Mayoral candidate Sharon Hurt Credit: Michael Bunch

At-Large Metro Councilmember Sharon Hurt filed paperwork Friday to begin raising money for a mayoral run. She is the third major challenger to Mayor John Cooper, following District Councilmember Freddie O’Connell and former MDHA executive Matt Wiltshire. Hurt is the first African-American candidate to enter the race and her ties to North Nashville, where she was the longtime executive director of the nonprofit Jefferson Street United Merchants Partnership, will boost her chances considerably. She spoke to the Banner about her coming campaign.

Why do you want to be mayor?

I’ve got two answers for that — a personal answer and political answer — and they coincide. Why am I running for mayor? Why am I a council member? Why have I been a public servant, pretty much my (entire) adult life? And I know that it’s an extension of what I saw my mother do — she lifted people up. The same thing that we expect the government to do, to give people a hand up, is really about taking care of the people that are already here. I’m so concerned that we have a tale of two cities here. I want equity and inclusion brought into the fold, so Nashville can have a balance and be what I know that it can be. You know, the middle class is being erased, and these are the people that kept Nashville and made it what it is, and I want to make sure that they stay viable. That’s why as the next mayor, I will work my heart out to restore hope and prosperity on every forgotten block of this city.

What do you think makes you uniquely qualified to run the city?

I’ve got a proven record. I have worked with seniors and provided a transportation service. I have a youth program that I’ve worked with and did enrichment, affordable housing, workforce development, driver’s license restoration, small business economic development. I’ve done all of that. I have an agenda and a vision for this community. I live in Bellevue, I work in North Nashville, I graduated from Tennessee State and Belmont – I bring a balance. I did my student teaching in Madison and I used to work and live in Madison. So I bring a balance of what Nashville needs. And I also bring compassion to make sure that people that’ve been forgotten are not left out. I bring truth, transparency and trust, because I know that’s what the people want is someone that they can trust.

Do you think Nashville right now is on the right track or wrong track?

Nashville is growing by leaps and bounds. People are coming every day. So we’ve got to be doing something right. But we’ve got to be smart about what it is that we do. And we cannot leave out people, as we are seeing. Everybody should benefit from growth. And we’ve got hundreds and hundreds of people already voting with their feet [and leaving]. We spend hundreds of millions of dollars in Davidson County, but it’s not showing up for the working class and middle class families. And that needs to change. We’ve got to make sure that we bring those forgotten families into this fold, and everybody benefits.

I think that’s what’s going on in the city. We’ve got growth. We’ve got good things. I just don’t think that the city has leveraged and taken care of every part of the city as it needs to. You can be on the right track. And you can move fast. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t come to a halt. And that means making sure that every citizen of Nashville has an opportunity to a quality of life.

Why do you think John Cooper should be replaced?

What I think is that I would make a better mayor. I think I have a proven record, and a vision – the compassion and the love. And I think I can express the healing that this city needs to make sure that every block in this city is included and there are no forgotten families, that access is available, and people know that they can trust their leader.

You’ve mentioned a couple of times people being left behind. Do you think that the current administration is not addressing people who have been left behind?

I think we have to have meaningful engagement with communities every day. And without that, then you will find people falling through the cracks. Like I said, people are voting with their feet and are leaving this city. And we need to maintain those people that have cared for this city, love this city and made this city the “It City.”

Do you support a new Titans stadium?

You know what? I am a huge, huge Titans fan. And I believe that a world-class city should have world-class facilities. If we’re going to be in a major league, we’ve got to look like it. We’ve got to act like it. But let me be clear: I have an amendment [in the council] that has already passed first reading to make sure that minority-owned, women-owned and small, disadvantaged businesses are part of the contract, because I want to make sure that the voices of those families that have been left out of Nashville’s growth and its opportunity are at the table and they are getting a piece of the pie. I want to be the one that has the recipe for the pie. And I can keep making it over and over again, and making sure that everybody is fed.

What do you think about the proposed East Bank changes? It’s a big plan. It would be kind of a transformative project. But also, it’s a lot of focus on downtown.

I think we’ve got to have more than downtown. I use the parable about Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls. We know that Michael Jordan was going to get his 50 and 60 points every game, right? But to win the championship, it wasn’t until he got Scottie Pippen in the game, Dennis Rodman, Steve Kerr and the rest of the team. Scottie Pippen is North Nashville, Michael Jordan is downtown, Dennis Rodman East Nashville. Steve Kerr is West Nashville, Toni Kukoc South Nashville. We’ve got to get all of the players in the game in order for them to have a championship team, and that’s six times over with that team. And we will never ever get to the championship until we make sure that every block of this city is benefiting from growth.

One of the biggest problems Nashville is facing is the rising cost of living. What do you think a mayor can do to affect it and the issues, like you said, that are causing people to vote with their feet and leave the city?

With rising costs, that means that we’ve got to pay people better salaries and we don’t need to hold it. We need to make sure there’s consistency, that we are bringing in some more equitable opportunities for people, so they will be able to afford to live in this city. We’re going to have to stabilize the development and the growth that we have going on. And we’re going to have to increase the workforce in order to do so. We’re going to have to hold these corporations and developers accountable and make sure that they do the exact same thing. And they’re going to have to invest in our small businesses. These corporations are going to have to bring people up, have mentoring opportunities and services to make sure that we don’t forget anyone, as we continue to grow.

How much money do you think you need to raise to be competitive?

I was the No. 1 vote getter [in the runoff for 2019] council at large*, and in terms of me having to raise the money, I worked my tail off. And I’m going to work my heart out now to make sure that every person knows my record and my vision. I’m going to communicate with them the things that I have done. I’m going to do everything that I can. I’m not going to take one vote for granted. And I’m not going to leave one stone unturned. I’m going to get out there and do what it takes for me to do it.

So let me ask you again, because you didn’t give a number there. 

I don’t necessarily deal in the numbers. Because you know, people can talk about how much money it takes. So I stay away from saying what it’s going to cost, what he’s going to take, and what he’s going to do. What I can promise you is that I’m going to work my tail off. Those are the things that I can control. My dad told me, “Never bet on anybody but yourself,” and he was a scratch golfer. So the only thing I can tell you is what I know that I can do. I will go out here and everybody that gives me $5 has the same [access] as anybody that gives me $1,600. So I’m not going to leave one of them unturned.

You’ve been looking at this race since the spring. And you said then you were going to engage in a process and talk to a lot of people. When you’ve had conversations with people, who’s told you to run and why did they tell you to run?

You know, my dad, he told all of Memphis [where Hurt grew up] in 2012 that I was running for mayor and I wasn’t even a council member at the time. He was the very first one. Then I’ve had other people that have told me [to run] because they know that I have the heart, they know that I am going to be a truth teller. They know that I am going to be someone that the people can trust. They have looked at my record, and they know that I have the courage and I stand on the council floor and I say the things that need to be said, go after the things that I believe in. So I’ve had a number of people and I can list and list names. But I don’t want to get into that. Because what I want people to know now is that I’m running for mayor and I will need their support.

What should people think about when considering your candidacy?  

I represent people who have been underestimated by politicians, because I am one myself. I’m just an ordinary person that has been called to do work. I’ve been doing it all my life. This is a part of my DNA — lifting people up. And that is why I am here because we’ve got people that are invisible. Our middle class is being erased. People are moving and they don’t feel like [politicians] care. No one is listening to them. You know, our constitution says “We the People.” I’m a part of that people. And I want everyone else to know that I am when you vote for me, you voted for yourselves.

Steve is a three-decade veteran of newspapers, working around the country at places like the Washington Post and Chicago Tribune before returning home to Nashville in 2011 to edit The City Paper and Nashville...