With all the debate about whether MLGW should stay or leave TVA no one seems to recognize the fact that a very large percentage of MLGW rate payers have no say in the matter. The inconvenient truth about MLGW is that 300,000 citizens inside Shelby County have no representation whatsoever. Suburban Shelby County which makes up 30% of the population, actually comprises about 40% of MLGW revenues, and incidentally, is the only part of the county that is consistently growing. As a municipal owned utility, MLGW is constantly exposed to political maneuvering by elected officials within the City of Memphis who seem unaware, or indifferent, to the fact that decisions they make are felt well beyond their constituents. The fact that the most dynamic portion of Shelby County is at the mercy of Memphis politicians is concerning. Though Memphis has shown relative indifference toward its six suburbs, it’s fair to say that without their suburban customers, MLGW would be in a very difficult financial situation.

Is it just and ethical for a publicly owned utility to disallow up to 40% of its ratepayers to have representation in its decision making? Is it reasonable to anyone, that a ratepayer owned utility servicing nearly one million people allow 300,000 of its customers to be ignored?

As the Chambers of Commerce representing the six suburban municipalities of Shelby County, we feel that it is not only the right thing to do but imperative that an Energy Authority be established if this county is to grow and prosper. Currently, MLGW is hamstrung by politics and internal maneuverings that impede economic development and prevents effective planning for future growth.

The Memphis and Shelby County Airport Authority is an excellent example of government allowing a dedicated and focused Board of Directors (appointed by the City and County Executives and approved by the local legislators) to manage and oversee the growth and maintenance of one of the world’s busiest cargo airports. The airport Board has authority over the budget, oversees and plans for the long-range operation of the airport and selects its chief executive officer who in turn hires and manages the staff. In contrast, the management of MLGW must constantly appeal to the Memphis City Council for all expenditures exceeding $50,000. How on earth can a multimillion-dollar municipal utility (the 10th largest in the US*) operate effectively if it must seek approval from politicians on almost every daily expenditure?

Transforming MLGW into an Authority would be one of the greatest accomplishments that our elected officials could achieve in securing reliable and efficient utility services for generations to come. It would be as monumental as the creation of the Airport Authority. The ramifications would be enormous and beneficial for all Shelby County citizens. The Memphis-Shelby County Energy Authority would play a significant role in the county’s economic development program by ensuring that we maximize our economic potential for the region.

Creating an energy authority would not be a difficult task. Other municipalities have made the transition to an Authority. In fact, there are plenty of examples of successful municipal owned utilities that have evolved into effectively run Authorities. Jacksonville, Florida is just one example of many for consideration and review.

Now is the time for visionary and dedicated leaders of Shelby County to come together for the betterment of our greater community. The Memphis and Shelby County Energy Authority would be a catalyst for positive change in economic development and could provide a roadmap for our energy consumption needs for all citizens in the years to come.

CLICK HERE to read the story, “Why was Memphis’ water infrastructure in such bad shape? Politics didn’t help. By Samuel Hardiman, Memphis Commercial Appeal, Published Feb. 22, 2021.


“The mission of the Shelby County Chamber Alliance is to promote regional economic growth. To that end we pledge to do everything we can to make Shelby County a stronger and better place for all its citizens”.

*2019-Public-Power-Statistical-Report.pdf