Karl's in Charge 

When Nashville ran out of gas in 2008, a year after Mayor Karl Dean took office, he was missing in action. A belated press release, asking the already panicky public not to panic, was his only response.  Along with his refusal in the opening months of his term to confront controversy — the May Town Center development and school rezoning were but two of the major issues that went uncommented upon by Dean — our mayor was earning a reputation as a cipher.

This time, it was different. As century floods inundated the city and the Cumberland overflowed, the mayor became an almost constant presence on television. In the face of true disaster, Dean was a seemingly perfect blend of calm straight talk, confident reassurance and even inspiration.

Dean said he could commiserate. His basement flooded. But he didn't complain. There was no time for that. He praised emergency workers and Good Samaritans, offered help to the flood's refugees, urged residents not to drive, to conserve water and eventually to clean up and start again. We had been knocked down for sure, he kept saying, but we would get up.

"There's a lot to be done but we'll get it done," he said at one point in the midst of the crisis. "This is a great city. We've been through challenges before, and we'll meet this one."

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