Collierville High School served as the backdrop for the second annual State of the County address given by Shelby County Mayor Lee Harris.
The 41-year-old mayor’s theme at the Feb. 21 event was “We Can Do More.”
Harris praised the county’s current $15 hourly living wage rate but said that more needs to be done to improve public transportation in order to “give more people access to jobs.”
He noted that the county should do more to support working families with the implementation of paid parental leave.
Regarding the county’s recidivism rate, Harris said he hopes to improve employment opportunities for ex-offenders by adopting the “Ban the Box” policy that prevents employers from asking applicants about their criminal record.
A new phone texting service called “Simple Summons” is also in the works to help remind defendants to show up to their court dates.
Midway through his presentation, Harris commended the Fall 2019 opening of the county’s second Veterans Service Office in Millington.
The son of a Vietnam veteran, Harris noted that the facility will “help veterans and their families obtain the services that they have earned.”
“With this,” he said, noting that Shelby County has the largest population of veterans in the state, “we will immediately bring a plan to double the number of veterans that are served and look to expand our veterans services even more.”
Harris went on to address the county’s “crumbling” schools.”We have a serious problem with respect to our schools,” he said, “and I believe it is time to do something about it.”
He added that the problem isn’t with the county’s teachers and school leaders.”No, the problem is that our schools are crumbling,” he said.
Harris said that schools like Whitehaven and White Station are “in need of vital repairs.”
“According to the latest study,” he said, “the deferred maintenance on those two schools alone is $10 million.”
He added that the “vast majority of schools in Shelby County are at least 40 years old.”
Harris noted that the current Shelby County school system was founded in 2013 and has never built a new high school.”We need to get started,” he said.
He proposed that the county consider building a state-of-the-art high school in the North Memphis neighborhood of Frayser.
The project could cost north of $50 million.
“Communities like Frayser are filled with families devoted to the neighborhood and devoted to seeing the community thrive,” he said. “I believe that Frayser is as good a place as any to plant a flag and make a start.”