Mike Carpenter has a diverse background that includes politics as an operative and former elected official; appointed government official; lobbyist and advocate for education reform; president and CEO of a commercial construction trade association and executive director of a private, family foundation.
Most recently, Mike served as Executive Director of the Plough Foundation, a private, Memphis-based, family foundation. In that role, Mike managed more than $100 million in assets and the foundation granted an average $13 million annually. Many of those grants, under Mike’s direction, were made to early learning entities and programs throughout Shelby County, including long-standing support of Shelby County Schools efforts to improve student achievement and teacher effectiveness and Ready, Set Grow, which aimed to improve the quality of childcare.
Prior to his tenure at the Plough Foundation, Mike served simultaneously as the head of Intergovernmental Relations for the City of Memphis and as the project manager for the TIGER grant-funded Main to Main Multimodal Connector – a $30 million federal transportation project. Mike liaised with the City Council on behalf of Mayor A C Wharton and managed contract lobbyists at the state and local levels. As project manager, he successfully secured $15 million in federal TIGER funds, negotiated a complex agreement with Union Pacific Railroad and collaborated with numerous federal, state and local agencies.
In 2011, Mike was hired by StudentsFirst, an education reform advocacy organization. He was named first state director of the nationwide group and established a solid track record of passing state legislation and winning legislative campaigns.
Mike was elected to the County Commission in 2006 and 2010 with 72% and 78% of the vote respectively. As County Commissioner, Mike earned a reputation as a champion for children, women and the marginalized in Shelby County. While Commissioner, he received a Children’s Champion Award from FirstFocus, the Harry Burn Award for advocacy on behalf of women and a Crime Victims’ Advocate of the Year award for his support of domestic violence services and vertical prosecution of perpetrators.
Throughout his career, Mike has been a reliable and trusted advisor to state and local leaders. He co-chaired Mayor A C Wharton’s Transition Team in 2009. Mike was appointed by Governor Haslam to the State’s Taskforce on Aging and selected for the Governor’s inaugural class of Leadership Tennessee. Mike was tapped by the Mayor of Memphis in 2014 to serve as a member of the Sexual Assault Kit Taskforce and in 2015 to draft a comprehensive report on the city’s procedure for open records and transparency.
Mike, and his wife, Mary Ann live in Memphis. They have four children, ages 17, 15, 13 and 11. Mike is a graduate of the University of Memphis.