Joe Ford owes assist to Republicans Bunker, Ritz

Per the last post, while realizing that Joe Ford has a big hill to climb in persuading non-Democratic primary voters to support him, if he succeeds and does in fact give Shelby County its first fulltime Mayor Ford, we'll surely hear some of the more rabid Ford haters saying they are selling their house, moving to DeSoto (presumably so they can pay Mississippi income taxes?). But one thing that needs to be remembered -- if Ford wins a four-year term, it will be due in no small part to Republicans. Because it was  Republican county commissioners Wyatt Bunker and Mike Ritz who steadfastly supported Ford during the 27 rounds of voting needed to appoint him interim mayor completing the term A C Wharton resigned to become Memphis mayor. On several occasions, Bunker and Ritz could have ended Ford's bid without electing J.W. Gibson, who they both strongly opposed. Giving Ford the incumbency provided a huge boost in the Democratic primary victory over County Commissioner Deidre Malone.

When Ford finally prevailed in November -- still promising NOT to run for the full-time post -- you could sense from Deidre Malone great disappointment. Like almost everyone in the commission chambers that day, she knew it was extremely likely Ford would "change is mind" and decide to run for mayor. Bunker and Ritz maintain they stood by Ford because he had voted with them and shown fiscally conservative instincts (at least when it came to public policy). A good question for their Republican constituents to ask now is this: Did you really believe Joe Ford when he promised not to run full time? There's no real good answer to that, at least not to Republicans who are naturally skeptical of the motives of anyone with the last name of Ford -- either they were naive or a poor judge of character, seen from that perspective. And yet, Bunker cruised to re-election and Ritz ran unopposed. What does that say about the competition (or lack thereof) created by the partisan primaries and district boundaries for county commission?


Ritz and Bunker are smarter than they let on. Knowing that Ford would "change his mind," they elected him knowing the name recognition might help him to win the nomination. As a weaker nominee than Malone, it would give Luttrell a better chance. Another reason could be that Republican contributors may have pressured them to vote for Ford, knowing that he would abandon the smart growth policies of A C Wharton, giving developers free rein and scrap any consolidation plans as he did with City/County Fire consolidation.

Leave a comment

Type the characters you see in the picture above.

  • About

As the process for merging Shelby County's schools accelerates into action, we'll provide bonus coverage here at, with a particular focus on the 21-member transition team and the 23-member unified school board. Comment early and often. If you have any tips or suggestions you wish to share, contact Zack McMillin at or 529-2564.

  • Zack McMillin on Twitter