I’m an attorney and an advocate and defender and a problem solver. And I’ve been working my whole career with governments and companies to solve infrastructure needs throughout the country and figure out how to build everything, from bridges to community centers, how to bat first fire trucks and finance, sewer debt and everything in between. And your mom as well, right? And Mom, I have three young kids 3, 8 and 11. And I live with them, my husband and our two dogs. So it’s a lot. We have a busy house.
I grew up down in Crieve Hall. And now I live over in Belmont. So I haven’t gone too far. My brother actually still lives down that way. And my whole families here,
We’re asking most of the candidates we interview, what is the job description of an at-large council person?
Yeah, so at-large, you represent the whole county, right. And in our strong mayor system, people tend to think well, that means there’s nothing left for you to do, because the mayor also represents the whole county. But there are things that only at-large numbers can do things like updating our zoning code, when we talk about holistically how we zone and build in the city and how neighborhoods grow and change only really the at-largest can lead that whole comprehensive process, that is a thing that council has to do at-large is also have a unique role and that they can be a cohesive member to bring districts together on issues. So as an at-large, I would want to be in every district and having a town hall at least once a year to hear community concerns and talk about problems we’re all facing.
Early on, you told the Banner, your top three priorities, and all of them revolved around restructuring Metro in some way to run more effectively. What’s the top change you’d like to see right off the bat?
Yeah, I think right off the bat, we have to think, Okay, our city has grown tremendously and how we govern hasn’t. And so we have to get in there and say, Okay, what is not serving us as Nashvillians? How can our government serve us better? And that means everything from making sure we have enough people in the stormwater department to not only handle our stormwater needs, but process stormwater permitting, right? To making sure that our park system is staffed enough to handle what we need to comply with the 2017 Plan to Play, which people worked really hard to put together for us, right? Those they’re nitty gritty, and, and they’re not glamorous, but that’s the important work of responsive government.
I’ve heard people that are building things are frustrated that inspectors are not out in time and you’re waiting forever.
That’s right. And then when we talk about housing needs, whether it’s low income, middle class, whatever your housing needs are in Nashville, it’s taking so long to get needed housing built, that it’s driving up the cost. And when we talk about how to solve our housing issues, we’ve got to speed that process up.
What do you think about the idea of the council shrinking? That’s been a big controversy.
Yeah, I mean, I think that very recently, the entire county overwhelmingly voted to keep 40 council members, and it feels really anti-democratic to have somebody tell us our vote doesn’t matter. So whatever the pros and cons people can come up with, ultimately, the voters decided that issue and we owe it to them to defend that decision.
As an at-large council member, will you still be dealing with people one to one? Can they call you?
Absolutely, absolutely. You know, district council people typically have that constituent services role, but it is a part-time job, they can get sick, they can have a lot going on and need that backup, and at-large should always be a place where people can go when they need additional folks to help them with their issues.
You also talked a little bit about the Metro Police Department in previous interview. Other than filling those 130 open positions, you said the police department needs an update. What does that mean?
Yeah, I think the way we think about policing, we’ve done some pilots recently, when it comes to mental health, right, where mental health professionals actually respond to mental health calls, right? When we have calls that deal with the homeless community, we’re supposed to be sending experts out to those calls when we have traffic enforcement, NDOT is really stepping up its role in that. And I think when we talk about how we police in Nashville and making sure we are taking care of public safety but also public needs, we need to make sure the right people are responding to the right calls, so that we are getting the experts and the people who need them most as quickly as possible.
Well, is that public-private? Or is it public? All the way?
I, you know, to me it’s public all the way. I think that when we talk about things like traffic, and you know, parking and that sort of thing, there could be a role in contracts we already have when it comes to handling some of that, but it should be public, it’s public safety, it should be done by the government.
If you’re elected, and there’s an issue or a bill you’re trying to pass, how do you lobby your partners from various districts to all be on the same page?
Yeah, I mean, I think generally, Council agrees on most issues, right. I think we think of it as a body that fights a lot. But really, most things are very uncontroversial. And most things are things we need, we just need a leader to do them. I do think there are ways in which an at-large can have networks across the county and work with constituents in different districts who can then have conversations with their own district person that could help move the ball forward a little faster on some issues.
What do you think about we have a lot of new people moving to town? Are they joining in? Are they participating in the process?
That’s a great question. I think we don’t really know. But it doesn’t feel like they are right. And when we talk about county-wide governance, it’s really, really important that we find ways to involve them, whether it is as an ALJ going out, and having meetings with different districts and inviting everybody or finding ways to engage neighborhood associations to engage new neighbors, right. I know, in my neighborhood association, we work really hard to touch base with everybody at least a few times a year and invite them to an annual party and try to get people involved. That kind of community building is really important. With COVID. It was a challenge. But we have to get back to that transit.
That’s the one word that everyone rolls their eyes, because we know it’s a huge problem. Do you see any first steps that need to happen quickly?
Yeah, I mean, I think we absolutely need a referendum as soon as it can be done in a way that can get it passed, right?
It didn’t happen last time.
It didn’t, on average, cities have to vote on dedicated transit funding four times before they pass it. So it’s very, very normal part of that is it takes a long time to get community buy-in. Part of that is just the engineering work that has to go into dedicated funding to get it to pass, laying that groundwork on earlier referendums helps with later ones, right? Because you can dedicate more to community building as opposed to the engineering, but it’s very normal to have to vote on it several times, which is why it’s really important, we go ahead and get another plane out there and start talking about it.
What do you think the keystone of that is better buses? Is it light rail, like we talked about last time?
I think it’s both, right, I think that, look, I live in a really unique place, I have access to three different bus lines, I will take the bus downtown for lunch, it’s really hard for me to take the bus anywhere else in town, because it’s really hard to catch it and get there in any sort of reasonable amount of time. And people that have a choice to drive 15 minutes or ride the bus for an hour and a half are going to drive whenever that choice is available. We have to improve buses, we just can’t get light rail everywhere. But there are corridors where light rail could be really, really useful, particularly when we talk about how we grow as a regional transit system.
As a lifelong Nashvillian, what change do you like? What change bothers you? Or worries you?
Um, what do I like? I mean, there’s always been a lot to do in Nashville, right? There’s even more, right you can, there’s never a Saturday where you think I wonder if there’s anything going on today. Right? You can always find something, you can find a good restaurant, you can find interesting people, right? And the more people who move here, it just grows that bucket more. You know, I mean, it’s I love that part of the growth. The community spirit, the community involvement has been a challenge. And we’ve got to work on that. That I think has been the hardest thing about the growth.
A lot of people in this race still even in the runoff portion of it. What’s the differentiator? What do you want people to know about you?
Yeah, I mean, I would just say I am an attorney who really knows how governments work at their best. I’m also an attorney with firsthand experience at a failed government [in Birmingham] and what that does to people, when your government fails and a bankruptcy court is in charge of say your sewer fees. It’s not pretty, it’s not good. It’s really, really important that the council have a voice who has that firsthand experience. When it comes to what it means to build infrastructure in smart ways that serve people.
So you think you can spot the landmines or the problems before they come?
I mean, absolutely. Right? And I have the the amount of deals that I’ve worked on. For governments, the amount of work I’ve done, contracts that I personally have been a part of bond deals across the board are, it’s really, really unique. And I think that council needs a voice that understands those issues.
Really complicated, but issues that I really enjoy.
So, yeah, it takes all kinds, I guess, people that love to read a contract and those that are just don’t know where to begin.
That’s right. That’s right. And I think that’s the beauty of the size of our council. Right? They have very little staff. Council is a part-time job. And it’s really important that we have experts in all different areas so that Council can lean on each other in ways that they can’t say lean on the staffer because they don’t have that.