The Tennessee Comptroller is seeking to take over Mason, a majority Black town, as reported by the Tennesee Lookout reports.
“In my opinion, it’s time for Mason to relinquish its charter,” Comptroller Jason Mumpower wrote in a letter mailed to all of the property owners of the town.
Mumpower has offered the residents an ultimatum: either city officials will rescind its charter, which would bring Mason under the authority of the Tipton County government – or the Comptroller’s office will take full financial control of the town.
He claims his goal is to convince the residents to “encourage your local officials to do what’s necessary to allow Mason to thrive. There is no time to waste.”
“We have not issued a letter to citizens like this before,” Comptroller spokesman John Dunn remarked, noting it is “unprecedented for us to publicly call for a town charter to be relinquished.”
The timing of the Comptroller’s plea has raised several questions because Mason, which is located in the southeastern corner of Tipton County, has become some of the most sought-after real estate in Tennessee. Blue Oval City, a subsidiary of the Ford Motor Company's multibillion-dollar electric vehicle manufacturing business is planning to house its operation in the area.
“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.”
Officials alleged that Mumpower along with other state officials have long neglected the Black town until Ford decided to bring their electric business near the town.
Mason, which is 60% Black and includes descendants of enslaved African Americans before Emancipation. Although the population has been majority Black, white elected officials have led the town for over a hundred years.
The political makeup of the town changed in 2016 when nearly all of the white City Hall officials resigned because of fraud and mismanagement allegations. Since then, Mason’s current mayor, vice-mayor, and five of its six aldermen are Black.
Rivers who became Vice Mayor in 2021 said, “It’s because of the Black people that are in office."
“And it’s because of all the places in the world, Blue Oval could have selected, they selected here,” he added. “There’s no way Mason won’t prosper and grow. And now they want to take it away from us.”
Mason is located just five miles from the future site of Blue Oval City, "Ford Motor Company’s 4,100-acre electric truck and battery plant, landed by state officials last year with nearly $1 billion in taxpayer incentives." According to estimations, the enterprise is expected to generate 27,000 new jobs and $22 million annually in state taxes after its launch in 2025 opening.
Mumpower believes that the leadership of Mason is not prepared to adequately handle to challenges that lie ahead.
“Government isn’t working for the people who live in Mason now and people and companies are not going to invest in Mason,” he said.
“The opportunity for growth is at their doorstep and I don’t want the people of Mason to lose that opportunity,” he continued. “They are about to be bypassed if their city leaders don’t make responsible decisions.”
At a public meeting, Gloria Sweetlove, president of the Tennessee State Conference NAACP offered to support the residents as they resist the takeover
“You are in a nice little spot, a sweet spot, and a lot of people want your land,” Sweetlove said. “If you need to fight, I will fight with you…Don’t sign away your charter. Keep your rights.”