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'Total chaos': Temporary tags extended by state amid clerk's office backlog

“It is still total chaos," said Kent Ritchey, the Landers Auto Group president. "We’ve gotten no relief from the county clerk’s office.”

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — If you’ve bought a car in Shelby County in the last few months, some short-term relief is available. 

The Greater Memphis Auto Dealers Association asked the state of Tennessee for more than 90 days to use driver's temporary tags.  

The organization’s former president said it’s “a great relief" from “chaos” all in the middle of summer travel season.  

Long lines have become a familiar sight at the Shelby County Clerk’s Office.  

“It is still total chaos," said Kent Ritchey, the former auto dealers association president. "We’ve gotten no relief from the county clerk’s office.”

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Ritchey said there has been no relief from a backlog of more than 35,000 tags, which auto dealers have expressed is adding pressure on their offices.   

“It is unprecedented in the history of Shelby County," said Ritchey. "It’s been one of the most efficiently run offices in my 35 years of being an automobile dealer in Memphis.”  

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The former president said he received news this week from the governor’s office saying temporary tags can now be valid for up to 120 days. The Memphis Chamber said the extension will take place in the “coming days.” 

“The fact that there has been communication and there have been efforts to get Nashville engaged just speaks to the dire circumstances and how serious this has become,” said Bobby White of the Memphis Chamber.  

Ritchey, who serves as the president of the Landers Auto Group said the original 30-day temporary tags will bring some relief to those with expired or soon to be expired tags. 

He said the backlog of tags is only happening in Shelby county out of 95 counties in the state of Tennessee.  

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“Every automobile dealer in Shelby County is having additional personnel just to answer the phone," he said. "Of course, we’re trying to be proactive and call these people as their tags are expiring.”  

Some tags are expiring in the midst of school being out and vacation traveling season.

“We’re getting calls from all over the country,” shared Ritchey, where they’re not recognized by other authorities. 

What does he think is causing the backlog at the clerk's office?

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“I think that all the experienced people left," Ritchey said. "I think there are not enough people in the office. They’re not giving them enough support or help.” 

The revenue department via. the governor’s office said they will re-evaluate this problem again in July until things are resolved.  

Ritchey doesn’t see this problem getting resolved in the next 4-5 months unless there’s a major department change, and said he supports state assistance with the clerk's office. 

Shelby County Clerk Wanda Halbert said she's in support of state help as well. 

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