For the average voter, making sense of the at-large Metro Council contest is like trying to recite the alphabet backwards while blind drunk. There are 26 candidates running for only five seats. Eight former or outgoing Metro council members are among those seeking the posts. The Scene contacted all of them—by phone, email or both—and we’ve assembled a sort of cheat sheet for voters, offering a brief synopsis (in the candidates’ own words when possible) of who these people are, why they’re running and what they hope to accomplish. We’ve excerpted from their comments with an eye toward offering a representative sample of theirs sentiments.
Brady Banks, 28, Tennessee Housing Development Agency hearing and appeals officer
“I’m running because I believe a new generation of leadership needs to take on the challenges that are going to be facing Nashville in the immediate future. I want to make sure that there’s a young voice speaking out on issues so that 40 years down the road, I may be able to actually look at my grandchildren with a straight face and say, ‘Y’all can live in Davidson County—it’s a great place to live in.’
“What I plan on doing is building relationships with everybody on council and also at the mayor’s office because I feel like, without those relationships, what good is any work that I’m going to do? After that, I would certainly be very interested in working on improving funding for education, working on a Metro housing trust fund and other affordable housing initiatives. I’m also very interested in looking into new ways of looking at public transit, particularly rapid bus transit and environmental issues that are kind of linked to transportation, but green building among them.”
Megan Barry, 43, ethics and compliance officer for a health care company
“Nashville is at a crossroads where we have the potential to create a very progressive city going forward. There’s a lot of momentum—the new mayor, new vice mayor, almost the entire council is going to change over. I think I can bring my skills of leadership and ethics and transparency to the new council.
“The three things that I’m passionate about are managing growth and neighborhoods so that we maintain our quality of life. Education: although the Metro Council does not control the school board, we do control the budget, so we need to make sure that we are in better communications with our school board and the administration so that we can strengthen our school system. And ethics and transparency: making sure constituents feel that the folks that they’ve elected are fairly representing them.”
Luther Beckett, 44, runs a computer business
“It’s such a joke, I had to get in on it. More than anything, I’ve had a lot of issues with the city.... I saw where the process was really bad in some places. I don’t feel like I’m electable.
“This is the submissive South and it needs to get up off its ass, you know. Someone needs to light a fire in its belly.... I don’t believe what sheep people can be here. I went up to Philadelphia last year, and I saw how open-mouthed and open-minded people they were. They were people who don’t take shit. And it was really refreshing. I’m really contemplating moving to Philly—that’s my people.
“Several cities are having impeach George Bush resolutions, and I think that would be a good idea for Nashville.”
Ken Berryhill, 77, retired from radio/TV
“I am concerned about Nashville and I am offering my expertise, so to speak. The Metro Council is a board of directors—that’s what it adds up to. It’s also the equivalent of the House of Representatives. So I bring to it my experience on boards of directors. [There are] several boards that I’ve worked on, and I’ve also managed three radio stations. As a manager of a business, I think I can offer my services to Metro, and that’s what I’m doing.
“The No. 1 thing…is to protect the citizenry. But the minute you mention it, everybody thinks of the police. Well, that’s the first line of defense, of course. They have to stand ready. If we didn’t have the police force in Nashville, I wouldn’t go outside my door after dark…. But protecting the citizenry goes beyond that. It’s the water supply, it’s the lighting of the streets at night—in other words, it’s all of the utilities. It even goes into education. If we don’t want trouble with young people like we’re having now—certain young people, not all of them, of course—we need to educate them. There needs to be more in the curriculum other than reading, writing and arithmetic. We need to teach people how to live. People say, well, the churches do that. Well, they’ve been doing a lousy job. Look at the crime rate.”
Jim Boyd, 46, Internet technology
Boyd is currently threatening to sue the Scene (http://www.votejimboyd.com/lawsuit.htm), so we’re relying here on an earlier interview. He told us a few weeks ago that he’s running to help “turn back the illegal immigrant invasion, no matter what the cost.”
If elected to the Metro Council, Boyd says that he would create a countywide blog requiring users to register with real names, addresses and phone numbers. “It could be a real, honest, out-in-the-open dialogue,” Boyd told us. He would try to thwart “illegal immigrant invaders from Mexico who, with their government’s support, are swarming northward, posing as itinerant, slave-wage workers.”
Luvenia Harrison Butler
Could not be reached by deadline.
Could not be reached by deadline.
Richard Exton, 48, owner of a property appraisal company
“I’ve always given back to Nashville through civic participation, through my career. I decided that I couldn’t complain unless I was willing to be part of the solution: working to improve schools, increase public safety and provide decent and affordable housing to as many Nashvillians as we can.
“On education, I think [we need to do] two things: work closer with the school board to make sure that the priorities of the council match the priorities of the school board. There is a disconnect, and we need to build a bridge to work together more closely…. As for safety, we need to make sure that we have all of the officers that we’ve already committed to and look at expanding the number of officers that we have. We’re probably somewhere between 100 and 200 officers below what a comparable city would be....
“Affordable housing, there, I want to work with the for-profit, the government, the not-for-profit and the faith-based communities to work together to build on the coalitions that have been built in the past to make sure that we’re providing not only affordable housing, but attainable housing.”
Tim Garrett, 56, funeral director and former Metro Council member
“If you believe that experience is something that’s needed on the council in order to continue to grow and continue to move forward—if we remember what has happened in the past, maybe we can move forward with new ideas. I was in the council from 1983 to 1999 and the state legislature from 1984 to 2004—so 16 years on the council and 20 years in the legislature. I’m real easy to look up, let me just put it that way.
“[I want to] bring the leadership and the qualities of experience back into the council so that we can move forward with education and public safety. You can Google me, in fact, [you can find out] just about anything you want to about me. I’ve got…a voting record about a mile long.
Ronnie Greer, 56, outgoing district Metro Council member
“For eight years I’ve had the pleasure of representing the neighborhood I grew up in, and I’m a native. I was humbled by the experience, and I would like to continue to be certain that every voice in the community has a voice in the deliberations that we do on the council—that doesn’t say that anyone else wouldn’t do it—but I promise to do it.
“First thing we got to focus on is our housing policies. We have changed our housing polices so that the poorest of our community are finding it more difficult to find a place to live…. Everyone seems to think renters decrease the property values, so our policies are now encouraging single-family home ownership. In our community, a quarter of the citizens who work every day but don’t earn enough to buy a home—they need to be able to live in Davidson County on the bus line so they can benefit from those infrastructures.”
Saletta Holloway, 52, assistant to the president for board of trustees and community relations, Meharry Medical College, and former Metro Council member
“First of all, my four years is up. I sat off the council for four years. I was a council member from 1995 through 2003, and I feel like my experience is needed on the council because we will probably be having the youngest or the most inexperienced council since the inception of Metro government.”
Holloway’s priorities are “public safety, education and economic development. Of course, with public safety it’s making sure people feel safe not only in their homes, but on the streets and the sidewalks. As far as education, I would like to make sure that it is fully funded. However, I would like to have more accountability in dealing with the money....
“For economic development, I would like to make sure that whatever the city gives out in contracts and whatever jobs that the city may give out or have available, that everybody is welcome to the pot as far as women and minorities are concerned....”
Philip Hostettler, 50, advertising/marketing business for North Atlantic Trade Group
“I was elected as chairman of Joelton zoning and planning committee for last year, regarding zoning issues in our neighborhood. Visiting with the planning commission and the staff, Metro codes and Metro legal, I found a lot of problems—everything from blocking records, not following due process and legal procedure—just very incompetent. So last fall, our community actually had to file a lawsuit against the Metro government. That’s why I’m running. I’m going to try to get our money back into our communities...because our tax dollars are for community services, for our Metro employees that provide those services….”
He says he wants to focus on “more open government, more representation and giving a voice to the people and do something about our schools. We need community schools again.”
Michael Kerstetter, former Metro Council member
Could not be reached by deadline.
J.B. Loring, 77, outgoing district Metro Council member and an NES retiree
“I feel like we have made great strides in the last eight years in funding the school system, funding the police, the fire department and, of course, we’ve still got a lot to do. You’ve always got room for improvement. And with my wide range of experience, I think that I’d be a capable person for another four years on the council at-large. I’ve been on the Planning Commission for four years, and that’s a real experience. Also, I’ve been on the codes committee, the public works committee and, on the outside, I’m involved in many civic functions and have been for many years, not just since I decided to run for politics.... I’ve got a wide range of experience, and I don’t mind giving my time either.”
Jim Maxwell, 69, 30-year employee for Tennessee Department of Correction
“I’ve always been interested in Metropolitan government. I worked to get people to vote for it. I was on the Davidson County Sheriff’s patrol. I worked for a lot of the private fire and police departments around Nashville, outside the city limits of Nashville. And there’s no comparison to what Metro’s got and what it was like [back] then.
“I would like to take part in making Metro schools the best in the nation. We have some shortcomings in our budget right now, but there’s no need to harp on that. I’d like to help people. I’d like to improve everything that needs improving. Metro is based on the safety of the people.”
Jerry Maynard, 40, general counsel for Matthew Walker Comprehensive Health Center, pastor at Cathedral of Praise South Side
“I’m running for one reason: my son is a 2-year-old, and he’ll be 5 in a few years, and I’ll have to make a decision as to whether to enroll him in private school or in public school. And many families face that same dilemma. There are some families that don’t have a choice. And I believe that all children in Nashville are entitled to a high-quality education system, and I believe that we have some challenges with our public education system. I want my son to go to public school, and I want for other families’ children to go to public school.... I’m running to make sure we have the best public schools in the nation.
“No. 1, I’m going to focus on fully funding our education budget. And, No. 2, we’re going to look at how we can involve parents, get them more involved in their children’s learning…. I’ve got a program, an initiative, that I want to get done that will get parent’s involved: each year we will assess where the student is, proficiency wise. Are they proficient in English, arithmetic and writing? If they’re not, we will work with the parents, teacher and the principal and we will come up with a strategy to get those children to a proficient level. That’s how you involve parents.... That’s a simple thing we can do for every student.”
J. Gower Mills
The number Mills provided to the Election Commission (and that is listed in the phone book) was disconnected.
Dave Pelton, 40, runs Trust for the Future, a nonprofit organization that deals with energy and environmental policy
“The biggest reason I’m running is because I think the city needs more of a business-minded council, people who will think about how money is being saved, not just how money is being spent. From the mind of a businessman, I’m thinking about how to save money and get more bang for the buck.
“I also have three young kids—ages 6, 4 and 1—and I’m very thoughtful and concerned about what kind of community they’re going to have. I think Nashville is a great place.... But there are some things that we’re doing that I don’t think we can sustain over the next 20 years. I think we need to do some shifting in our attitude and approach.
“I really look at some of the environmental issues that we’re dealing with as we grow as a city. We have air pollution problems, we have water quality problems, we have a riverfront and a river that nobody would ever be caught dead swimming in.... It’s a real issue.”
Reiter did not provide a phone number to the Election Commission.
Could not be reached by deadline.
Ronnie Steine, 51, former Metro Council member
Reached by phone, Steine declined to answer questions for the purposes of this story, but during his previous tenure on the Metro Council he was a vocal supporter for both education and the arts. He resigned as vice mayor in 2002 after admitting he had shoplifted on at least two occasions and sought special treatment from the District Attorney’s Office to get the charges expunged.
John Summers, 55, outgoing district Metro Council member, attorney
“I’ve served on the council from both East Nashville and from West Nashville, and I think that what I bring to the at-large race is a record of support for our public schools. I’m one of the few council candidates whose children have gone through public schools…. I think funding education, which is the primary role of the council, is an important—if not the most important—issue that we have as a community.
“I also have been a neighborhood advocate, active in my neighborhood associations, both when I lived in East Nashville and West Nashville. I have a strong record of supporting neighborhoods, particularly trying to preserve historic neighborhoods.”
James Turner II, 33, youth pastor at New Hope Baptist Church and community outreach coordinator for Nashville Prevention Partnership
“I have worked for juvenile courts for four years and had caseloads of 200 to 300. I have the experience to work with the youth in gangs—I’ve done it with the city—and I’ve trained teachers and helped kids go to college who were in gangs.... It’s a lot of issues around the inner city, around youth violence. I have the hands-on experience to help the teachers teach, to help the kids get an education, to help the parents parent and also help with the conditions in those communities that involve poverty, economic development.
“Vote for me, and your kids will be safe. I know I have the hands-on experience to give young people hope. Nobody can touch me in that arena. That’s not being cocky; that’s being truthful.”
Charlie Tygard, 56, outgoing district Metro Council member and accountant
“I’m a four-term Metro Council member, and I am running to bring experience, vision and leadership to the Metro Council.”
Tygard says he plans to focus on “stronger schools, safer streets and neighborhoods and growing our tax base to keep the burden off of Nashville’s property taxpayers.”
Maurice “Moe” Walker, 33, paralegal at Higgins, Himmelberg & Piliponis
“[I want] to bring a voice from the lower- and middle-class perspective. I think they’ve been sort of shunned in the recent time.
“My main focus, besides education, would be the safety issue, along with trying to put some pressure to make property taxes come down a little bit. I really think the lower- and middle-class are struggling right now and there’s a lot of governmental waste…. You have people that are struggling just to pay their property tax. I just feel like I’m in tune with what the people want, and that’s what I want to bring to the council.”
Peter Westerholm, 30, budget analyst for Tennessee Department of Finance and Administration
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