“District 17 remains a microcosm of what it means to live in the urban core of Nashville,” says term-limited District 17 Councilmember Colby Sledge.
What does that mean? Within the boundaries of the district lie some of the fastest-growing neighborhoods in the city, as well as some of the most diverse. There’s the Wedgewood-Houston neighborhood, which seems to have a new development starting up constantly, and has begun to rival the trendiness of the 12South area, which also falls in the district.
By contrast, right down the road from 12South are MDHA’s Edgehill apartments and the Envision Edgehill affordable housing project, which seems to be in a constant state of disarray. Then, of course, on the top of everyone’s mind is The Fairgrounds Nashville area, which just a few years ago saw the construction of a new soccer stadium, and is currently the face of a debate over a huge racetrack project.
Whoever gets elected in August will face a very different district than the one Sledge was elected to represent in 2015. There are three candidates on the ballot: Teaka Jackson, Terry Vo and Tonya Esquibel.
Vo has spent the least time in Nashville of the three candidates — relatively, at 14 years — but says she has become deeply ingrained in her community through nonprofit work and her service on the Chestnut Hill Neighborhood Association. Vo has the endorsement of Sledge, and largely seems to adhere to similar ideas. She places a strong emphasis on housing and community development.
“I want to make sure that we are not creating a place that is for haves and have-nots,” says Vo. “I think it’s really important that neighbors, whether you’ve lived here five years or 50 years, that you’re part of the process.”
Jackson is the only lifelong Nashville resident of the three. She attended Metro Nashville Public Schools and now works as a litigation paralegal. Jackson is also the sole founder of Love Thy Neighbors, a nonprofit geared toward community outreach through programs, events and initiatives providing services to marginalized groups. Her top priority is affordability.
“The people of District 17 need a transparent leader who is dedicated and engaged in the community while focusing on affordable, safe and high-quality places to live and work, and I have a proven track record of this,” says Jackson.
Esquibel has lived in Nashville for 26 years. A loan officer for CrossCountry Mortgage, she touts her recently completed bachelor’s degree in Christian leadership as transformative in her understanding of her community and learning how to serve. She places a strong emphasis on public safety, specifically on bolstering the Metro Nashville Police Department, and feels the biggest issue District 17 faces is future plans for the fairgrounds.
“I feel like just having the experience in running a [business], that will give me boots on the ground to be able to hear what the constituents want,” says Esquibel, arguing this experience makes her uniquely qualified to negotiate with businesses and developers.
While we may not know what the state of the Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway deal will be by the time Election Day rolls around on Aug. 3, all three candidates say it will be important for the District 17 representative to engage with the community to make sure the deal meets the needs of the surrounding neighborhood. We asked all three candidates: If you had to vote on the racetrack legislation as it stood as of June 7, how would you vote? Jackson and Vo both said they would vote against the updates, and Esquibel refused to take a position.
“I hope that the person who gets elected really looks at it and prioritizes the people who live here in the neighborhood, and the impact that their quality of life will have if the wrong deal is made,” says Shay Sapp, the board president of South Nashville Action People, the highly organized Wedgewood-Houston neighborhood association.