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Mayoral candidate Willie Herenton shakes hands with an attendee at the barbecue for the International Brotherhood of Electric Workers 1289 Station Sept. 7.

Willie Herenton has been a presence in Memphis since the famous sanitation strikes of 1968. He has served five terms as the mayor of Memphis and seeks to be elected again on Oct. 3.

Herenton won his first mayoral election in 1991 and became the first black man in Memphis history to do so. Even though nearly 18 years have passed since his first term, he said some problems the city faced in the past remain today, inspiring his running in 2019.

“I ran in 1991 for many of the same reasons I am running for Mayor today,” Herenton said in a press release. “Our streets are not safe, our people are suffering, and those in office have forgotten where their power comes from, the People.”

The charter schools opened by Herenton are facing closure, and he credits false testing data for their failure. Just as in his prior campaigns, reducing violent crime is among the candidate’s priorities.

“We support increasing the number of police officers, but it is imperative that we have highly qualified applicants that can be attracted to Memphis,” Herenton said.

More than 500 police officers have been let go since Jim Strickland took office according to data provided by Memphis Police Association. Strickland has since added around 450 officers, and used that misleading number in his latest television ad according to Herenton’s team.

Herenton said that crime needs to be fought urgently in Memphis. He also said that he is open to searching the nation for a qualified individual to help reduce crime.

“We will layout a platform that will address some of the root causes of crime,” Herenton said. “We will utilize crime fighting strategies that will effectively reduce crime in our city.”

Another one of his prior successes according to a Herenton press release is his responsibility for bringing the Memphis Grizzlies and Memphis Redbirds to the city. The two sports teams have both helped improve the local economy and helped revitalize the downtown area.

Herenton provides experience within civil rights, education and political leadership. But he has also been a controversial figure over the years.

“I have the passion, drive and commitment to help solve and address our city’s most pressing problems,” Herenton said. “I am committed to implementing solutions that prepare the next generation of leaders — a necessity for a successful city to thrive.”

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