Fran Bush Credit: Handout photo

Fran Bush shot to prominence during the pandemic as the lone voice on the school board arguing to re-open schools early. That got her attention and praise from conservative groups like Moms for Liberty, but also forced her to run for reelection as an independent after the legislature made school board races partisan affairs. She lost by more than 40 percent to Cheryl Mayes. Now she’s turning her attention to the mayor’s race.

Why do you want to be mayor?

Oh, wow, that’s a powerful question. It’s a no brainer for me. I mean, the work I’ve done for the past four years, it’s been a huge representation of our Nashville public schools. My work was mainly good, it was a lot of work. There were a lot of things that needed to get done. I just didn’t work on behalf of my district, I worked on behalf of the whole entire [system]. And I accomplished a lot of great things. And when I didn’t win reelection, that’s not where I should have been for a second term. Actually, I’ve been thinking about the mayor for quite some time. And the reason why I went on and ran for re-election is because my [district] parents, my parents, were really, really adamant about having someone on that board that was going to do the work for our kids. And of course, it got very political and very, you know, because it was a partisan race. And it’s just really political, which that’s what I thought was gonna happen anyway. And it was pretty much answered that that’s not my space and place at the time. I needed to do exactly what my mind was to do, and that’s run for mayor. And I’m doing it now because I want to do this on a bigger scale. The work I did on the school board was huge. But this is even bigger. And so I want to be able to take the things I know how to do as far as being very intentional, and getting the work done for Nashvillians, those who work and live here. And it’s been slow walked for the past four years. I’m a native Nashvillian. I grew up here. I know this city. I know what it means. I know what it wants. I know people, and I want to be able to connect and get this work done. And people are ready for change. I’m fresh. I’m new, I’m young. I have common sense, right? And that’s what people are looking for someone they can connect with.

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

What makes me uniquely qualified is because I have experience, and people want to see experience. They don’t want to just see experience just in politics, or you have been, you know, working behind the scenes and different elements, they want to see somebody that has been in the front, in the front working, boots on the ground. Doing the hard work, making sure that even during the tough times, of course, I pandemic, as someone was there that helped get our students back in the classroom. And unfortunately, my opponents were not with me to get these kids back in the classroom. So parents saw that, they saw the work. And that’s all they want to see moving forward in the city. Someone who’s experienced.

When you ran for reelection to the school board, you got about 29 percent of the vote. Why do you think that you can win enough support to become mayor?

Well, the 29 percent was nothing but political. And it was a political era to basically make it just what it was right. It was a Democratic/Republican type of deal to make it partisan, and it just got too political. And I decided to go independent. So when I went independent because I did not want to play sides, people, it wasn’t that they didn’t know me or you know, all the lines were splitting them around the city, of course, we had everything redrawn. It was the fact that people just wanted to vote for a D. They wanted to look at a Democrat. And that’s what happened. And that’s the reason why it was dangerous to do what happened as far as both parties agreeing to make this a partisan race. I don’t look at it being 29 percent. I look at it as just political. And it was just the way it was, it was customized to do exactly what it was supposed to do.

In fairness, isn’t the mayoral race and being mayor politics?

It is, but it’s the way you handle politics. And I don’t handle politics like a politician. I also call myself a public servant. And that’s the difference and that’s the reason why people are so excited about me joining the race because they saw my work. They saw I wasn’t a politician, that I was just like them: I’m a mother, a wife. I have my own business working everyday. I’m a working class woman who took care of business for their children. And that’s what they saw and that’s why they’re so excited for me to jump in this race because they finally can say we got someone that we know that we have seen over the past four years work for us, or for our children work for our community. And that’s what they’re looking for.

You said in your announcement video that by voting for you, Nashville will regain a trusted leader. Do you think Nashvillians don’t trust their leaders right now?

Well, when you look at the history, the last four years, Nashvillians are tired of getting the promises. Nashvillians are tired of the political talk. And that’s when I say they’re going to regain a trusted leader. Because that’s what I’ve been in the past four years. It’s no secret, the work I’ve done, the courage that it took to get our kids back in the classroom, that was huge to a point that I had a lot of change, the legislature has changed the law that kids cannot go back virtual, unless it’s an emergency situation. And even then, it is a timeframe that kids can be out of a classroom. So I did something very huge. And that was big.

And you worked with the legislature in order to get that passed?

I didn’t work with the legislature, the legislature saw the work that I was doing and decided that it was very important that this wouldn’t happen again.

One of the many issues the next mayor faces is the relationship between the city of Nashville and the state of Tennessee. How do you see that relationship? And do you think you can improve it?

Oh, absolutely. I’m so glad to answer that question. I’m so excited. I’m jumping up and down right now in my car. Let me tell you what people think. People are saying “I’m tired of the divisiveness between Democrats and Republicans.” We’re tired of seeing the fight. We want to have some type of inclusion. With me, if I am chosen the next mayor, my goal is to work across the aisle. My goal is to work with the governor, who called me personally during the pandemic, when we had our kids out of school. I want to be able to cross those aisles and be able to work with the legislators and the governor on things that could really affect Nashvillians. And I want to be able to pick up that phone, I want to be able to have that meeting so that we can discuss the issues, discuss the concerns and discuss solutions. That’s exactly what my goal is.

If you were mayor right now, how would you approach some of the issues where the state and the city are currently at odds. For instance, there is a bill before the legislature right now that would take away the funding mechanism for the Music City Center? 

Well, you have to take a deep dive into those deals, right? Because some of those deals are so …I mean there’s so much language there that we have to look at it and be able to come up with why or what benefits? What isn’t going to benefit Nashville, is it going to benefit Nashvillians? That’s the kind of mayor that I will be once these bills are rolling out. I want to be able to look at them, because if it’s gonna touch Nashville, and it’s going to affect Nashvillians, then I want to make sure that I’m a part of the equation. And that’s exactly what Nashville wants.

Do you think that the current mayor is not part of the equation?

I think the current mayor is very disconnected from the equation. And that’s the reason why there’s so much combativeness right now. And there’s so many different ways. There’s so much frustration with getting the work done, because both parties are not talking, both parties are not working together. Now. Are we going to agree to disagree we are, but at least you’re going to have a mayor, if I’m chosen, I’m going to be very intentional on being involved with the process. And that’s what’s been missing. I can go back to the example when the kids were out of school. The governor and mayor bumped hands on keeping his kids out of the classroom. And that was that showed me that there was no type of relationship.

Do you support a new Titans stadium?

Here’s the thing, the most important thing for me is that taxpayers will not be faced with the bill. Okay. And that was one of the things that Nashvillians said “We’ve already been taxed. We don’t even see in most of [that money] our neighborhoods.” And right now I support, you know, renovations and something that can help improve the stadium. There’s still more conversation to be had surrounding this big deal. So I think there should be more talks and conversations around it. I think that there could be some renovations, that could be some things that can be improved. So again, it’s just about having those conversations on how this is going to work in our city. Other cities have done it, they have brought their stadiums up to par. They’ve invested millions and billions of dollars into their stadiums. And it brought in more, you know, revenue for the city. So we just have to take that deep dive into, you know, the next steps for this new stadium.

Something that came up during your time on the school board was your relationship with teachers. In the middle of COVID, you said that if teachers didn’t want to be back in the classroom maybe they should get another day job. Do you think that those comments will hurt you going forward?

No, they wouldn’t hurt, because if reporters would do their homework and do their research, it wasn’t just about teachers, it was about a teachers union. And we’ve seen all across this country, after I brought up the teachers union, and how they were taking the kids out because it was a political move. And this is the teachers union and you’ve got to understand, because there’s a small percentage of teachers that are in the teachers union, okay? Not all teachers are in the teachers union. Not all teachers wanted to be out of school. A majority of the teachers that I spoke to, during the pandemic, wanted the children back into the classroom. So it’s just a small percentage of those teachers that they did what they did, but our children suffered the most. And if you saw across this country, and you did your research, [it was] teacher unions keeping out the children. And that’s what made it a problem. So I have more teacher support than you think. That comment was to the teachers union, because that’s what was driving the force behind keeping our kids out of school. 

One of the biggest problems affecting Nashville right now is the rising cost of living. What do you think a mayor can do to affect it? And how can a mayor work on issues around affordability living in Nashville.

So one of the things that if I am chosen to be the next mayor, one of the things I’m going to do, I want to sit down and I’m going to map out where our affordable houses lie. Of course, the cost of living, it’s definitely extraordinary here in Nashville, and it has risen over the past five to six years. It has inched up every year. Rent going up, you know, mortgages. Now we have [high] interest rates. So we’re seeing such a big inflation when it comes to housing. So I want to sit down, I want to be able to look at where we are and be able to determine how we’re going to move forward. And how we’re going to move forward is that we have to have more corporations to get involved with our city, the corporations that want to be here, we want to figure out how we can all work together to make sure that Nashvillians can stay here. And then corporations can be here. Because right now, I think it’s an imbalance.

Nashville rents are on the rise. There was a story a few weeks ago that said Nashville was in the top 10 among major metro cities in terms of rising rent, and that number was something like 10% in the last year. Is that something that a mayor can affect or not?

I think the mayor has a lot of very strategic ways of getting things done in the city. And that’s one of the things that we can do. We can’t tell apartment complexes or landlords how to manage their properties. But what we can do is come up with a way that we can make it more affordable by maybe giving some incentives to those owners, so that we can offset some of the costs so that peoples’ rent won’t be so high and that they can stay in the place that they live.

So the city could be giving payments?

Incentives to the owners. We can try to come up with ways that we can maybe incentivize those owners and those landlords to not raise the rent for let’s say, up to a year. Because what we’re seeing right now is they’re able to increase it whenever they want to. And that is such a hardship for people who are trying to afford to live here and work, you know, maybe two jobs just to pay their rent. So I want to come up with some type of incentive that can help offset some of those costs for renters.

How would you pay for that?

Well, again, I have to sit down, I’m not there yet. So if I’m there, that’s how I work. I’m a visual person, I need to see the numbers. I need to see how the increases are handled and how often they’re done. I want to be able to say, “Okay, come up with a plan, a package, or some some type of conversation,” where they come into the table, so we can all sit down and try to figure this out in a way that’s going to help them, because you know, they’re going to profit, right. But we also want to make sure we help our renters. So I think it could be a win-win for everyone, it’s just coming up with that plan. I’m a planner. And I, when I say I’m a planner, I don’t go past “Go” until it’s checked off the list. That’s the kind of mayor that people want.

Let’s talk a little bit about the nuts and bolts of the race. This could be a potentially expensive race to run. How much money do you think you need to raise in order to be competitive?

Well, let’s go back to Nashville. Nashvillians, again, are not looking for someone who has deep pockets. That’s not what they’re looking for anymore. They’re looking for substance. They’re looking for people that are like them that can relate to their situation, their family, their community. I think it would be intimidating. For it’s always about money, or how much money you can raise, not what they’re interested in. I’m not looking for a dollar amount of what I’m going to raise, what I’m going to look at is how I’m connecting with people. And that’s exactly how I’ll win this thing, because Nashvillians do not want to keep seeing privilege. They want to see people that are like them.

Let me push back on you just a little bit here. It takes money to run a campaign in order to reach those people. I guess what I’m asking is, what do you think it’s going to take you to raise in order to be able to reach enough people in order to get votes.

So I’ll be able to raise enough money to just do that. I’ll be able to raise it on my own to reach people, I’ll be able to raise enough money to have my signs, which are in process. Buy T-shirts. All the things that I need. Volunteers, everybody who boots on the ground. That’s what I’m going to need in order to reach the people. So I have my plan on how I’m going to make sure that I can reach the people. I don’t have to make a million dollars to do so, if that’s what your question is.

What do you think are the other issues in the race?

Well, there’s homelessness, I mean, look at how we’ve had to clean up Bellevue park while still trying to deal with 1,100 veterans that are homeless. We have got to be more intentional about how we handle our homeless population. And I want to be very intentional, because I’ve seen other cities do very well as far as how they address the issues of homelessness. And I want to do the same thing. And it just takes creativity, you have to be intentional, you have to be persistent and consistent, and talk to the organizations because we have an abundant amount of support in the city as far as nonprofit organizations that do this work every single day. And I do see that there’s got to be more funding to be able to help these organizations in order to do the work. And that’s one of the things I’m going to do, I’m going to take a deep dive into the grants and how we can continue to support those organizations so that they can be able to continue to help homelessness and crime prevention. There’s so many things that are being missed. And I see it and I’m going to address it.

What do you think people should think about when they’re thinking about your candidacy?

When people think about my candidacy, I’ve done it for years. I am the most decorated school board member and for the past four years. I’ve been the most interviewed for the past four years because people take an interest in what I say because they trust what I do. They have seen progress. They’ve seen my work, and there’s not one thing that I have not delivered on. They’re excited that I’m in In this race, because they’ve seen my work over the past four years in the public, in the community, in our schools, and that’s what they’re looking for in the mayor.

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...