May has been pretty much of a blur for Mary L. Bright. It's the month in which she received the Office of Contract Compliance (OCC) baton passed to her by a predecessor with a 12-year stamp on the position.
The OCC is known by many as the place for small, minority and women-owned businesses to go to obtain assistance in doing business with the City of Memphis. Carlee McCullough, Esq., who made the decision to retire on March 23 and start her own firm, McCullough Law, had run the office since 2000. She was the new face brought in to oversee the rebranding of the Office (and the programs) originally created in 1996.
Now it's up to Bright, a former assistant city attorney, to pick up where McCullough left off, overseeing the office that provides oversight to the Equal Business Opportunity (EBO) Program as well as the Small Business Enterprise (SBE) Program.
"While I have only been on the job for a brief moment, I am hesitant to come into the position and change a lot of things all at once," said Bright, a 2004 graduate of the Tennessee College of Law in Knoxville, and who received her B.A. in accounting from Tennessee State University in 1997.
"But just from my brief observation, I would like to work on increasing the number of certified vendors within our EBO and SBE programs, as well as identify areas where EBO and SBE vendors have been left out of the contracting process because no ready, willing and able vendor was there to do the job. I would like to see that there are ready, willing and able EBO and SBE vendors in all contracting opportunities."
McCullough, who was passionate about the subject matter, worked hard to raise the profile of the Office. Under her leadership, the Diversity Developer Incubator, which was a program designed to train minority and women in the area of real estate development, was created. In addition, outreach efforts in the community were expanded, a new Disparity Study was completed and the diversity numbers are now around 30 percent
Bright takes over having worked in both public and corporate accounting as well as with the Shelby County Criminal Court Judges and the County Attorney's Office before joining the City Attorney's Office in February of 2011.
"I am excited about this position because it gives me the opportunity to focus my energy and efforts into an area that historically has been underserved," said Bright. "I consider myself to be very much a 'people person' and this opportunity would allow me the chance to get to know and work one on one with the people within the community."
She hit the ground running (May 2012) and there has not been a dull moment.
"I am seeing and experiencing first hand some of the challenges that MWBEs (Minority- and Women-Owned Business Enterprises) and SBEs experience just to receive a sliver of the pie," she said.
"During each day, each meeting, each process, each experience, I am constantly thinking 'how do we make this process better' so that these vendors are consistently getting the opportunities and are not left out."
Bright noted "the responsibility to maintain the success of the program and the office" and said it is imperative that the office creates "new opportunities for the MWBE and SBE in our community."
"It is my hope that the baton stays forever afloat. No matter who is in the position of Contract Compliance Officer, the goals of the program should be fulfilled for the MWBEs and SBEs in the community," she said.
Vendors will find Bright encouraging them to maintain high expectations for the office.
"Vendors should expect to receive the same level of service that they have received thus far. They should still feel free to call and come by to find out about opportunities or to get questions answered and share their experiences," she said.
(For additional information about the Equal Business Opportunity (EBO) and/or Small Business Enterprise (SBE) Program, call the City of Memphis-Office of Contract Compliance at 901-636-6210.)