Unofficial results of the Lakeland special election on May 25 show Wesley Wright narrowly winning a seat on the city board by just eight votes. He replaces Michele Dial, who resigned in March.
Wright received 380 votes, with his closest competitor, Maurice Denbow, receiving 372. Billy Rodgers had 145 votes, and there was one write-in candidate. A total of 898 people out of Lakeland’s 8,935 registered voters took part in the election.
The data includes early voting and absentee results. The final official tally will be posted at shelbyvote.com once it is available. The Shelby County Election Commission has stated that the vote should be certified by June 6.
Lakeland Mayor Wyatt Bunker welcomed Wright’s addition to the board with a few comments on Friday.
“I’ve known Wes and his family for several years now, both personally and professionally, and you couldn’t ask for a nicer, more qualified commissioner,” he said. “And I extend those comments to his family as well — you couldn’t ask for a nicer family to serve our community. So I just look forward to the next several years.”
Wright’s swearing-in ceremony will be at the June 1 city board work session at Lakeland City Hall.
Wright was not immediately available for an interview on Friday, but his website, wesleyalanwright.com, outlined some of his vision for Lakeland.
Over the next three years, he wants to see the school system thrive, homes values increase in safe Lakeland communities that continue to grow, commerce grow on U.S. 64 and Interstate 40 to strengthen the city’s finances while lightening the taxes for its citizens, roads improve, aesthetic standards increase for commercial buildings and high standards remain for new commercial or residential development. His last point is “to have Lakeland be viewed as the municipality of choice by people moving into the Mid-South, developing a balanced and responsible growth that will result in further lightening of our tax load.”
He sees his city as divided on major issues such as taxes and development, and he expects it will take time and collaboration to solve the problems.
Wright wrote, “We must be determined to be on a path of maintaining tax levels and look to offsetting these by identifying and attracting sources of revenue; by attracting more and diverse businesses, retail stores, restaurants and the like to encourage our residents to remain within our city, and to draw from the neighboring communities. We need intelligent, controlled and planned growth that blends our natural resources with best practices to maintain a desirable quality of life. Lakeland has done a great job laying the groundwork for such an undertaking. I hope to help Lakeland take the next steps to become the great town our residents envision.”
His platform when running for city commissioner emphasized his broad experience in management, education, landscaping and other areas.
Wright is a Memphis native with a deep educational background. He attended Snowden School and Overton High School for the Arts and is a magna cum laude graduate of the University of Tennessee, where he earned a bachelor of arts degree in history. He also attended Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, where he earned a master of arts degree in philosophy, and Union University, where he earned a master of arts degree in education.
He’s a former youth pastor and a ramp agent at the FedEx Hub, and he has worked in restaurant management. Wright also was a history and geography teacher before founding his own business, Wright Landscapings LLC.
He has been married to his wife, Joyce, for more than nine years, and the couple have two children, Elaina, eight, and Seth, two.
He and his family moved to Lakeland in 2013, he said, because it met his criteria for low crime, a great location close to services and a great academic environment for his children.
He has been involved in creating an online community for his neighborhood on the nextdoor.com platform and was elected neighborhood president, wrote and managed social media for Lakeland Currents and has already been a source of expert landscaping advice for one of Lakeland’s medians, the elementary school and a proposal for the grounds of Lakeland City Hall.
Wright also has served on the city’s Parks and Recreation Board, sponsored a PTA fundraiser and the Tour de Lakeland each spring and organized events such as the spring and fall city yard sales. The Lakeland Chamber of Commerce named him as the Lakeland Person of the Year in 2014.
He is also the author of multiple books, including “The Memphis Book,” about the history of his native city; “The Education Artifice,” scheduled for release this fall, a book about artifice in U.S. schools, the weaknesses of recent school reform and questions about what works, what doesn’t and what can be done; and “In Defense of Hollywood,” due out in the winter of 2018 and focusing on the evolution of film in America and its relationship to American culture compared to other media.
He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
CAROLYN BAHM is the editor of The Bartlett Express. Contact her at (901) 433-9138 or via email to email@example.com.