This month the DNA heard from Shelby County Trustee, David Lenoir. As Trustee, Lenoir is essentially the County's banker and tax collector.
Lenoir is a lifelong Memphian. After a 20-year career in financial services, he was elected to Shelby County Trustee in 2010. He was reelected in 2014, and this year, named Tennessee Trustee of the Year. With the award, Lenoir received recognition for his success increasing delinquent tax collections, for meeting or exceeding efficiency goals instituted under his leadership, and for his community outreach initiatives.
Lenoir spoke to the DNA of his commitment to the financial health of the community and to wealth creation through jobs and financial education. The root cause of tax delinquency and financial troubles is often lack of financial literacy. Since taking office Lenoir has launched and grown strong initiatives and community programs centered around financial literacy and access to traditional banks.
Each year thousands of Shelby County home owners face the possibility of losing their property due to unpaid taxes. Project HOME, for instance, is a program that provides financial counseling workshops to those at risk and establishes payment plans that decrease the risk of taxpayer properties being sold in a tax sale. In 2014, Lenoir accepted the Pinnacle Achievement Award from the National Association of State Treasurers for the proactive financial literacy outreach led by his office.
Another challenge Lenoir discussed was that too many county residents lack access to banks and credit unions, so Lenior has leveraged his role to expand access to financial institutions for those in need. Various programs of the Trustee's Office have helped thousands of low and moderate income residents open a checking or savings account, which is the beginning to saving, investing and eventually, financial stability. Bank On Memphis, for instance, is a program designed to serve the "unbanked households" in Memphis through its network of local banks, credit unions and public service organizations. Its goals are to help individuals open and maintain stable bank accounts and to increase financial education.
As the county’s banker, Lenoir has also worked to put delinquent properties back on the tax rolls and increase tax collections. Blighted properties should be concerning to all taxpayers according to Lenoir. They represent money lost in unpaid taxes, they drag down the value of healthy properties in a community, and taxpayer dollars are spent on addressing blighted properties when they could be used for other purposes. Since taking office, Lenoir has helped to reduce the number of vacant and abandoned properties by putting pressure on tax-delinquent owners and sending properties into tax sale to a new responsible owner.
A big DNA thanks to David Lenoir for filling in as our May DNA speaker, and for giving us a window into his world as the County's tax collector. You can learn more about Lenoir's work and the Office of the Shelby County Trustee here.