Selmer Mayor John Smith states he will be seeking his third term in office.
In an interview, Smith said after serving sixteen years for the Town of Selmer, the last eight as city mayor, he plans to continue working with his directors and aldermen that love the community they serve.
“It is my love for the community. For more than five generations my family has served the citizens of Selmer, some as physicians, my grandfather was register of deeds and tax assessor. In fact, one of my relatives served as sheriff in McNairy County many years ago.” Smith said.
“This is my community, my home. It is where I live and where I serve and I have a heart for the citizens of Selmer and my passion runs deep. When we succeed, they succeed. I led the community in a different direction. Sadly enough, things never happen fast enough, but our leadership has celebrated some major successes,” said Smith.
During his tenure, Smith relayed that the city has suffered a number of disasters, a 100 year flood last July that impacted 53 businesses, industry and infrastructure in the city. “On top of it all, we are in the middle of a world-wide pandemic which caused many businesses to close initially leaving many in need,” Smith continued.
“While COVID-19 has taken a toll on the city budget,” Smith said, “we have maintained a $1.6 million surplus and completed projects with grant funding in difficult times.” One of his main concerns is the impact the pandemic has had on small businesses and industry.
“During it all, we strived to serve and were the first to host a meeting with Kevin Morris, state department of health epidemiologist, to plan a strategy before we had the first Covid-19 case in the county.” Smith said.
“I will be the first to admit, there is much I do not know, but I do my best to seek out people who do. We lost many friends and relatives to the virus. After contracting it personally last December, I truly thought I would lose my life” said Smith. “When I was out, my directors and employees stepped up.” Smith said.
“Early in the pandemic, with the help of local donations, the city partnered to serve food twice a week at the Farmers Market Pavilion. We served about 300-500 meals each time in a drive-thru. With the help of the Mid-South Food Bank in Memphis, employees and the police department package and deliver food to needy families every Thursday,” Smith said. “Nothing happens in a vacuum–it takes us all working together.”
Smith manages a $12 million dollar budget, shared with all departments (including utilities), and has 86 employees.
“The directors work hard. We have never raised taxes, were awarded millions in grant funding and paved 88% of secondary roads while adding LED street lights.” Smith said.
“People are quick to criticize but what they need to understand is that this is a labor of love and not about the money. It is my understanding that my salary is the same as it was in 1995. I am the lowest paid full-time city mayor in the State of Tennessee at $47,000 a year; there are towns with part-time mayors who make as much or more. I feel we are very good stewards of funds. To have a fund balance in times like this makes me proud,” said Smith.
“We have things to brag about, like a million dollar renovation to our North Park and ball fields to be completed in November, adding exercise equipment to our South Park, adding a Splash Pad to Dixie Park and a Dog Park. We recently acquired six acres off of Florence Road to build an inner city park for children which will start soon. The Facade grant many small businesses used to spruce up their buildings, building the Farmer’s Market and concession stand. We added five new fire trucks and maintain an ISO rating of 3 as medical calls nearly doubled in the past six years.”
The mayor is proud of the police department who responds to 350 calls for service a month, 65 average are reportable and about 20 traffic accidents.
“With the sheriff’s department, we developed a Victim Response Team and our investigator can now handle arson investigations.
“The sanitation workers are out in all conditions and have maintained the recycling program with 450 customers. We purchased blue recycling bins for customers with a grant,” said Smith.
“Lastly, we inherited many issues with old infrastructure that presents unique challenges with the water and sewer systems. Lines south of the railroad seem to be the worse and many are over 40 years old. Richard Ashe is working with multiple grants to upgrade the sewer system, lagoon and repairing flood damage to lines with no rate increases or more debt,” said Smith.
“You may not think we have things to celebrate, but we do and if given the chance, I will continue to serve the City of Selmer for a third term and build on what we’ve started,” said Smith.
The City of Selmer Election is November 2 for mayor and two aldermen. Currently, John Finlayson and Johnny Norris hold the two aldermen seats up for re-election, with Smith as mayor. Qualifying deadline for candidates is August 19 at noon for the office of mayor and alderman, according to Joanie Collins, administrator of elections.