Collierville celebrates Lewellen for serving town for 25 years

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According the University of Tennessee’s Institute of Public Service, a town administrator or city manager works for a municipality for an average of six years.

The Town of Collierville’s Administrator, James Lewellen, is above average with 25 years of service.

“James has proven himself as an incredible leader with the ability to balance Collierville residents’ needs and wants with budgetary reality. He is patient, humble, and an invaluable resource to the Board of Mayor and Aldermen, Town staff, and the entire community,” said Mayor Joyner during a pin presentation at the October 26, 2020 Board of Mayor and Aldermen meeting.

A native of Ripley, Mississippi, James Lewellen graduated from Mississippi State University with a bachelor’s degree in Education and a Master’s in Public Policy and Public Administration. He served as Director of the Planning and Development Department for the City of Southaven, Mississippi, for two years prior to accepting a position with Germantown as Chief Planner in the Department of Development in 1989. He was promoted to Assistant City Administrator in 1993. In 1995, James began his career with the Town of Collierville as Town Administrator.

Since his arrival in 1995, James has served under three mayors, and witnessed our Town’s population soar from 18,000 to 52,000. In 1995, the Town’s budgeted General Fund was $11.2 million compared to $61.2 million, and the Town’s workforce has grown from 241 to 603 total employees (full and part-time).

Additionally, there is a long list of accomplishments the Town of Collierville experienced under the leadership of James Lewellen. Collierville’s first ever Comprehensive Land Use Plan was developed which has helped the Town transform from a developing rural community to a cosmopolitan suburb.

Collierville became positioned as a regional center for commerce and innovation. Since 1995, major corporate developments and headquarters have moved into Collierville including FedEx World Tech, Baptist Memorial Hospital, and Carriage Crossing. Since establishing an Economic Development division in 2014, even more corporations moved to Town including Orgill, Mueller Industries, MCR Safety, Helena, and Juice Plus, to name a few.

The Town received a AAA bond rating from Moody’s Investor Service and winning the distinguished Budget Award for 23 consecutive years from the Government Finance Officers Association of the United States.

An Emergency Dispatch Center was built, as well as three new fire stations, and a fire administration and training building. In addition to emergency protection, the Town improved its fire protection ranking from a 4 from 1995 to its current score of 2. This lower rating means better fire protections for residents and businesses as well as lower insurance premiums. There are only 34 communities in Tennessee with a Class 2 ranking.

Historic preservation projects were completed both creatively and constructively. The 1890-era Collierville Christian Church was transformed into a top-notch museum, The Morton Museum of Collierville History. The town’s 1935-era Historic High School was repurposed into administrative office space to be used by Collierville Schools. Right next door, the gymnasium was renovated and opened in 2017 to become the Linda Kerley Center for senior residents to congregate and enjoy a range of classes and activities.

James was at the center of the Town’s multi-year effort to start a school system in Collierville. He played a key role in organizing a team of consultants and legal counsel, assisting state leaders with the coordination of legislative efforts, and leading Town Hall meetings. Collierville Schools was formed in 2013, and in August of 2014, the newly formed Collierville Municipal School System held its first classes. Just a year later, the Town made plans to build a new 450,000 square foot high school with a price tag of $95 million, which opened in August of 2018.

Outdoor recreation flourished with almost 20 miles of greenbelt trails, additional acreage, and features to our parks such as the WC Johnson boardwalk and two spray parks. The 110-acre Hinton Park opened in 2015 bringing even more recreational amenities to every corner of the Town of Collierville.

James is a past recipient of the H.E. Harrell Education Award in 2013 from the Collierville Chamber of Commerce, the H.R. Houston Community Service Award 2007 from Leadership Collierville, and served as past President of the Tennessee City Management Association 2011-12. In 2014, James was honored by the Rotary Club of Memphis East as the recipient of the 2014 Dunavant Public Servant Award. In the same year, he was named “City Manager of the Year” by the Tennessee City Management Association