Memphians reflect as Herenton's final week begins - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Memphians reflect as Herenton's final week begins

By Lori Brown - bio | email | Twitter | Facebook

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC-TV) - Memphis Mayor Willie Herenton, the city's first elected African American Mayor and the man who has held that seat for nearly two decades, is set to resign this week.

And the people of Memphis are talking about Mayor Herenton's legacy on the eve of his last work week in office.

As Memphis braces for it's first leadership change in nearly 18 years, trolley driver Donna Branstetter is optimistic.

"I know a lot of people will be sad to see him go," Branstetter said. "I always try to think of nothing but the best things, the brightest future. We all stick together and work towards that, I think we'll have a better Memphis."

Near the Pyramid, Paul Mortiner is getting his building ready for a new tenant. He says he hopes the new mayor will solve the city's empty Pyramid problem.

Some businesses struggled after the venue closed.

"We're looking for a little revitalization of the area," Mortiner said.

He also says he hopes for changes that go deeper than businesses' bottom lines.

"This city has had so much racial tension," he said. "That's the thing I hope is alleviated because there tends to be so much of that in this town."

Ariel Kalafat's vantage point is unique. At 18 years old, Mayor Herenton is the only mayor she's ever known.

"It's a little scary that someone new is coming in," she said. "But at the same time, it's a great opportunity to see where we can improve on."

Kalafat says she's thankful Herenton revitalized downtown and brought the city an NBA franchise.

"Being a carriage driver, he helped bring me business from the tourists coming in," she said.

When Thursday comes - if Mayor Herenton does in fact leave City Hall for the last time - Branstetter, Mortiner and Kalafat say they are looking forward to the city getting its first fresh start since 1991.

Mayor Herenton boasts that he's leaving the city with an $89 million reserve fund. And he has pointed out that 13,000 people who once lived in rundown public housing now live in newer, better apartments across the city.


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