Ford is building a manufacturing plant for its new electric cars just outside Mason, Tennessee, and with it comes good news for the 1300+ local property owners, nearly 60% of whom are black. A few years ago, Mason's city leadership took flight after a financial embezzlement fraud scandal, and the community has worked hard to rebuild under new leadership, also mostly black. This plant signals a new era of prosperity dawning, and so Tennessee Comptroller Jason Mumpower is demanding the city disband its charter and turn itself over to mostly white county management.
"This is our home. We were born and raised here. The majority of the town is homegrown people that live here," Vice Mayor Virginia Rivers said. "He is trying to conquer and divide us. It's akin to a hostile take-over and it's not hard to figure out why here, why now."
Town leaders are accusing Mumpower and other state officials of big-footing a long-ignored, largely Black community now that major investment is heading its way.
Mason is 60% Black and includes descendants of men, women and children enslaved in the area before Emancipation. For more than a century the town was led by White elected officials.
That changed in 2016, when fraud and mismanagement allegations led to the resignations of nearly all City Hall officials, all of whom were White. Mason's current mayor, vice mayor and five of its six alderman are Black.
"It's because of the Black people that are in office," said Rivers, who first became Vice Mayor in 2021.
"And it's because of all the places in the world, Blue Oval could have selected, they selected here. There's no way Mason won't prosper and grow. And now they want to take it away from us."
Mumpower flat out claims the folks responsible for restoring the town, the same leaders likely most responsible for bringing Ford to Mason, can't possibly manage this correctly and will cost the town the very opportunity they brought it.
According to Mumpower, Mason's leadership is ill-equipped to manage the challenges, and opportunities, ahead.
"Government isn't working for the people who live in Mason now and people and companies are not going to invest in Mason," Mumpower said.
"The opportunity for growth is at their doorstep and I don't want the people of Mason to lose that opportunity," he said. "They are about to be bypassed if their city leaders don't make responsible decisions."
Mumpower points to a 20-year history of fiscal mismanagement, including two major fraud investigations that resulted in criminal indictments. He also points to a history of financial accounting challenges that include town officials missing their annual audit deadlines each year since 2001.