Memphis mayor-elect abolishes Music Commission, fires 10

Memphis Mayor-elect Jim Strickland on Christmas eve announced he will eliminate the Music Commission along with 10 other positions after taking office Jan. 1 and use part of the $1 million in savings to pay for new positions and pay raises, reports the Commercial Appeal.

Strickland said he’ll spend $339,000 of the savings on newly created positions, and another $29,400 for pay increases, including for the six chief officers who will lead City Hall as part of a new organizational structure.

“Budgeting is all about priorities,” he said. “And to me, the priorities for city government are all about core services.”

“I think these personnel decisions match my commitment in the campaign to do more with less,” he added in an email.

With his staff changes, the city will save a net $633,931 per year, Strickland said. He said he hasn’t calculated the long-term effect of the changes on benefits costs.

Strickland promised on the campaign trail this year to close the Memphis & Shelby County Music Commission and eliminate superfluous deputy director positions. Music Commission Executive Director Johnnie Walker won’t be reappointed, and staff member Jacinda Norton will be laid off “either on Jan. 1 or shortly thereafter,” Strickland said.

Strickland said he’ll look at whether other city divisions or private groups can pick up some of the commission’s functions, which included promoting local artists and organizing showcase events. The city will continue to offer a musician health care program, which only has two participants, he said.