Who You Gonna Vote For?

Over the last few weeks, more and more friends have asked me whether I know anything about Nashville’s mayoral race. The truth is, I didn’t know much—and that’s why I asked my editor at Style Blueprint if I could write a story about all 7 candidates. Sure, it’s nice to have a freelance assignment. But what I really wanted was an excuse to do all the reading I’d been putting off. Seven candidates is a lot. So don’t feel bad if you don’t feel up to speed. The election ends next week. You’re not too late.

The first major surprise for me while researching the candidates is that this election is supposed to be “non-partisan.” That’s why you don’t see candidates claiming to be “Democrats” or “Republicans.” It’s kind of nice isn’t it? But it’s also more difficult for us voters—you see, we can’t just lean on the “oh, i’ll just vote for the D (or R) on the list,” logic in this kind of race. Still, if partisanship matters to you, a little digging can go a long way. (i.e., Bill Freeman was on the fundraising team for Barak Obama, etc.)

For me, I could care less if a mayoral candidate is a democrat, republican, or a lobster. I just want someone in that office who (1) has a specific plan to alleviate traffic, (2) wants to protect the things that make Nashville special, and (3) can improve Nashville’s schools.

If you know me at all, you know that I have a special place in my heart for our current mayor, Karl Dean. Dean is the reason I moved to Nashville in the first place—he raised the initial $2M needed to bring Teach for America to the city. And that means he’s the reason I married Patrick and the reason I’ll end up living in a place longer than 7 years for the first time in my life. Those are big shoes to fill.

So who are you going to vote for? Where are you going to vote? I can’t answer those questions for you. But I can give you the run down that I gathered for Style Blueprint (plus my opinion, because this is my blog). WARNING: some of the following statements are FACT. Some of the following statements are OPINION. By scrolling onward, you are claiming to understand the difference.

MEGAN BARRY

Photo Courtesy of Megan Barry for Mayor

Photo Courtesy of Megan Barry for Mayor

Professional background: Elected as Metro Councilwoman in 2007 and 2011, Barry chaired both the Budget and Finance and Education committees.

Age: 51

Years in Nashville: 25

Favorite brunch spot: Garden Brunch Cafe on Jefferson Street

Favorite place for a drink and live music: For a drink, Arnold Myint’s BLVD. For music, Barry mentions Mercy Lounge and Marathon Music Works, but adds “I’d buy a ticket to see anybody at the Ryman.”

Favorite Nashville hidden gem: “We are fortunate that within Davidson County we have a very vibrant downtown and inner core, but we’ve also made it a priority to protect our green space and value our rural communities. Just 10 minutes from downtown, Bells Bend Park is a peaceful and serene treasure with hiking trails that follow the old farm roads.”

You’ve heard: Connie Britton and Emmylou Harris joined Barry onstage at Cabana to support her campaign for mayor.

Vision for Nashville:

  • Universal PreK
  • Better funding for public schools
  • Producing jobs while preserving Nashville’s affordability
  • Finding ways to alleviate poverty
  • Create an Office of Transportation
  • Develop transit solutions that are less costly than streetcars or light rail

Why she’s running: “I believe the next mayor of Nashville needs to have a bold, progressive vision for our future and the experience necessary to implement that vision. As the only candidate in the race who has a deep understanding of government and business, I’m in a unique position to expand on the progress we’ve made by making sure we continue to invest all over the county, while also addressing our challenges—mass transit, safe and affordable neighborhoods, and education.”

To learn more: meganbarry.com

My opinion: I didn’t love Barry’s delivery during several of the televised debates. Her responses seemed canned, and to me — I want a mayor that can speak on the fly and do it in a way that’s charming and shines a positive light on our city. 

CHARLES ROBERT BONE

Courtesy of Charles Robert Bone for Mayor

Courtesy of Charles Robert Bone for Mayor

Professional background: Bone is an attorney at Bone McAllester Norton. He specializes in mergers and acquisitions, and was recently dubbed Best Lawyer of the Year by Nashville Administrative/Regulatory Law.

Age: 41

Years in Nashville: Seventh generation Tennessean

Favorite brunch spot: The Southern (“Their Southern egg sandwich is one of my favorite dishes in town.”)

Favorite place for a drink and live music: Robert’s on Broadway

Favorite Nashville hidden gem: An avid runner, you can often find Bone on the trails in Percy Warner Park.

You’ve Heard: Bone’s catchy campaign song, which cleverly connects all the neighborhoods in Nashville with the tune to “Dem Bones”

Vision for Nashville:

  • Develop a transit system that leverages the current bus system
  • Create an 18-month, as well as an 18-year, transit plan
  • Use data to better understand gentrification and reinvest in communities
  • Provide support to local chambers of commerce in Donelson, Hermitage and Bellevue
  • Develop a comprehensive program for how to serve students when they are not in school

Why he’s running: “I’m an attorney, entrepreneur and business owner. I have real-world business experience and understand that the government cannot take job creation by businesses for granted. I want to be mayor because I want to execute on a vision to keep our momentum going in a fiscally responsible way, but also diversify that prosperity in all of Nashville.”

To learn more: boneformayor.com

My opinion: Let’s face it. It‘s tough to imagine someone named “Bone” in office. Aside from that childish point, I like that CRB is a fiscal conservative and that he has promised to focus more on other communities other than Downtown. I just don’t know if he has what it takes to make a big difference in Nashville schools. 

DAVID FOX

Courtesy of David Fox for Mayor.

Courtesy of David Fox for Mayor.

Professional background: Worked as a hedge fund manager and business reporter for publications such as the Nashville PostThe Tennessean and Bloomberg News, as well as serving as chairman of the Metro Nashville Board of Education

Age: 53

Years in Nashville: 50 years, with family roots in Tennessee dating back to the 1860s

Favorite brunch spot: Garden Brunch Cafe on Jefferson Street

Favorite place for a drink and live music: Bluebird on the Mountain at the Dyer Observatory

Favorite Nashville hidden gem: McCabe Park Little League ballpark (where his sons play baseball)

You’ve heard: Fox gives out his cell phone number on the campaign trail: (615) 828-1193

Vision for Nashville:

  • Targeted PreK for at-risk youth
  • Bolster school choice options with a sense of urgency
  • Develop a regional commute transit line with public-private partnerships
  • Invest in neighborhoods outside of downtown
  • Address unfunded liabilities
  • Restore Nashville’s credit rating
  • Believes dissolving the elected school board for a mayoral-appointed board would be more effective for students and schools

Why he’s running: “I have had successful experience starting and leading businesses, and as chairman of the Metro Nashville Board of Education, I worked with our board to turn around the largest and worst performing of Metro government’s departments. I am especially concerned about our spending and debt levels. I’m committed to shoring up our infrastructure to support a larger population and will do so in a fiscally conservative manner.”

To learn more: foxfornashville.com

My Opinion: A person on the school board that I highly respect has endorsed David Fox, which makes me feel like he may be the best candidate in terms of improving MNPS. He’s also one of the only candidates that seems to be adding a bit of “vinegar” to the mix. Nashville’s development isn’t all sunshine and roses. Fox seems to be able to see the bad with the good, and want to do something about both. He’s a top contender in my book.

BILL FREEMAN

Courtesy of Bill Freeman for Mayor

Courtesy of Bill Freeman for Mayor

Professional background: Commercial real estate professional who co-founded the full-service Nashville real estate company Freeman Webb in 1979

Age: 63

Years in Nashville: Nashville native

Favorite brunch spot: MarcheTable 3 or around his own kitchen table. (Apparently, his wife, Babs, is a great cook.)

Favorite place for a drink and live music: “The Bluebird,” he says, “hands down.”

Favorite Nashville hidden gem: Taking walks in the swath of woods near his farm in Bellevue, or attending the newest exhibits at Cheekwood with his wife.

You’ve heard: Freeman is the frontrunner, with a hefty ad spend budget

Vision for Nashville:

  • Add and renovate bus shelters, update MTA with a user-friendly app
  • Build BRT-lite lines around the city
  • Assess schools by cluster, rather than district-wide
  • Renovate older and crowded school facilities
  • Implement community schools that provide wrap-around for students and families
  • Develop affordable housing initiatives and retool incentives in the housing code

Why he’s running: “I want to give back to a city that has given so much to me and my family. I bring the years of experience that running a large company has given me. Being mayor isn’t a stepping stone to another political office, and I will give it my all.”

To learn more: freeman2015.com

My Opinion: We’ve all heard that Freeman is the front runner. Though he never went to college, Freeman has made quite a career for himself, developing car dealerships and real estate all over the city. There’s a tough of “old boys club” here that I worry about — but at the same time, he was one of the most vocal supporters of a bigger, more regional transit solution than what the AMP provided. In terms of public transit solutions, I feel like Freeman has the best chance to make an impact.

HOWARD GENTRY

Courtesy of Gentry for Mayor

Courtesy of Gentry for Mayor

Professional background: Native Nashvillian and civil servant with experience as an entrepreneur, Metro Councilman, Vice Mayor and current Davidson County Criminal Court Clerk

Age: 63

Years in Nashville: Nashville native

Favorite brunch spot: “My youngest daughter just turned 7 and requested brunch at Waffle House,” Gentry says. “In fact, she requests that more often than not, so these days, it’s Waffle House.”

Favorite place for a drink and live music: Winners and Losers

Favorite Nashville hidden gem: The blueberry and açai smoothie at The Turnip Truck

You’ve heard: Gentry wants to bring the Super Bowl to Nashville

Vision for Nashville:

  • Create an Office of Social Equity to ensure inclusion of all Nashvillians
  • Conduct annual audit of Metro workforce to ensure diversity in Metro government
  • Develop programs that wrap around students outside of the school day
  • Initiate programs to alleviate poverty and increase graduation rates
  • Expand job opportunities for working class and homeless

Why he’s running: “I know what it takes to get things done in the public and private sector. It has always been my belief that I should give of my time, talent and energy for my neighbors. I’m ready to wrap my arms around this city and solve our problems, day one.”

To learn more: howardgentryformayor.com

My Opinion: My biggest concern about Howard Gentry is his resume. He’s held a lot of different jobs over the years, and I worry about him having the deep focus to be able to create 10-and-20+ year plans for schools and transit. 

JEREMY KANE

Courtesy of Kane for Mayor

Courtesy of Kane for Mayor

Professional background: Education reformer and founder of LEAD Academy, a charter school whose high school boasts two consecutive years of 100 percent college acceptance

Age: 36

Years in Nashville: Kane lived in Nashville during part of his childhood, and ultimately moved back to the city from Washington D.C. in 2003.

Favorite brunch spot: Pinewood Social

Favorite place for a drink and live music: He says, “For music, the obvious choice is The Ryman. I would listen to anyone play, as long as it was at The Ryman. To grab a drink, I like the hole-in-the-wall places like Betty’s in Sylvan Park, but I also love The Patterson House or Holland HouseM.L. Rose is always great for a beer.”

Favorite Nashville hidden gem: 11.2-mile run route in Percy Warner Park

You’ve heard: He mortgaged his house to start LEAD Academy

Vision for Nashville:

  • Make investments and secure partnerships to ensure every child in every neighborhood has a quality education and improve the city’s overall academic outcomes
  • Grow and promote Nashville as a City of the Arts, by incentivizing entrepreneurship and properly funding school arts programs
  • Generate continued, but sustainable, development by investing in parks and outdoor space
  • Implement body cameras for all police officers for increased accountability
  • Build a more connected network of roads, sidewalks, bike lanes and greenways

Why he’s running: “We are at a transition moment in Nashville’s history. We’ve had an incredible 30-year run that’s been defined by economic development in downtown, taking us from a quiet small town to the “It” city. The question is, where do we go from here? I think we need a mayor that is dynamic, one that has the energy to match Nashville’s. I want to be that leader that will put Nashville on the track for the next 30 years.”

To learn more: kaneformayor.com

My Opinion: Granted, Kane is the only candidate I’ve met in person — but I have to say, he’s always impressed me—especially as an orator and educator. Interesting fact: Kane knows the Clintons (as in Bill and Hillary) and was the reason that Bill Clinton came to Nashville to speak to the graduates of Lead Academy. I think Kane has the energy to get a lot done. But I do wonder about his plans for transit. I was hoping he’d spell out something really specific on his website. 

LINDA ESKIND-REBROVICK

Professional background: CEO of Consensus Point, a Nashville-based technology company, and founding board member of the Nashville Entrepreneur Center

Age: 59

Years in Nashville: “I’m a lifelong Nashvillian and a fourth-generation member of the Eskind family,” she says. “I live in the Hillwood neighborhood, and have actually lived my entire life within a three-mile radius of the house in which I was raised.”

Favorite brunch spot: Margot Cafe

Favorite place for a drink and live music: 3rd and Lindsley

Favorite Nashville hidden gem: “Although a lot of Nashvillians visit Percy Warner Park, it’s an undiscovered treasure for many others,” Eskind Rebrovik says. “I walk the five-mile trail with a group of friends at least once a week. It’s a good opportunity to enjoy nature and exercise, and I hope more Nashvillians take advantage of it and our other parks in years to come.”

You’ve heard: She refuses to run negative ads

Vision for Nashville:

  • Ensure that Nashville public schools are a cradle-to-career pathway for students
  • Empower teachers and principals so they can do what is best for their schools
  • Equip schools with latest technology
  • Build a Metro government that is as diverse as the city it serves
  • Deliver a transportation plan within the first 120 days as mayor, including adaptive traffic light signal controls, as well as a long-term strategy
  • Expand biking and walking options for communities
  • Increase affordable housing options for working families

Why she’s running: “My vision is to build a Smarter Nashville that is livable for everyone. I’m uniquely qualified to be Nashville’s next mayor, because I have management experience in large corporations, in an early-stage start-up and on nonprofit and corporate boards. Nashville has a nearly $2 billion operating budget; I’ve managed a billion dollar department for Dell. Most of all, I have proven ideas to solve our immediate, mid-term and long-term issues.”

To learn more: lindafornashville.com

My Opinion: Linda seems very approachable and friendly — and I really liked her delivery during the debates. She’s got great corporate experience, but my concern is that technology can’t solve all of Nashville’s problems—especially not in the classroom. But I sure would like those smart traffic lights. 

So there you have it folks. All 7 mayoral candidates. Did you take the time to read it all? What do you think? Who will you vote for? For me, it’s between Fox, Kane and Freeman.

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