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Let’s start with an introduction for people who don’t know you who is Jeff Syracuse?

For the past 20 years, I’ve been a neighborhood leader in Donelson and I was a first-time homebuyer there. I helped form our neighborhood association. So for 20 years, I’ve been bringing people from all walks of life together. The Donelson Hills Neighborhood Association, there’s 504 homes in it. So one of the largest neighborhoods anywhere around really, and from there, got involved in nonprofits, historic preservation, beautification, and I got involved in our local Donelson-Hermitage chamber, they made me president, and by then it felt like a natural next step to run for office. 

And so in 2015, I ran, and I won. And it’s been an extraordinary journey. To help revitalize Donelson, my biggest project over the past eight years has been a brand new library for Donelson, which is much more than a library, it serves as a civic anchor for a walkable town center, across the street from a regional transit hub, which has potential of a brand new Fifty Forward center with affordable senior housing on top. So I’ve been focused like a laser on balanced, equitable and inclusive growth. And I think that the county needs more of that. And so I want to be able to take that experience and bring it countywide. And then the other thing, of course, is that for the past 25 years, I’ve been working in the music business, and it was one month after I got my first job in the mailroom at BMI, this thing called Napster came onto the scene. And as we know, over the past 20 years, this digital revolution has transformed the entire industry. And so seeing these complexities of federal copyright law, and how that impacts the working songwriter, and musician here in Nashville, I think it’s important now especially as we continue to grow, that we have a voice at the local level to build local policy making effort towards ensuring our long term sustainability as becoming a truly great international city full of vibrant culture.

Is there still affordable housing and Donelson in your neighborhood?

Not really. Who would have thunk it that we would have half a million dollar homes in in Donelson of all places. I mean, when I was a first-time homebuyer, I could barely afford it back then. But you know, it is a they call it attainable housing now as affordable housing what is really affordable. And obviously, you have the 30-60-80-120% AMI, to help guide you towards what actually is affordable. But it has become certainly a crisis, I would say across all of Middle Tennessee in a way.

What would be your top priority if you are reelected?

So what I’ve been able to do in Donelson is connect that intersection, if you will, between transit and affordable housing. In and around the train station, we do have attainable housing that that is happening when we put Nashville Next together, and I was the co-chair for community engagement. So I understand the big picture about where we were, where we are, and where we where we are going. The idea was that Nashville Next, downtown success, what’s next, the idea is that we have what Nashville Next calls these tier one centers where we need to focus our public investment in order to build the infrastructure for transit and meeting affordable housing so that we can protect also our existing neighborhoods that want to be protected. So I’ve been able to achieve that. We need to build more affordable housing and connect transit. We can’t talk about one without the other anymore. So that would be one of my biggest things that I want to be able to do as an at-large member for the whole county.

You announced pretty early, and you’ve been successful in raising a lot of money. It’s been a crowded race and a competitive race. You finished just at the cusp there. Does that worry you?

Well, I think it’s a different race. Now. We went from 21 people running for five seats, and now there’s eight people running for four. So I mean, if I’m the underdog, that’s fine. Maybe hopefully everybody loves an underdog. But I’m hoping that you know, one of the lanes that I have the perhaps the other seven of my colleagues running don’t have is my 25 years of experience and dedication towards the arts and music here in the city. And then my ability to bring transit and affordable housing together. I’m hoping that there’s substance there that the voters come back out and realize that some of this institutional knowledge of actually getting stuff done matters. 

What’s the difference between a district council person and at-large? It can be a totally different approach for you?

Somewhat I would say. For sure that when your boots are on the ground in your district, you’re dealing with your neighborhood issues, you’re dealing with your planning zoning codes issues. Your neighbors will call you about the loud dog across the street, the trash that was missed that stormwater pipe that needs to be replaced all those kinds of more granular things and at-large member has the opportunity to look at broader policy fiduciary governance. Even like strategic planning, a great example is no matter where you were on either side of the Titans stadium, having an at-large member run a dedicated committee towards having proper oversight over that issue is something that that-large member can do. And so of course, then, if a district council member has to, for whatever reason, vacate the seat, it’s up to the Vice Mayor to appoint an at-large member to that seat temporarily until you have a special election. So having somebody with eight years of district experience bringing neighborhoods together I think is important to an at-large member,

You’ve talked a couple of times about the WeGo Star, the train, in what ways could that be improved? And as an at-large, do you have better leverage or a stronger voice to make improvements?

Sure, absolutely. So I was on the Rail Authority Board for about six years. In my time in council, it’s proof that bipartisanship exists. So when I go out to these Rail Authority Board meetings out in Lebanon, we’re all focused on what’s good for everybody. Investment in that rail line is good for Nashville and Davidson County with transit. It’s good for rural counties with freight and developing their communities out there. And so another example is that after we got gerrymandered between we had one cohesive congressional representative, now we have three, I did sit down with Congressman John Rose. And we had a great conversation about the need for infrastructure and transit here, across Middle Tennessee. And so he actually did help me with a little earmark for some dollars towards Donelson station. So Regional Transit is critically important, because we know that the counties around us some are growing faster than we are, we do need to focus internally on Davidson County as far as better and improved transit systems specific to the various communities across the county. But we have got to also think about regional transit. 

Do you use the Star? 

Sure, absolutely. Now I do live in closer to town than where the train station is. So daily, I don’t use it because I would have to drive out and then take the train in. But it was the least expensive commuter rail startup in US history. Nobody would have ever thought that when we got this experiment in commuter rail, that Nashville would be booming like it is and that we would need more solutions like that. So my focus has been, it’s a chicken and the egg scenario. My focus has been that private investment in and around the station, that then ultimately substantiates the public investment towards making the train run more often, having amenities around a train station and building out a robust Regional Transit Center.

All right. And finally, give us your pitch. Not only your neighbors and Donelson but the rest of the city, why should they vote for you?

Well, I am just as passionate on broader issues in the county as I have been with a laser focus on Donelson. And I think Donelson does show how we can grow equitably with balance and inclusivity of everybody, whether you’ve been here for multiple generations, or you moved here last week. We need to make sure that Nashville’s success does work for everybody. And I have no track record of bringing that to Donelson, I want to help and coach district council members how they can be the most effective in their communities, understanding Nashville Next, I mean, Nashville Next was back in 2014-15. So not a lot of people maybe even remember some of the ins and outs of what the general plan is and where we are going. So I think having some of that institutional knowledge, I think will be helpful as we move forward and continue to make sure again, that our success is working for everybody.