that difference will continue.