Storm response, water crisis cause some to question mayor’s public absence

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — FOX13 is taking a look at the response to a snowstorm that dumped several inches of snow, broke water pipes, and triggered a system-wide boil water advisory from MLGW after many viewers have reached out to voice their frustration about the water crisis.

As a historic storm blanketed the Mid-South with frigid cold and record snow, Memphians struggled to get to work. Additionally, pipes burst and a boil water advisory went into effect.

RELATED: MLGW says water situation moved from an emergency to a stable recovery

Tuesday, Strickland held his first public availability in weeks. A defiant mayor defended the response by the public works division, an extension of his administration.

“We got eight inches of snow over one week,” Strickland said to the press assembled virtually during his avail.

Indeed, the level of the storm was historic, dumping quantities of snow older Memphians will not recall seeing in their lifetime.

But when asked why the mayor has not been seen publicly while Memphians dealt with the fallout of a historic storm, Strickland fired back.

RELATED: City Council approves resolution requiring car washes to close during MLGW water crisis

“I’ve been in Memphis working every single day. We’ve communicated – press conferences are not the only way you communicate with the public,” he said.

A reporter asked for clarification. Strickland shot back in sarcasm.

“I’m sorry, your audio must not have worked there. I have communicated with the public,” Strickland said.

During his afternoon availability, Strickland said he communicated important messages to Memphians through email and on social media.

Shelby County Mayor Lee Harris was unseen as well. A spokesman for Harris did not respond to a request for comment.

A more forward-facing presence for both leaders could have gone a long way, said both city and county officials.

“The people of Memphis, the people of Shelby County, deserve to hear from leadership,” said Shelby County Commissioner Tami Sawyer. “Sometimes just checking in and saying ‘I’m going through this with you’ is important.”

This story has been corrected from a previous version that incorrectly stated that until 2/23 there had been nothing said publicly from the office of the Mayor Jim Strickland. On 2/19, the Mayor issued a statement found here.