By Bill Short
Position 7 Alderman Mike Caruthers, seeking his fourth term, is being challenged by Tom Stephens in the Nov. 3 Millington city elections.
A native of Memphis and former resident of the Frayser area, Stephens graduated from Westside High School and Freed-Hardeman University, where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in business administration.
He recently retired from the Germantown Fire Department, where he was employed as a firefighter and driver for 28 years.
Stephens previously served as an auxiliary probation officer for the Memphis and Shelby County Juvenile Courts, as well as a member of the American Red Cross Disaster Response Team.
For more than six years, he served as president of the International Association of Firefighters Local 3858 in Germantown and is now an “alumni member.”
Stephens and his wife Renee have been Millington residents for more than 22 years. They have three children and two grandchildren.
Caruthers earned a Bachelor of Science Degree in industrial technology from Tennessee Technological University and a Master of Arts Degree in business management from Central Michigan University.
He retired from the U.S. Army after 26 years in various Explosive Ordnance Disposal and Ordnance Commands, while completing his career as a staff officer with the Joint Chiefs of Staff in Washington, D.C.
Caruthers is the owner of USA Properties in Millington. Elected an alderman in 2008 and re-elected in 2012 and 2016, he has been a member of the Millington Municipal Planning Commission for the past eight years.
He chaired the Transition Team to assist in the creation of the Millington Municipal School System. As a member of the Millington Kiwanis Club, he served as its president in 2001 and 2002 and has been its treasurer for the past 16 years.
Caruthers is chairman of the Millington Crisis Center Board and a former chairman of the Millington Housing Authority.
He and his wife Claudia have two children and five grandchildren.
Both candidates recently responded to the following questions prepared and distributed by The Millington Star:
- If elected or re-elected, what suggestions will you make to the newly re-elected mayor regarding ordinances or resolutions to be passed or amended?
Stephens said he will suggest reviewing the existing ordinances and resolutions with “new eyes” to see if any need amending. He will also examine whether any proposed ordinances would benefit the residents and help the city.
Caruthers said the city’s Sign Ordinance should be amended to “give some relief” on signage for small businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic.
He will also:
(a) propose a resolution to name the city park that will be constructed during Phase 1 of the Resiliency Project; and
(b) continue to support ordinances and resolutions that promote “smart growth” in the city.
- List three significant issues in this election.
Stephens listed economic growth, low property taxes and flooding issues.
Caruthers cited the continued need to reduce blighted areas, make the city business-friendly and support the improvement in utilities.
- Specifically, how do you plan to deal with each of these issues if you are elected or re-elected?
Stephens said recruiting new businesses will increase the city’s revenue and maintain a low property tax rate. He also said upgrading the drainage throughout the city will resolve the flooding issues.
Caruthers praised the city’s actions in demolishing several buildings on Navy Road and said it should also develop a plan for disposition of vacant land.
While noting that Millington is “fueled” by taxes on sales, not property, he said it needs to continue supporting business development and small businesses.
“Sales tax income is the main reason we have been able to continue funding the city without raising property taxes – even after the pandemic,” he noted.
Caruthers also said Millington has used money that it added to its “reserves” during the past few years.
Because water pressure “fluctuates” in areas of the city, he supports construction of a new water plant and a new water tower for the South Plant.
Caruthers also said the city should review why some water bills have recently increased “significantly” and take “corrective actions.”
- What do you think is the biggest concern facing the city at this time?
Stephens cited the city’s budget and COVID-19.
Caruthers said the biggest concern is attempting to maintain the property tax rate at the current level during the pandemic. He also said the city needs to make sure it has facilities for COVID-19 testing and do “whatever is possible” to keep the residents safe.
“We must continue to support our first responders and their excellent training programs,” he noted.
- What specifically makes you best qualified for the position you are seeking or seeking to retain?
Declaring that Millington residents need someone on the board with “new ideas and new visions,” Stephens said he would like the chance to be that “change.”
As a retired Army officer who is familiar with the “quality of life” in many other countries, Caruthers said that gives him a “unique perspective” to analyze issues in Millington.
While also noting that his various activities keep him “very much in touch” with the city’s residents, he said being an alderman for 12 years gives him the “experience and history” to best represent them.