Sunday, January 19, 2014

Reaves for County Commission

A few weeks ago someone asked me what I thought about the race for the open seat on the Shelby County Commission in my area, District 3. I'm under no illusion that any endorsement I offer would, or even should, make much of a difference. But as someone who stays fairly involved in local politics, perhaps my perspective is at least beneficial to those who are concerned but don't have the time or inclination to follow things as closely as I do and would appreciate the insight.

At this moment, there are two declared candidates to replace Chris Thomas, a fantastic public servant who is stepping down to serve as city manager in Lakeland. The first candidate is David Reaves, who currently serves on the Shelby County School Board. The second candidate is Kelly Price, previously a candidate for Memphis City Council. 

I've never met Price, but he comes with a couple of good recommendations by people I trust. It's not necessarily remarkable that I don't know him, although I would suggest it does say something about his previous political involvement in Bartlett and Lakeland, where it isn't hard to become at least somewhat familiar with every political activist nearby. And as the former president of the area's only Republican club, and the chairman of Bartlett's municipal school campaign over the last 2-3 years, I've certainly had more opportunity than most to become familiar with the people who run in those circles.

Reaves, meanwhile, is another story. I remember the campaign speech he gave to the NE Shelby Republican Club when he first ran for a seat on the Shelby County School Board. I don't recall if I voted for him then, but I at least appreciated his platform. I certainly supported him when the County Commission tried to unseat him shortly after election, as part of the unilateral consolidation of the school systems. And when we launched Better Bartlett Schools, he was there from the start, volunteered at every opportunity, and literally held signs for us on the street corner as the day of the (second) referendum arrived.

It would be one thing if Reaves were merely present during these pivotal times. That would have been enough to earn my appreciation, but it wasn't just that. He's been leading and serving. He's been offering visionary ideas, fighting hard in the trenches, performing admirably both in the spotlight and away from it, and accomplishing all this while making friends rather than enemies.

More significant is Reaves' humility and his willingness not only to hear from his constituents but also to seek it out and to initiate dialogue. That's incredibly rare, even at the local level.

So I endorse David Reaves for County Commission not because we agree 100% on every issue. In fact, I can think of three or four times off the top of my head where I didn't agree with his position, at least initially. But I've always trusted his principles and respected his thought process and willingness to hear out and understand alternative viewpoints. More than anything, I know he will continue to seek what is best for the community he serves, because that's the kind of guy he is.

Last summer during one of my philosophical journeys, I decided my test for political candidates would begin with this question: which one is currently the best public servant? There are plenty of people holding office who aren't serving the public at all, I reasoned, and any newcomer should be able to explain how they've already benefited the community.

With that question in mind, it's not even a contest; it's David Reaves by a mile.

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