2-Minute Tuesday – Maureen Fraser

Welcome to another installment of Tour Collierville’s 2-Minute Tuesday! This week, Keith sits down with  Maureen Fraser to talk about Collierville’s growth.

Watch the video here, or read the transcript below.

Maureen Fraser Video Transcript

Keith: Hi, I’m Keith with Tour Collierville, and I’m here today with Maureen Fraser.  She is a Town Alderman and Vice Mayor, and she’s joining us today for our 2-Minute Tuesday.  So welcome Maureen.

Maureen: Thank you!  Thanks for having me. I’ve been looking forward to having a spot on 2-Minute Tuesday.  It’s very popular on the Facebook profile and everyone’s looking for it.  So hopefully I won’t disappoint.

KE: No, that’s awesome.  I’m glad that it’s picking up some momentum.  We have a lot of fun with it, and I really appreciate you being here.

MF: You do a great job, thank you.

KE: Thank you.  So I think the best place to start, probably, is just…  Tell our viewers a little bit about you personally and how you how you came to Collierville.

MF: Okay.  I am currently An Alderman and Vice Mayor for the Town of Collierville.  [I] moved to Collierville in 1995, so I have been here quite some time.  [I] moved from the Atlanta area, grew up…  Most of my adult growing up years was in Fort Wayne Indiana.  So yes, some people refer to me as the Yankee. (laughs)  I moved south as fast as I could after college.  I graduated from Purdue and then really moved around with my husband’s job.  My degree was in hotel and restaurant management, and so I could pretty much work anywhere.  We came to Memphis—my husband was in the cotton business and fortunately we settled in Collierville.  There were… We looked and looked and looked and fell in love with the Town Square all the parks and amenities…  So we moved to Collierville.  [We] came with one child; quickly had two more.  So now they’re all grown adults.  No one is still living at home.

KE: (laughs) How’s that?

MF: You know, it’s…  It’s interesting.  I’m not home much, so…  But it is interesting and hopefully someday they’ll move back to the area.

KE: So they’re not in Collierville.

MF: No.  One’s in school, one’s in South Carolina, and my middle son has a place in Midtown and is working out in Cordova.  So he’s close.

KE:  Yeah gotcha.  My son’s in Midtown, too.  We try to get some of them to Collierville but they like that Midtown area.

MF: Typically when he starts having, you know, is married and has a family, that’s when he’ll want to come here.  That’s kind of a trend is the families.

KE: So when you first came to Collierville, when you first moved here, did you work in hospitality in Memphis?

MF: No. I didn’t, no.  And I was a busy stay-at-home mom that was never home, got involved with my kids and everything they were doing with PTA and soccer and Girl Scouts and started getting more and more involved in the community.  I was PTA President at Collierville Elementary School, and the more I learned about the community, the more I wanted to get involved.  You kind of get that that bug inside of you.  And then back in 2003, I had this crazy idea, and I ran for office.  I’m not into political science.  I did not have that background.  It was not something that’s…  There’s people now that say, “Oh I want to get into politics,” but that was furthest from my mind.  I just saw that the more I got involved, the more I felt like I could do a good job for Collierville.

MF: So I had a lot of people, “Maureen I’ll help you I’ll help you!”  And I’m like, okay, and then it came down for the election, it’s like, Where are you? (both laugh)  No idea what I was doing.  And so I was elected in 2003, and I have been fortunate enough to serve for 15 years.

KE: Awesome.  Well, it had to be different in 2003 and especially in 1995.  Collierville is a different place there and through this time that you’ve been here that’s a… quite a lot.

MF: It is.  It’s a lot different.  Sometimes, for me it’s hard.  I’m so busy with the family that it was hard to remember what it was like.  But I know there was a Winchester Curve and there was no Target or Schnucks. I mean we had a Schnucks for short time…

KE: I remember.

MF: And the only reason really we went into Germantown was to go to the Target because Collierville didn’t have theirs.  So yeah, things have changed.  We still try to keep that small-town.  We’re still the Town of Collierville.  We’re not the City.  Our Charter says that we will be the Town of Collierville, so we try to do our best to keep it as the small-town feel.

KE: Yeah that was one of the things, when I had John Duncan on our 2-Minute, and I introduced it as the City, and he said, “The Town.”  You know, they’re big on the Town, and I like that.  It’s…  But it is I guess the biggest difference, I think, from then to now is growth.  And it seems to me that we’re still growing and everything.  That’s kind of a lot of our people that we found on 2-Minutes have talked about that and a lot of our viewers are interested in the growth.  What do you what do you think about…  Are we going to still keep growing?

MF: We are.  We have about 50 square miles in this town limits and we’re about 60 percent built out, so there is plenty of room for growth.  Our job as elected officials and future elected officials is to manage that growth and make sure that the right businesses are coming in and the businesses that the citizens of Collierville want to have come in.  Because of our growth and the room for growth, we can keep our tax rate as low as we possibly can.  So, you know, Germantown is landlocked, so most of their taxes are based on their property taxes for residential property, where Collierville, we have a good diversity of industry and retail.  So with that, we try to keep our residential taxes as low as we possibly can

KE: Gotcha.  So I hadn’t heard that statistic about how much room that we had to grow, and you mentioned bringing in the right type of businesses and helping to ensure that that happens.  What does that process look like?  How do you determine a right business?

MF: Well, we have, in our ordinances—and we have a book of ordinances, it’s about that thick—and that’s pretty much our role as the Aldermen is the rules and making sure things are compliant with the rules.  But there are certain businesses that will never come into Collierville.  You will never see a pawnshop.  You will never see what they call…  You can’t have anything that you’re going to have alcohol with dancing.  That’s not allowed in Collierville.  So some people say they’re antiquated, but in a way, that’s what defines Collierville.

KE: That’s interesting.  So—and you say that the role as an Alderman is to make sure that those rules are complied with—so that that gives me, kind of, the next question.  What does an Alderman do? I mean for a lay person like me, I mean, I hear the name, I know what they do like aldermen in a church, but for a town, what are you guys doing?

MF: I would probably say 90% of the population has no idea what an alderman is.  That used to be the 80/20 rule, now I call it the 90/10 rule.  We are basically the City Council, and in our community, in our charter, we’re called alderman.  Even though I’m a woman, it’s an alderman.  We are all at-large, so we represent all the citizens of Collierville and all the taxpayers.  So if you live in Estanaula, you can still call Maureen if you need something.  If you live in Hallie Plantation, you can call whichever Alderman that you choose to communicate with.  But we work for the citizens of Collierville, and we have what we call a weak mayor and board set up.  So that what that means is we have a full-time town administrator, who’s James Llewellyn, and then there’s six elected officials: the mayor and five aldermen.  And we all have one equal vote when it comes to making decisions.  So really, we work mostly behind the scenes.  You know a lot of times the mayor is at events, and if I can go, I go, but as an alderman, we pretty much support the mayor and they all of the Town’s employees.

KE: Okay, and so, how many aldermen are there?

MF: There are five aldermen.

KE: Does that grow as the Town grows?

MF: No.  We have not added any positions to the Board of Mayor Aldermen.  It has been that way since the very beginning of Collierville.  We have had some people that want us to add another seat, but we really don’t do districts in it…  We’ve talked about districts, but the problem when you have districts is that everyone’s fighting for their piece of the pie—where, you know, if you live in Estanaula and you’re going to get your streets repaved, well then those people in Rosewood are going to want to get their streets repaved.  So we all work—hopefully we try to all work together for a common goal for the best we can do for Collierville.

KE: Okay and you all do essentially the same thing?  Or do you have specialties?

MF: You know, we all do the same thing and we all…  It’s a considered a part-time position.  Most of us have our own business that we do on the side because we don’t…  You don’t do it for the money at all.  You do it for the service.  So most of us…  Like, Alderman Allan is retired, otherwise all of us have a business that we work in.  We have work sessions to work on the budget.  We have board meetings the second and fourth Monday of each month.  And then in January—or December actually—we all have…  We are liaisons to other boards.  So for instance, John Worley works on the Planning Commission, so he will attend all the Planning Commission meetings.

MF: Myself, I’ve worked on the Parks Advisory Board as well as Arts Council, so I have two.  They kind of go hand in hand, but it’s two separate meetings each month, and then there’s a liaison to the library board and the Design Review Commission.  And then not too long ago, we started a Tourism Commission, and so we have a liaison to the Tourism Commission.  So we all have another role that we play.  Mayor has consistently been on our Pension Board, so this fall will be coming out with applications for citizens to apply to be on the boards and commissions, and that’s a great way to get involved.  That’s a great way to get your foot, like I said, get your foot in the door to see kind of how the government runs and operates but see where you can give back.

KE: Yeah awesome.  So not necessarily as you become an alderman and you don’t really have specialty you’re assigned, but when you start becoming a liaison, then that kind of focuses you.  That’s kind of what you’re saying?

MF: That’s correct.

KE: Gotcha.  Okay, and so how much…  You say part time, but it’s got to be time consuming.  How much time does it take to be an alderman?

MF: It really varies.  It really varies.  We are not in a budget session right now.  Our budget was adopted the 1st of July, but we start in January, and this past year it was tough.  It was really tough, because we scrutinize every item in our budget.  Every department makes a presentation, and that includes Public Works, to Parks and Recreation, the police, the fire so…  Because we all have our own business, our schedule’s pretty flexible.  So we had set aside Tuesday afternoons from 2:00 until we’re finished.  Usually it’s around 4:30 – 5 o’clock, from January until July.  And then we would add some additional probably Tuesdays, and that’s over and above our normal meeting time.

MF: It’s, you know, we want to make sure that we’re looking at every penny of our tax rate to see what we need and where it’s needed and then to try to find a balance.  And then when you have…  We have all the presentations, and then we go back and look: “Okay, what do we need to do and how are we going to pay for this?”  You know?  The fire department may need a new truck, and the police department wants more police officers, and the citizens want more police officers.  And how do you make that work within your budget and still pick up the trash and sweet the sweeth… I can’t say it… sweep the streets and do everything else that you’re supposed… that we are supposed to do?

KE: And try not to raise taxes?

MF: And try not to raise taxes, but if you do, raising them as minimal as you need to get up just enough.  And we try, as a group of six elected officials, to come to a consensus on what we’re going… on what we need before we present it to the public, so we don’t have someone out there saying, “Oh, we don’t need to raise taxes,” and then you have Maureen out there saying we need to raise taxes, and then somebody else is saying, “Oh we need to go up a dollar.” You know, we try to get it all worked out so we’re all in consensus when it comes time for a vote.

KE: So when you vote, most of the time it’s you have a consensus because you’ve worked it out ahead of time or?

MF: Not always, no.  It doesn’t work that way.  But we all have different backgrounds, and we all have different interests and we all…  So it’s kind of, it’s interesting how we can all work together.  There is an election coming up, and there could be two new aldermen and so it’s going to change the dynamics again.

KE: Sure.

MF: So every two years, there is an election, and that changed back in 2003.  Up until 2003, there were elections for Collierville every four years.  So in 2003 after I was elected, the Charter had been amended, so we went into staggered terms.  So now, that’s why I say 15 years.  I don’t quite have an even number because I had a short straw, so I had to run again sooner than typical.

KE: So if there’s six, then you’re saying you’re staggered every two years.

MF: Every two years.

KE: So you got a six year term?

MF: You have a four year term for your time, but this fall…

KE: I’m that great with math. (laughs)

MF: That’s okay.  This fall, November 6, there’s three alderman positions that are open and then in two, years it’ll be the mayor and two aldermen positions.  So every two years you could have three new members.  It’s kind of confusing

KE: Yeah, but if it works.

MF: With elections every two years, then you have one year to get a lot of things done and then one year you’re focusing on a campaign, on election.

KE: Right.  Yeah, yeah.

MF: It’s fun.

KE: It’s a world…  It may be fun for you; it’s a world I couldn’t imagine.

MF: Well I still sometimes wonder, How in the world did I get into this?  How did I…  And you know, you have those moments when you’re like, Why in the world am I doing this? and then when you have the opening of the new Collierville High School, then you’re like, Oh my gosh, this is so awesome! I mean, I still get tears in my eyes thinking about it.  That is just so awesome down there.  And to say that you’ve had a little part in it, that’s what kind of makes it worthwhile.

KE: Yeah, that’s awesome.  It’s awesome.  So is that…

MF: I’m getting emotional.

KE: No, no… is that… so that’s I was going to ask you.  What are some of, you think, the biggest accomplishments that you’ve had or things that you’ve worked on?  Is the school—

MF: The school and forming of the school district.  And you know Collierville could not have done it without the help of Mark Norris and the folks in Nashville.  We…  Everything is booming in Collierville, and it’s the focus is because of the school.  And it’s not just the high school but having room and capacity, having six elementary schools and two middle schools.  And, you know, I kind of have a hard time saying no sometimes, and I volunteered to be on the rezoning committee.  I called Mr. Atkins, and I said, “Hey if you need somebody, I’d love to serve,” and he’s like, “Are you out of your mind?”  And I was thinking after I got into it, I’m like, Oh my gosh, but it’s…

MF: To know that you have a background that you can help provide some input to help make better decisions…  But I did not volunteer for the school start time committee!

KE: I think you’ve got enough.

MF: I do have enough.  I do have enough, yes.

KE: So other than the school, is there anything that that you’d like to talk about that you guys have accomplished recently that is… that’s something that you really feel proud of?

MF: We have worked really hard to maintain our triple-a bond rating, which a lot of the citizens wouldn’t have any idea what that is, but that helps us.  If we need to borrow money, we get it a very low cost.  And interest rates are low, and it says a lot for the State of Tennessee that we have—we always have to have—a balanced budget.  But to have that bond rating is very good.  We continue to increase our paving budget every year as much as we possibly can.  Nobody likes potholes, and if we have a rough winter, then we have to… we put as much money as we can in paving.

MF: Since the last, probably, five years, we’ve hired an Economic Development Director, which is John Duncan, and he’s been incredible in his role.  We also have a…  We’ve gotten taken over the Mort Museum. That was a gift, but it needed to be totally renovated.  And some people will say it was an expensive gift, but to have a museum of Collierville history?  That’s a feather in our cap.  We have the tourism division now with Ashley and Jennifer that is helping and…  We kind of talked about that for several years and we just didn’t have it in the budget, but the goal for that—and I think they’re doing an excellent job—is to keep everyone working together so we’re not all in fiefdom.  So you have the Collierville Library, they do all these wonderful events.  You have the Mort Museum doing events.  You have Main Street Collierville doing events.  Parks and Rec doing all these wonderful things.  So let’s all work together so we can have bigger and better events and everybody on the same page.  So that’s something new that has happened.

MF: We’ve opened the Linda Curley Center in the gymnasium.  The front part of the gymnasium, it’s a senior citizen center, but anybody really can go and attend.  We’re both still young enough that there would be activities for us.  That was an accomplishment.  Working on renovating the historic high school for the admin building, that’s still an ongoing process.

KE: Right.  So you guys have a lot.

MF: We opened Hinton Park.  That took many, many years.

KE: Yeah that’s awesome.  I work there sometimes.

MF: Oh yeah?

KE: Yeah, I just go there and sit outside and just work.  I love it.

MF: It’s kind of like you’re in a different… a different place.

KE: It is, yeah.  Yeah.

MF: So yeah.  Lots of positives in Collierville.

KE: Yeah.  Awesome, yeah.  So is there anything that you want to tell our viewers about?  Are there…  We always ask: Is there anything that you know about that we don’t know about?  Is there anything you could give us any scoop?  Anything happening?

MF: I don’t know if there’s anything I can share today.  Just, you know, my whole philosophy.  And I would love all the viewers to know that if you give back to Collierville, you get so much back in return.  So get involved, even if it’s, you know with or through your homeowners association.  Try to give back, and the more you do, the more you’re going to get that bug to get more involved.

KE: Absolutely.  I felt it firsthand.  And that’s kind of what makes it a Town

MF: It is.

KE: The more involvement that you get, the more that you’re in the community.

MF: Yes, and you never know who’s related.  You know, I’m a Yankee from the north, and I still…  Like, and you know I’m careful, because you never know who’s related.  Because there’s a lot of, you know, people that know each other through this and that, and, um, I don’t know about all that.

KE: Yes!  I’m learning it myself.  Yeah that’s good.  Well, we appreciate you coming in and appreciate all you do for the Town, absolutely.

MF: Thank you. I appreciate it, and I do love Collierville, so hopefully I’ll continue to give back as much as long as I can.

KE: That’s awesome.  Thank you.

MF: Thank you.