Memphis Public Works director to retire, early voting set to begin | The Week in Politics (2024)

Brooke MuckermanMemphis Commercial Appeal

Robert Knecht, the director of public works for the city of Memphis, announced his retirement on June 28. He has been with the city for 23 years and is now leaving for a job in the private sector.

Knecht was appointed to the position by former Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland and reappointed to the post by Mayor Paul Young.

Knecht said he has been approached off and on over the years but said this time it was an offer was a "great opportunity, and I just needed to accept it."

"I also had a plan in terms of, you know, how I wanted to make sure where the division was, and from the timing of any transition... I needed to make sure we got through the budget for the mayor and get the budget approved. So there, there's just several factors, but some something came along," Knecht said.

During Knecht's time with the city, the department has taken charge on fixing blight in the community and made strides in the sustainability realm.

"We're making investments in solar energy, we're working on this grey water, this water reuse project to reduce the impacts on the aquifer, I think those are things I'm very proud of that I've been able to help move in that in the right direction, or to have a direct involvement in their creation and their ongoing operations," Knecht said.

Knecht came up with the idea of "Environmental Enforcement," which works to combat illegal dumping, as well as using commercial code enforcement to make an impact on blighted commercial properties.

Knecht said he is most proud of what his team has been able to accomplish together during his 23 years with the city.

"I'm proud of the division overall because I think we have made huge strides (in) so many things... because we've done a lot of major things address blight, with our roadway conditions, we made some really smart investments to our street maintenance, our roadway network," Knecht said. "And then our enterprise funds, the sewer and stormwater funds, we have these great programs underway that are going to help establish the future of the city so those utilities can serve the city's growth."

The biggest obstacle for the department over the years has been budgetary constraints, Knecht said, in addition to the low pay for many of the workers in the department. The Memphis City Council recently passed the 2025 budget which includes salary increases for all city workers.

Knecht's last day will be July 26, and he said he is committed to making the transition for the next director smooth over the final weeks. While the decision for the next director is up to the mayor, Knecht said he has offered his support and help.

"I've be involved up until the 26th...I would love to be involved and help facilitate that...but it is ultimately the mayor's decision." Knecht said.

Early voting to begin July 12

Early voting for the Aug. 1 primary and county-wide general election will start July 12 and run through July 27.

The general election for theShelby County General Sessions Court Clerkand elections forfive Memphis-Shelby County Schools board seatswill be held during this election, in addition to party primaries for federal and state races.

For court clerk, Tami Sawyer, a former Shelby County Commission member and Memphis mayoral candidate, is the Democratic candidate and Lisa Arnold will be the Republican candidate. Twenty-one people are running for the five school board seats, including four incumbents.

Local news: MPD assistant chief is Georgia resident, vaccine supervisor's appeal denied

More: Memphis-Shelby County Schools veteran Lori Phillips will oversee office of partnerships

MAS without full-time vet

There are currently no full-time veterinarians on staff at Memphis Animal Services, according to multiple rescuers and current and previous staff members. The city said that part-time vets have been used by the shelter since June 1.

The city of Memphis confirmed this but said a part-time vet was set to begin work at the shelter. Recruitment for a full-time placement has begun, according to the city. Last week, the city said there was an interim vet at the shelter in addition to multiple part-time contract vets coming in four days a week.

This comes after a turbulent week for the shelter, with a dog dying in its care likely from heat, and DirectorTy Coleman being placed on leavepending an “investigation." The city has not said exactly what the scope or focus of that investigation will be.

Coleman was appointed director of Memphis Animal Services in January, after serving as interim director since September 2023. He succeededAlexis Pugh, who was credited with making significant improvements at the shelter.

Coleman was appointed as interim director by Strickland, andYoung reappointed himto the position. The appointmentwas approved by the Memphis City Council.

"I'm impressed," Councilman J.B. Smileysaid in January, "and it takes a lot to impress me."

Catch up on the week

  • Memphis Caldwell-Guthrie school could stay open, become a STEAM school
  • Biden tells campaign he won't withdraw: 'No one's pushing me out'
  • Dog the Bounty Hunter joins search for DeSoto County escapee
  • Memphis suburban school districts TCAP test scores results released
  • What does immunity mean? What Trump v. United States ruling means
  • Tractor Supply controversy: Why are people mad? TN company backtracks

Got a question for us?

Got a question for the metro reporting team you would like us to take on?

Send an email to or email reporter Brooke Muckerman at

The week ahead

Memphis City Council will also meet for both committee and full council meetings on Tuesday, July 9 starting at 8:30 a.m. Watch the livestream via theMemphis City Council YouTube Channel, or attend in person at 125 N. Main St., Room 514.

Memphis Public Works director to retire, early voting set to begin | The Week in Politics (2024)


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