About the Mayor
On September 1, 2018, Mayor Lee Harris was sworn in as the 6th Mayor of Shelby County, Tennessee. Mayor Harris was elected with 55% of the vote at the top of a ballot that marked historic wins for Democrats in Tennessee’s largest county. He was re-elected in 2022 with 58% of the vote.
As Mayor, Lee Harris serves as the chief elected official in Shelby County Government, one of the largest local governments in the South. Shelby County Government has over 5,000 employees, maintains a $1.6 billion operating budget, and serves over one million diverse residents.
During his tenure, Mayor Harris has led efforts to support families, improve public safety, and combat climate change. The Harris Administration has funded Pre-K education for all Shelby County families, established paid family leave for employees, enacted a new local law requiring that all County employees make a living wage, passed bold policy to combat climate change and phase out fossil-fueled fleet vehicles, supported youth with the 901 Student Passport, an initiative that makes museums and other cultural assets free to local students, and introduced innovative justice reforms, like Ban the Box, Work to Break the Cycle, and limits on the transfer of military equipment to local law enforcement agencies.
Early in his second term, Mayor Harris won approval for the financing of two new high schools to be constructed in Memphis, the first time any new high school has been built in Memphis in over a decade. He also led the campaign to rebuild Regional One, the only public hospital in West Tennessee. Once finished, the construction will cost between $750 million and $1 billion and it will represent one of the largest local infrastructure investments in Shelby County’s history.
Prior to his service as County Mayor, Mayor Harris served on the Memphis City Council and as Senate Minority Leader of the Tennessee General Assembly. As a Councilman, Mayor Harris was a staunch advocate for residents and Memphis’ urban core. He successfully led the fight for a new citywide non-discrimination ordinance, improved citizen engagement in advance of development projects, and worked to preserve and revitalize historic neighborhoods.
In 2014, Mayor Harris was elected to the State Senate, becoming the youngest senator in the state of Tennessee at the time. When he was selected as Senate Minority Leader by his Democratic colleagues, he became the first African American to hold a top leadership position in the Tennessee General Assembly. Among his legislative accomplishments, he championed new laws to reform the criminal justice system, helped create a system to ensure immediate public notification if lead is found in drinking water, and worked to expand community college scholarships for students with learning disabilities.
Mayor Harris is a proud product of Memphis’ public schools. He attended Morehouse College on a full tuition scholarship. After graduating from Morehouse, Mayor Harris earned his law degree from Yale Law School. He began his legal career as an associate at Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz, one of the largest law firms in the country.
Mayor Harris’ passion for education led him to join the faculty of the University of Memphis Cecil C. Humphrey School of Law in 2005. He was a professor at the University of Memphis for 14 years, becoming the first African American tenured full professor of law in the school’s history. During his tenure, he was honored as the inaugural holder of the Federal Express Professorship in Law, awarded several prizes for research, became a published author, and earned a reputation as an expert on contracts, consumer law, and corporate law.
Mayor Lee Harris has won numerous awards because of his work in politics and government, including selection as an Aspen-Rodel Fellow, Henry Toll Fellow, and New Deal Leader.