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A C Wharton’s commitment to serving people in need is in many ways wrapped up in an overarching objective to strengthen opportunity for all.   This goal has defined his professional path of public service from his early career work with the EEOC in Washington and as Legal Services Director in Memphis to his recent efforts to address poverty through the Blueprint for Prosperity plan he advanced as City Mayor.


The following items underscore this resolve:


  • Developed Shelby County’s first infant mortality reduction plan, which has brought about significant reductions in the County’s infant mortality rate that for many years, was the worst in the United States;

  • Developed numerous programs to improve daycare in the county, including the “Ready! Set! Grow!” program which led to the national accreditation of over thirty daycare providers;

  • Developed a unique working relationship with the colleges and universities of the City of Memphis, known as the Colleges of Memphis, which focused on retaining highly sought after talent;

  • Created an Office of Human Capital and Talent Retention with the City of Memphis;

  • Co-founded the City of Memphis’s first ever coordinated Economic Development Office known as EDGE which has led to millions of dollars in industrial development and the creation of thousands of jobs;

  • Brought at least 10,000 jobs to the City within a six (6) year period, including Electrolux and Mitsubishi plants;





  • Rescued Shelby County’s troubled Head Start Program;

  • Solved Shelby County’s longstanding problems in the operation of its indigent care nursing home by arranging for private acquisition of the facility, which brought about vast improvements in patient care and physical plant conditions and operations; 

  • Laid the groundwork for removing Shelby County’s troubled jail from federal court supervision;

  • Instituted reforms which saved The Med (now known as Regional One), Shelby County’s general care hospital for indigents;

  • Created 100 miles of bike lanes and pathways, moving the City of Memphis from one of the worst for bikes to the most improved;

  • Guided City of Memphis to a successful resolution and settlement of lengthy litigation over the control of Beale Street, one of America’s most iconic streets and landmarks,


  • Reformed Shelby County’s Pension Plan and avoided financial troubles faced by many municipal pension plans;

  • Stabilized Shelby County’s finances by implementing and adhering to a debt reduction plan;

  • Raised taxes only once during his seven (7) years in office as Shelby County Mayor;

  • Increased Shelby County’s reserve from $33M to $75M (2002 – 2009);

  • Reformed the City of Memphis’s retiree healthcare program and pension plan, which greatly reduced the City’s unfunded liability and removed the City from a provider of retiree healthcare, thereby avoiding State sanctions and stabilizing the City’s municipal bond rating;



  • Created America’s largest urban park (4,000 acres) by converting what was once a penal farm into Shelby Farms Park which includes the county’s Greenline system, an abandoned railroad track;

  • Developed a unique and nationally famed program known as “Project Jericho” which provides for the humane treatment of mentally ill persons brought into the county’s criminal justice system;

  • Undertook the City of Memphis’s largest blight elimination program that resulted in the demolition of thousands of abandoned homes which resulted from the 2008 mortgage crisis; In this connection, he also created a 25 Square Block strategy which led to a comprehensive approach to the elimination of blight, as opposed to a call-by-call system;

  • Implemented the City of Memphis’s first 311 Call System for citizens to report concerns and issues;

  • Was successful in having the City of Memphis designated as a TechHire site by President Barack Obama;

  • The City of Memphis was designated  a “Strong City, Strong Community Neighborhood” by President Obama, thereby streamlining the processes through which the City could obtain much needed federal assistance;

  • Created a Performance Management Office which developed the City’s “ChoiceStat Program,” which sets metrics and Service Level Agreements for every Division;


  • Secured millions of dollars from national philanthropies for the purpose of core city economic development and gun violence reduction;

  • Won an IBM Smart Cities grant to assist the Memphis Fire Department in reducing inappropriate calls to 911 and medical transports;

  • Oversaw the development of numerous programs to help ex-offenders re-enter society, including a Prisoner Re-entry Program and a carpentry training which won national acclaim;

  • Improved school-readiness for students entering both public and private schools by adopting Dolly Parton’s “Books from Birth” program, which is now the largest in the United States with some 40,000 enrollees;


A Conversation with Memphis Mayor A C Wharton
Wharton an honorable, civil man in uncivil times
A Conversation with Memphis Mayor A C Wharton
"Wharton presided over some of the most significant changes in the Memphis landscape during his tenure. He didn't do this alone, but his administration deserves much of the credit for the developments and redevelopments that have not only made the city a more attractive place to live and work but have also boosted morale and instilled pride in the Bluff City."
"Mayor Wharton exits gracefully," Commercial Appeal December 27, 2015
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