15. Memphis, Tennessee
Mayor: Jim Strickland
First elected: 2015
City population: 649,243 (ranks as 28th-largest U.S. city in 2018, according to World Population Review.)
Strickland, a Democrat who was sworn in in 2016, challenged the establishment and promoted his forward-looking vision for Memphis in December 2017 by directing the removal of two statues of Confederate leaders (Jefferson Davis and Nathan Bedford Forrest). Previous requests to take the statues located in city parks down had been foiled by a state law that required a two-thirds majority vote of the Tennessee Historical Commission, a group that the Memphis Commercial Appeal describes as “heavily stacked with Confederate history buffs and apologists.”
The City Council came up with a legal work-around: It approved the sale of the two parks to a privately funded nonprofit. As owner of the sites, the nonprofit was permitted to remove the statues — which it did, hours later.
“The statues no longer represent who we are as a modern, diverse city with momentum,” Strickland said at a press conference.
According to Strickland’s official website:
Mayor Strickland’s vision is to reverse population loss through a strategy that reinvests in Memphis’ core and its neighborhoods — changing a long-held view that Memphis should grow outward.