Mayor of Memphis
by Sam Cicci
Approaching a year to the day that marked the beginning of his tenure as mayor of the City of Memphis, Jim Strickland isn’t resting on his laurels. While happy with the upward trajectory the community is taking, there is still plenty of work to do. Looking around his office, it’s quite clear that the mayor has a love for both the city and local politics.
Despite being born in Indiana, Strickland is now very much a Memphian. He graduated from Christian Brothers High School before receiving his bachelor’s and J.D. from the University of Memphis. That kickstarted a career in law, during which he opened a firm with David Kustoff (newly elected congressman for TN District 8), clerked for Justice William H.D. Fones of the Tennessee Supreme Court, and held the position of adjunct law professor at the U of M.
by Sam Cicci
As the president of Christian Brothers University, Dr. John Smarrelli has been expanding on tradition since he joined the school in July 2009. Smarrelli has the distinction of being the first permanent lay president at the college. Historically, only Lasallian Brothers had served in that capacity.
Currently in his eighth year, Smarrelli has been working on having the school branch out and engage more with the community than in the past. Students today are encouraged to seek out community service opportunities. In addition, the University’s “September of Service” program has students volunteer at an organization for a full month. That visibility in the larger community has Smarrelli leading by example. It could be said that the entire campus is his office. “It’s up to me to be a more interactive president and get out of this office. That’s really why I’m here,” he says. “I love to walk the campus and that’s where I interact best with our students. I’m at virtually every athletic event, but what I really enjoy doing is walking to the cafeteria at lunchtime, saying, ‘Hey, how’s it going?’”
Smarrelli’s student interaction isn’t limited to the physical campus, however. “We created this hashtag: #smarrelliselfie,” he says. “I’ll go around campus sometimes and a student will ask, ‘Can I get in a selfie with you?’ The more interesting part about that is they’ll tell me their story and what the issues are that they’re facing, whether it’s financial or academic.”
While maintaining a presence on campus is incredibly beneficial for the student body, Smarrelli does have his office ready to entertain guests, whether they be students, journalists, professors, board members, or potential donors. Trees that have been cut down on campus do not go to waste; one has been repurposed into a beautiful table right inside his doorway. The eight surrounding chairs make it the perfect place for a conference. Behind his desk are numerous mementos from his life, paying tribute to an education in science, a love of sports, and past meetings with famous individuals such as President Obama, the Dalai Lama, and former basketball star Bill Walton.
Click on the pictures below to read more about the items in Dr. Smarrelli's office
by Sam Cicci
Henry Turley, owner of the Henry Turley Company, doesn’t view his office as much of an office. “I’m not trying to convey anything, I just live here,” he says after being asked about the image his office wants to project. And on multiple levels, it’s true. The clutter, awards, newspaper clippings, and artwork are distinctly “Memphis” and representative of his large body of work in the city. His office, located at the top of the Cotton Exchange building, has a stellar view of Downtown. A balcony stretches around the perimeter of the building, which stands taller than most and lets Turley look out over some of the buildings he has renovated. At midday, the Bass Pro Shop several blocks down is lit up with reflecting sunlight.
As the head of a prominent Memphis real estate company, Turley spends most of his time between the office and his projects. The most recent, South Line at Central Station, was finished in early July and has been steadily moving in tenants. The apartment lies in the South End, next to other Turley properties South Junction, South Bluffs, and Lofts at South Bluffs. They are some of the newest additions to his several-decades-long goal of quality redevelopment. When he started out in the 1960s, Turley said he would have gone either into real estate or worked as a farmer. He chose the former and quickly set about looking for ways to improve the city. However, it took a few years before he was able to get his revitalization under way. “I was quite deliberate about getting into development simply because nobody was doing it downtown, the inner city, and I thought it needed to be done, but that wasn’t until 1977,” he says.
In the interim, it was very difficult to find people willing to help out with redevelopment. At that point, downtown projects had been abandoned to pursue developments out east. Turley was one of the few people committed to improving the area.
Redevelopment in downtown Memphis was an entirely new concept, but with some impressive designs, Turley sought outside help and went about creating what are now South Bluffs and Harbor Town, two downtown developments that allow tenants to have a larger sense of community.
For all the hardship, though, Turley wouldn’t have it any other way. Around his office are touches and furnishings that trace his life and work. Along with the surrounding city he’s worked so hard to improve, these make up his “home” in the heart of downtown Memphis.
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[Editor’s note: Henry Turley is a shareholder of Contemporary Media Inc., parent company of Inside Memphis Business.]
by Sam Cicci
The president’s office at the Blues Foundation, despite coming under new stewardship only a few months ago, already displays a passion for music and the blues. With big shoes to fill following last year’s departure of Jay Sieleman, Barbara Newman has stepped into her new role with aplomb. The organization, responsible for
crafting an extensive Hall of Fame with some of the most talented blues performers in history, is recognized as the world’s leading international blues organization with over 200 affiliates worldwide. Located on South Main Street, and with a recent renovation under its belt, the Blues Foundation is poised to continue its excellent work.
When she speaks on the organization, Newman is energetic and enthusiastic about her work, recalling recent names and performances that have left an impression. Quite a catalogue of notable artists is listed, and it’s clear she holds a deep appreciation for the blues.
Newman’s career, however, did not start in music. She earned a B.A. in political science from Brown University before adding advanced training in accounting, banking, and corporate finance to her repertoire while working at the New York-based National Westminster Bank. That job ended up creating her first professional music connection. “I had my first music industry client which I brought in, it was the Power Station, a very well-renowned recording studio back in the Eighties,” she says. “That was fun, I got to meet David Bowie and watch some recording sessions.”
As a native Memphian, she returned home and joined the nonprofit sector, serving on the Bornblum Solomon Schechter School board of directors as treasurer, vice president of administration and fundraising, and president. From 2007 onward, she served as executive director of Beth Sholom Synagogue, taking charge of financial administration, communications, human resources, and facility management. More recently, Newman has become engaged with board development, fundraising, and strategic planning for Planned Parenthood, Greater Memphis Region.
Despite a heavy workload, she has been able to keep up with her interest in music. “On the side, we have for about 15 years now produced concerts and fundraising events for nonprofits around the city,” she says. The financial and musical aspects of both sides of work prepared her to step into her role at the Blues Foundation.
Newman’s love for music, indicated by the possessions hanging around her office, stretches back to her childhood. As a 7th grader, she was treated to a performance by Blues Hall of Famer Furry Lewis and knew she’d witnessed something unique. “I was probably 11,” she says. “He came to my school with some other blues musicians and performed and explained to us the structure of blues music. We got to say hello, and you knew he was somebody special. The name meant something, the history was important, and he was pretty amazing, just sitting with his guitar and singing for us.”
The experience seems to have had a profound effect. Complementing her role as the Foundation’s president are memberships in both the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, and Folk Alliance International. It’s safe to say the organization is in a good set of musical hands.
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