Letters To The Citizens


An Open Letter To The Citizens Of Memphis

I am an eligible candidate for the office of Mayor, in the Memphis Municipal Election on October 5, 2023. I have maintained a residence in the city of Memphis for over several decades. A strong sense of purpose compels me to remain relevant and to focus on making Memphis a better city.
My public service career in Memphis spans over three decades. It was a privilege to serve as superintendent of the Memphis City School System for 12 years. And later, I was elected five consecutive terms as mayor of Memphis.
Today, it saddens me to see my hometown in a deep crisis that is in need of proven leadership. This is not the time for on-the-job training. The city needs Proven Leadership. We can and we must address the crime problem with needed reforms. I clearly understand what needs to be done.
For this reason and more, I have decided to, once again, offer my service to the citizens of Memphis as a candidate for Mayor — 2023.
In my opinion, and in all respect to the announced candidates, not a single one has proven to be prepared for the challenges facing my hometown. You have placed trust in my leadership in the past, and I respectfully request your support for my candidacy for Mayor of Memphis in 2023. As a native Memphian, I remember when our city was safe, clean and provided an array of quality schools for our children. Today, we live in a vastly different Memphis.
I am told almost on a daily basis that many Memphians are seriously considering relocating to safer cities. I love Memphis as many of you — we must collectively come together and work diligently toward the betterment of our city.
Yours truly,
Willie W. Herenton, Ph.D.

After being on center-stage for decades, I needed to pause and breathe for a while. My life has consisted of some significant firsts in the history of Memphis.
The citizens of Memphis elected me five consecutive times as mayor – making me the longest serving in the history of the city. Before becoming mayor in 1991, I served as superintendent of the Memphis city schools for twelve years.
In 2009, I voluntarily resigned from the office of mayor because I became complacent, feeling no longer challenged. Undeniably, we left the city of
Memphis better than how we found it in 1991.
Since I left the mayor’s office in 2009, the city has elected two mayors and the citizens of Memphis will elect a mayor again on October 5, 2023.
In the minds of some Memphians is the question – why would I become a candidate for city mayor at the age of 82 – and after serving 17 years?
Let me answer the question in my succinct manner. First, my hometown is in the midst of a deep crisis and is in desperate need of proven leadership.
Second, I love Memphis and have devoted most of my life to public service as an educator and a municipal executive. The betterment of Memphis always has been my goal.
Third, looking through my lens at the candidates for the city mayor’s race in 2023 – I see a group of office seekers. Not a single one that is prepared for the challenges ahead. Quite frankly, I have nothing personally to prove — my record of public service has been well-documented. And if it is the will of the people – I will gladly serve again.
Admittedly, my leadership did not solve the racial and economic divide in our city. As a diverse city, we need to unite and work toward the betterment for all. I am fully prepared for the challenges ahead.
Your support will be appreciated.
Willie W. Herenton, Ph.D.

Like many Memphians, I am deeply concerned with the crime problems plaguing our city today. As a diverse city, we must unite around a well-thought- out strategic action-plan to reverse some negative trends.
The challenges facing Memphis today drives me back to the arena of public service. As your mayor, I am prepared to do something concerning some deplorable conditions that undermines the future of our city.
Let me make it clear, I am pro-law enforcement
and defunding the police makes no sense to me. I fully recognized that we must restore public trust in our police department. With effective leadership and community support — we can make a turn-a-
There is no question that public safety is a priority issue that must be addressed with a sense of urgency in the city of Memphis. There are no quick fixes, but we can make our city a safer place to live, play and work.
During my tenure as mayor, I worked closely with five appointed directors of police services. My expectations were high and when not met – I took the appropriate actions and terminated three of the five police directors.
It has been documented that crime statistics fluctuate over time and can be influenced by social and economic conditions. It is imperative that best practices, technology and a well-trained police force be in place for positive results.
The candidates for city mayor will vent and all suggest to the voters they are concerned with the upsurge in crime — but offer no strategy to ameliorate this condition. The candidates for city mayor will all suggest to the voters that they have a crime plan that will make Memphis a safe city. The candidates will also employ ideological flashpoints in the attempt to influence voters. What is readily factual is that not a single candidate has the depths of understanding of the Memphis Police Department as I.

I derive great strength from the scripture Joshua 14:11-12 in which Caleb at the age of 85 stated: “11As yet I am as strong this day as I was in the day that Moses sent me: as my strength was then, even so is it now, for war, both to go out, and to come in. 12Now therefore give me this mountain”.
This full biblical story is relevant to our
current crisis in Memphis. For in the real sense, we are fighting giants that if not defeated – our city
will not reach the promise land.
A united city with full armor can defeat the giants of crime, poverty, poor education, inadequate housing, decaying infra- structure and despair. My past experiences and leadership maturity have equipped me with the confidence that I can climb this mountain.
For such a time as this, I have requested the mountain and am fully prepared for the challenges ahead. Memphis can once again be nationally known as a Renaissance city.
Let’s make it happen.