NASHVILLE, TN — During the Tennessee Tribune’s 25 years, Nashville has been fortunate to have more progressive and visionary leadership than that regularly provided by the state legislature. The administrations of Phil Bredesen, Bill Purcell, Karl Dean, and now Megan Barry have constantly sought to expand economic opportunity for all its citizens, while greatly improving the city’s national profile and visibility.
Today, Nashville is repeatedly deemed “the It city,” and viewed as a prime place to either visit or relocate. Companies continue to move facilities here, or seek to build new ones. But there are also things these Mayors have done on behalf of its longtime residents that have established them as vital and important leaders.
Though he would also go on to be a highly successful governor, Phil Bredesen’s tenure as the fourth mayor of Nashville under its metropolitan system was sparked by a renewed push toward education reform. During his two terms, the city built 32 new schools and renovated 43 others, while hiring 440 new teachers. Bredesen helped spearhead the building of a new downtown library and revamped library system, while overseeing major upgrades and improvements in the city’s entertainment district. Families thank him for the establishment of two new parks, Beaman Park and Shelby Bottoms.
Ironically, though he publicly declared himself not a sports fan, Bredesen played a big role in Nashville acquiring two major league franchises. The NFL, America’s most profitable and visible sports league, came to Music City as the former Houston Oilers relocated and became the Tennessee Titans. Later came an expansion hockey franchise, the Nashville Predators.
Mayor Purcell placed a heavy emphasis on judicial reform. He implemented a new emergency radio system for fire, police and emergency responders, while also purchasing 1,000 new police vehicles. The metro courthouse was renovated, there was a new build- ing for the criminal court, and an outdoor storm siren system established. However Purcell didn’t ignore the problems in communities, placing a high priority on communication and interaction through his decision to establish the Office of Neighborhoods.
Unfortunately, the reactionary elements in the Nashville legislature re- versed some of the things that Mayor Karl Dean wanted to implement, among them anti-discrimination protection for the LGBTQ community, banning of guns in parks, and the expansion of Medicaid that would have enabled over 100,000 more residents access to health insurance.
But Dean did preside over a number of major civic projects that saw Nashville become much more of a player in terms of attracting businesses and companies to move their headquarters here. Perhaps his greatest feat was helping the city get through the massive 2010 flood, when waters not only damaged hundreds of homes and neighborhoods, but even at one point had Opry Mills nearly under water.
Dean can point to the opening of a new $75 mil- lion baseball stadium, the multi-million dollar Riverfront park and amphi- theater plan, the combination of private and city funds that will power the renovation and revamp of the old Nashville Convention Center (which will include the establishment of the National Museum of Black Music and Culture) and new headquarters for Bridgestone Americas and HCA.
Megan Barry’s administration is just getting underway, but she is proving that one claim she made during her campaign will prove true: expanded inclusion and diversity within her administration. Whether it was the hiring of Michelle Hernandez-Lane as the city’s first chief diversity officer, the creation of a Diversity Advisory Committee that heavily influenced the transition from the Dean to the Barry administration, or the promotion of Talia Lomax-O’dred to be the first Black woman city finance director, Barry is making certain that the Black community will be well represented at the table. Further indicators came when former Titan Eddie George and current Schools head Shawn Joseph were named to head the new advisory commit- tee on economic inclusion and financial decision-making.
Nashville’s future remains bright. Fortunately,