By Thomas Sellers Jr.
The last time the general public heard from Chris Ford, it was about two years ago.
Ford had just wrapped up an unsuccessful Millington mayoral race, losing narrowly to Terry Jones in 2016. The longtime public servant humbly accepted his defeat and rededicated himself to his faith, family and job as a State Farm agent.
Fast forward to 2018, Ford is celebrating his 25th year with State Farm and his 18th year at his Millington State Farm Insurance Agency, located at 8590 Highway 51 North in front of the Shoppes of Millington Farms.
“I moved here April Fool’s Day 2000,” Ford recalled. “I came in and dropped the bags off. I met my parents Downtown to catch a Redbirds game that night. But I officially took over for Randy Brown on Aug. 1, 2000. That was my official start date. And I’ve been here ever since.
“May 24 was my 25th anniversary,” he continued. “I spent seven years in homeowner claims. So if it didn’t deal with the car, I did everything from boats, condominiums to the home. After seven years I transitioned over to this agency. I had a chance to take over in Millington. Being from the West Memphis/Memphis area, it was like coming home for me.”
Back in 2000, it was Chris, wife Amy and toddler Kendall. As the young family started to settle in Flag City another addition was on the way.
“When I moved here, my son (Preston), who is a senior in high school this year, wasn’t born,” Ford recalled. “My wife was seven months pregnant with him. He was born in June 2000. We came and hit the ground running. He’s 18 now and a senior. It’s all just flown by.”
Preston, a senior at Harding Academy, is a Millington native. He and his sister Kendall grew up watching their dad serve clients at State Farm and the residents of Millington.
“It has good people,” Ford said of Millington. “It had a lot of good potential in it. Once you get involved and start talking about the possibilities we have compared to other municipalities, it was somewhat of a diamond in the rough. It’s been fun to try to see it expand to what it could be.
“To get my name out there, I did it through volunteerism,” he added. “I gave back every way I could. I volunteered my time and services to do all of that. It’s been fun. It’s been exhausting at the same time. But anything worthwhile is worth working for. I made a lot of good friendships out here, a lot of genuine people. I like a small-town community. The older I get, the more I value that.”
The name Chris Ford has become a part of the Millington fabric for the past nearly 20 years. Ford was a member of the Millington YMCA Board of Directors for 2003-2015, and he served as its chairman for 2005-2006 and in 2010.
Ford is also a graduate of the Leadership Millington Class in 2004 and a member of the Millington Area Chamber of Commerce. He was elected to the Chamber’s Board of Directors in 2003, and he served as its president in 2006.
Ford is also a member of the Board of Trustees of Coker College, the Millington Industrial Development Board and the Rotary Club.
Then Ford was thrust into the political platform in 2007 when he took over the Position 6 Alderman spot for the late Jim Phillips. The Board of Mayor and Aldermen appointed Ford to serve the remainder of his unexpired term. The city’s voters elected him to a four-year term in 2008 and re-elected him in 2012.
With Ford on the board, Millington changed from a mayor-council to a manager-council form of government with the ratification of a new city charter in 2012, Ford’s fellow aldermen elected him vice mayor.
Ford has witnessed the growth of Millington literally around his office with the building of the Shoppes of Millington Farms. Ford said watching the city he loves undergo various changes has left him with mixed emotions.
“Millington still has a lot more potential in front of it,” he noted. “I still feel very strongly that we made the right decision on changing the form of government. I see that we have so much more to do. We have a lot of rental property. We have a lot outside ownership of properties. They don’t care as much about the properties as we do.
“I think it takes a great effort to hold everybody accountable,” Ford continued. “We hold each other accountable and we have to hold these outside entities accountable who want to own property in our city to upkeep, expand and try to fill.”
A couple of years removed from the public spotlight, Ford has embraced his chance to have more of impact on his business and personal life.
“You never say never,” he said about a political return. “But I’ll be honest, it’s not on my radar right now. I don’t have to be an elected official to be a servant. I’d never gone into something for the notoriety at all. I still sponsor things because I love the community and I love the kids. It’s been a great home for me. I’m not going anywhere. This is my home.
“I was extremely disappointed when you don’t get something and things don’t go your way,” Ford acknowledged. “But you keep going and you try to keep making a difference some other way. I’ve laid low because I threw so much of myself into the first 16 years I was here. I had a family to raise.”
Kendall is not a sophomore at her father’s alma mater, The University of Tennessee. Preston just wrapped up his first and only season of football for the Lions. The youngest Ford is now preparing for his senior season of baseball.
“I’m going to be an empty nester come this next August,” Chris said. “The next round of elections come up in two years. I don’t know what I will do. I’ll address that with my wife and see what exactly I want to do. I’m not a politician, I am a businessman.”
Business has been going well the past two years for Ford and he looks to continue to have that be a vital part of his service to others.
“I’ve been able to spend a lot more time in the last two years in my business more than I ever have,” he said. “I’ve been able to see my clients more often. I got to be able to put more names with faces. I’ve really enjoyed that.”
The man that desired to be a teacher and baseball coach coming out of college, said going into the family business of being a State Farm agent gave him the proper platform to impact others.
“I had State Farm on the radar,” he said. “I love dealing with people and teaching. I’ve got good people working with me. And it’s allowed me to volunteer some in the school system, some in the middle school on how to do proper interviews. Even talk to the kids about what they would possibly like to study.
“Giving back in some other ways that’s not necessarily in the limelight,” Ford concluded. “A lot people have asked me, ‘Where have you gone?’ Like I disappeared but it’s a fair question. I’m allowing the leaders to lead without me coming in and saying, ‘I think you’re doing it wrong.’ It’s not for me to say. We’ve all got opinions. I’m volunteering in different ways and trying to be here for my clients. I want to do the job I was hired to do.”
For more information on Chris Ford State Farm Insurance Agency, call (901) 872-4000.