Avery elected new Chairperson of Shelby County Commission

Deidre Malone
Deidre Malone
Joyce Avery
Joyce Avery

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MEMPHIS, TN (WMC-TV) - A normally routine vote became a heated contest at the Shelby County Commission's meeting Monday as commissioners voted for their next chairman.

Normally, county commissioners rotate their chairmanship, but that tradition was up for debate Monday in a vote between current the current Chair, Democrat Deidre Malone, and Republican Joyce Avery.

Some said current Malone made a second run for Chair to elevate her position to run for mayor, while others said commissioners cut a deal to give Avery the chairmanship and Commissioner Sidney Chism the position of Chairman Pro Tem.

"I didn't ask for this nomination, and like any good solider, I'm always ready to serve," Malone said.

"This just dumbfounds me why this is being done," Avery said before the vote. "It looks like nothing but a power play to me."

The pair explained why fellow commissioners should elect each one of them chairman. For Malone, it would have been a second term in a row.  Malone is said to be running for county mayor if Mayor AC Wharton vacates his seat to become city mayor when Willie Herenton retires.

"Mayor Wharton hasn't been elected and who says that he will be?" Avery asked. "Herenton has not left office and when will he leave office?"

But Malone said she never officially announced her candidacy.

"If someone wants to make the accusation that for me this is what this is about, I wish they wouldn't," she said.

Fellow Democrat, Commissioner Matt Kuhn, supported Malone.

"What I would like to see is the same leadership," he said.

But Democrat Sydney Chism supported Republican Avery.

"I am about fulfilling my word, and that's what I'm doing today," he said.

Then, during public comments, Millington resident Terry Roland made an idle threat to Kuhn.

"Matt, remember you're representing a district of people as District 4," he said.  Both Kuhn and Avery are commissioners from District 4.

When the vote came down, eight commissioners voted for Avery and five commissioners passed.

"Thank you so much," Avery said.

Commissioner Malone then continued the meeting as if nothing happened.

"Congratulations Commissioner Avery," she said.

Shortly after that vote, Avery was one of many who nominated Commissioner Sidney Chism for Chairman Pro Tempore, or vice chairmanship.  Chism won over Commissioner Henri Brooks by a vote of 7 to 6.

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