Tennessee State Official Threatens To Seize Town Over Ford Investment

by TK Sanders

The state of Tennessee will take over the finances of a small town called Mason which neighbors the future site of Blue Oval City, a Ford electric truck and battery plant. According to the state’s Comptroller Jason Mumpower, the town of 1,500 requires emergency financial oversight ahead of Ford’s massive investment — one of the largest corporate investments in the state’s history.

At a glance

  • A small Tennessee town with a history of fiscal mismanagement will have to cede oversight to the state’s Comptroller office
  • The town’s leadership does not want to comply with the state’s demands
  • If the takeover is successful, the town must submit weekly financial records to ensure proper spending
  • The Tennessee town neighbors the new Blue Oval City Ford electric plant

“I’m sad for the taxpayers of Mason,” Mumpower said. “We will be working hard to step in and get their finances in shape.”

Mason’s elected officials have been fighting to maintain autonomy over their town since Mumpower issued an ultimatum last month: either cede control, or face a hostile takeover. Founders of Mason, a predominantly Black community, established the charter 153 years ago. Tipton County will inherit controlling interest of the town if the takeover continues as planned.

Mason Vice Mayor Virginia Rivers said the town’s Board of Aldermen passed a resolution to keep their charter in an emergency meeting. The vote triggered the takeover proceedings from the Comptroller’s office. Mumpower’s staff will likely finalize their takeover plans by the end of the week.

“This has always been a decision for the (Mason) Board of Aldermen to make,” Mumpower said.

The Comptroller’s office will assume veto power over every expense of $100 or more. It will also limit the authority of elected officials to spend money in many ways, including on infrastructure initiatives and local hiring. Budget cuts will likely soon follow, as well.

The small Tennessee town should benefit from the new Ford plant down the street

Mason officials point to Ford’s multi-billion dollar investment as the reason the state wants to take over the town.

The town, which occupies fewer than two square miles, lies less than five miles from the newly planned Interstate-40 off ramp that will filter traffic directly to Blue Oval City. Highway 79, which links Blue Oval to Memphis, runs right past Mason’s small central district. A railroad also runs directly through the town on a route that heads straight to the Blue Oval campus.

“There’s no way Mason won’t prosper and grow,” Rivers said. “And now they want to take it away from us.”

So then why does Mumpower want to assume control of the town? The Comptroller’s office points to a long history of mismanagement, embezzlement, and fiscal impunity that left the town in deep debt. The town also features some of the worst infrastructure in the area. Basically, Mason’s leadership cannot be trusted to handle the massive influx of money, according to Mumpower.

“Mason leaders are ill prepared to take advantage of growth and new investments to come with Blue Oval City,” Mumpower said.

Mumpower will also immediately review or eliminate discretionary spending. He will also require town officials to submit financial statements on a weekly basis.

“Every expense will have to be viewed or reviewed by the Comptroller,” Mumpower said.