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Meet the Candidate: District 7

July 17, 2012

CORRECTION:  Thanks to an alert reader for pointing out that our original posting included incorrect information that Rocky Point was part of the newly annexed Cordova neighborhoods.  We apologize for the error, corrected in this update.

Billy Orgel, current chairman of the interim Shelby County (Unified) School Board (USB), is running unopposed in District 7 for a two-year term.  He was appointed to the interim USB by the Shelby County Commission in October 2011 and elected chairman by unanimous vote of the other 22 USB members.

District 7 jigs and jags its way across east Memphis.  On its southern boundary, it skates just north of Poplar to Brookside, then generally follows the Wolf River.  District 7 includes the  newly-annexed South Cordova neighborhoods, along with Appling Farms and Carrollwood. The meandering northern boundary  extends up to Highway 64/Stage Road (except for when it doesn’t), and juts upward at its northwest corner past St. Elmo.    Go to www.myrepresentatives.com   and enter your street address if you are uncertain whether you reside in District 7.

Mr. Orgel is a Memphis native who attended Richland Elementary and Memphis University School. He is a 1985 graduate of the University of Texas at Austin. He expanded the Orgel family telecommunications business, Majestic Communications, and later founded Tower Ventures, one of the largest private cell phone tower companies in the U.S. His other  business interests include First Capital Bank in Germantown, which he helped to organize; historic preservation and development in downtown Memphis; and a Ruth’s Chris restaurant franchise in Rogers, Arkansas.

Mr. Orgel has been an active member of Temple Israel, previously serving on the board of trustees and co-chairing a $25 million capital campaign. He is currently on the boards of the National Civil Rights Museum, Lebonheur Foundation,  and the Memphis chapter of the Society of Entrepreneurs. Past voluntary leadership positions include the board of Bridges, Inc., where he chaired the building committee for their new facility;  the New Memphis Arena Public Building Authority that oversaw the construction of the FedEx Forum; the executive board of the  Port Commission for Memphis and Shelby County; and the Memphis and Shelby County Charter Commission. Memphis Business Journal named Mr. Orgel to the  “Top 40 Under 40” in 1999..

He and his wife Robin have three children who attended Memphis City Schools: Benjamin (19), Megan (16), and Hannah (12).  Hannah is currently a student at White Station Middle School.

Billy Orgel in AM 640 Studio

Mr. Orgel appeared on the  March 23, 2013   broadcast of Friday Viewpoint with Eddie Settles.  Click below to listen to their discussion about the issues facing the 23-member interim unified school board.

03-23-12 Friday Viewpoint with Eddie Settles

Q & A WITH BILLY ORGEL

After his March interview with Eddie and me, Billy Orgel generously offered to answer questions from Back in River City readers. Here is one that I am very late in posting. (I apologize for that. Been busy on the Voters Guide, which is not an adequate excuse, but the only one I’ve got.)

From Kwan:

Yes, I have a question for Mr. Orgel. What was the subject matter and the positions of those involved that led to and was part of the “very heated discussion” which you have said you had in December with City Schools Superintendent Kriner Cash in his office which led to the discussions of a possible buyout of his contract? When the superintendent of a district and the Chairman of the School Board engage in such consequential discussions, it is only appropriate that as many details as possible be shared with the public and I hope Mr. Orgel will do so.

Thank you.

Mr. Orgel’s response (which was very prompt, btw, received same day I sent question):

We meet before all board meetings to go over agendas for upcoming meetings. That involves Superintendents, attorneys and the Chiefs of Staffs and Board Chair. No other Board members are ever present so those meetings are not subject to open meetings laws. Furthermore, nothing can really be decided (in those meetings) for none of those present, other than the Chair, has a vote on the Board. We conduct our business and meetings as a board in public, so we are very open and transparent.

Sincerely,

Billy Orgel

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