Who is the new mayor of Nashville? Freddie O’Connell
O’Connell was up against executive Alice Rolli in the mid-September runoff.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WSMV) - Nashville Metro Councilman Freddie O’Connell won the runoff election to become the next mayor of Nashville.
He edged out Alice Rolli in Thursday night’s runoff election earning 64% of the votes (61,840 votes compared to Rolli’s 34,384.)
Eleven candidates were on the initial ballot to replace current Mayor John Cooper, who announced in January he would not run for re-election after one term in office.
O’Connell has served District 19 since 2015, representing the downtown area. He and his family have lived in the Salemtown area since 2007. He has served as a member of the Charter Revision Committee, the Planning, Zoning and Historical Committee, chair of the Public Works Committee, and chair of the Traffic, Parking and Transportation Committee.
He has also served as a member of various special committees that serve residents including the Nashville Downtown Partnership Board of Directors, the Central Business Improvement District Board of Directors, the Gulch Business Improvement District Board of Directors, the District Energy System Advisory Board, and the South Central Neighborhood Development Corporation Board of Directors. He has also previously served as board chair of Nashville MTA (now WeGo Transit) and board president of Walk/Bike Nashville.
Here’s a look at his background, according to his Metro Nashville government profile:
“Freddie O’Connell serves as Metro Council Member from District 19 where he resides. He received a bachelor’s degree from Brown University. His professional experience includes working as a software developer at Rustici Software. Other experience includes serving as president of the Salemtown Neighbors Neighborhood Association, board member of the Nashville MTA and member of the Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee. He was a co-host of a public affairs radio program from 2005 to 2010.”
Nashville’s new mayor says he’s ready to get to work as the city’s new executive chief.
During his victory speech, O’Connell talked about how Nashville has, in the past four years, endured a tornado, wind storms, floods, civil unrest, a bombing, a global pandemic, and a mass school shooting.
“But we’re still here. Let’s stay. Together,” he said.
O’Connell said three things to focus on to help stay together: how Nashville grows, works, and moves.
“We’re going to organize the mayor’s office around these principles, concentrating on how we make it easier to stay here, the cost of living in Nashville, and the quality of life for Nashvillians.”
O’Connell’s victory speech:
“Thank you, Nashville!
Look around! What a great room. You could be anywhere today and you’re here. In Nashville. In Music City. With me. With each other.
And I want you to stay.
I grew up here. My parents are here. Some of the best friends I’ve ever had in my life are here. Some of my favorite people I ever worked with offered me a job here.
And now I’m raising my family here.
I love this city and her people.
I love the music. I love the southern cooking and writing. I love the accents.
I love the legacy of Music City that started with the Fisk Jubilee singers. I love that my parents took us to the art galleries there when I was a kid and how my dad used to spin jazz and blues records at WFSK.
I love the new memories that our family is making and the successes that our daughters are finding in our public schools.
Something I love about this moment, about how you’re here tonight, about how many of you participated in the difficult but sometimes joyful work of making tonight possible – is that we are all working to make this a place we love, together.
And it is work. But we are up to the challenge.
We still have deep, painful scars from a past that treated too many people unjustly. And too many of us are experiencing new injuries. So the work of repairing and healing is necessary.
And not as many people as we’d hoped have been able to access the economic success of the city, so we need to broaden opportunity and access to prosperity.
And we’ve had to endure so much so recently. Just in the past 4 years, we’ve endured a tornado, wind storms, floods, civil unrest, a bombing, a global pandemic, and a mass school shooting.
But we’re still here.
Here’s how we make that possible.
Starting tomorrow we’re going to begin a transition process that focuses on three important things that we’ve all talked about for the past year—how Nashville grows, how Nashville works, and how Nashville moves.
We’re going to organize the mayor’s office around these principles, concentrating on how we make it easier to stay here, the cost of living in Nashville and the quality of life for Nashvillians.
We’re going to make amazing investments in communities all over our city like our new Goodlettsville Elementary School, the James Lawson High School in Bellevue, the Ravenwood Park in Hermitage, and a new community center in Old Hickory.
Every part of this city deserves the public resources that bind neighborhoods—and neighbors—together. Schools, parks, and libraries.
And our interactions with our local government should leave us feeling satisfied that a real person worked to solve our issue.
From litter to fallen tree limbs to potholes, we should be able to rely on our people and the systems we use to keep this city vibrant.
Finally, we’re going to make sure you can get where you want to go – regardless of how you want to get there.
We’re going to build a meaningful transit system.
Some of this starts immediately. More buses that go more places and that don’t all have to transfer downtown.
We’ll add to that more sidewalks and stronger infrastructure around these amazing community assets so we can reach them safely from our homes. Or from anywhere in the city.
At the end of the day, though, as we do this work, we’re going to look after one another and take care of each other.
Are you ready to stay?
Great. I can’t wait to get to work and continue to work with so many of you.
Before I thank a few people, I want to dedicate tonight to David Boon, Whitney’s father. We didn’t talk about it a lot, but earlier this summer, Whitney took our girls up to visit her parents in Pennsylvania and discovered that they had aged more rapidly than we knew.
Unfortunately, we lost him last Friday.
And we’re missing him dearly tonight.
I wouldn’t be on this absurd adventure without my dear partner, Dr. Whitney Boon. I told her every reason I shouldn’t run, and she still thought I should. And she supported our family with grace for the last year and a half.
So thank you Whitney. Thank you to our daughters – Halley and Violet – for putting up with my missing so many family dinners of late.
And there would’ve been fewer conversations with voters if we hadn’t brought on Scott Dietz, the mastermind of our field effort for months.
And there would’ve been no campaign without Marjorie Pomeroy-Wallace, my core partner in this effort. And the chief architect of the incredible team that helped us get here.
I want to thank the other participants in this conversation—Alice Rolli, Jim Gingrich, Matt Wiltshire, Sen. Jeff Yarbro, Sen. Heidi Campbell, Assessor Vivian Wilhoite, Council Lady Sharon Hurt, school board member Fran Bush, and Stephanie Johnson. All of us wanted better for the city.
And I want to thank Mayor Cooper, who stewarded the city through some of our worst crises in history and left us in strong shape. His efforts are an incredibly important springboard to our future successes.
We’ve had so many event hosts, public supporters, and volunteers, it would truly take me most of the night to thank them all individually.
So to everyone who knocked on doors, made phone calls, talked to your friends, held house parties, or even tweeted about the campaign: this victory belongs to you. You are the reason I’m standing here tonight. You are the reason we are standing here tonight.
Tomorrow, our work begins. We know we can do better. Together.
This is our chance to make Nashville a place where you want to stay – and can stay.
And I want you to stay.
You are the reason that Music City’s future is even better than its past.
Nashville, thank you. Let’s get to work.”
Get to know the new mayor:
What will you do to support Metro Nashville Public Schools?
O’Connell said one of the things he has accomplished is creating an environment that has allowed for the best-paid teachers in Tennessee. He also said he was part of a council-led effort that led to a pay increase for teacher support staff, an increase O’Connell said was “overdue.”
“These are the folks that support our teachers and relieve some of the burden of teaching,” O’Connell said during the candidate roundtable. “We know that teachers are asked to do a lot of things, so I think getting to a competitive pay scale is really important, and making sure that we’re showing them the support with support staff [is] also critically important.”
He added that his campaign has been endorsed by Metro school teachers, as well as by the entire school board.
“I think this speaks to the level of confidence that our parents, teachers, families, and certainly, first and foremost, our students will have in my role as mayor,” O’Connell said.
How do you plan on handling growth in Nashville?
O’Connell said that since being on Metro Council, he has led regulatory efforts to keep sidewalks open and to limit noise and light pollution.
“Now it’s time for the mayor’s office to use the enforcement capacity we’ve built over the past few years,” O’Connell said.
O’Connell said that he has a “comprehensive transportation plan” that will “offer opportunities to invest in traffic management.”
“We’ve got a great three-year work plan based on that, that will help us elevate the role of community transit centers like the one we just implemented at Hillsboro High School in Green Hills, and the one that’s under construction right now on Clarksville Pike in North Nashville,” O’Connell said. “We hope to join those with ones in southeast Nashville and one in East Nashville. Once we start having crosstown capacity and something that supports our healthcare and hospitality sectors, as well as other parts of the economy, we’ll move toward a frequent transit network.
How do you get people excited about using public transportation?
O’Connell said one of the best things is the program “WeGo Ride.”
“It is where employers or major institutions actually pay fares in advance,” O’Connell said. “So you just hop on with an employer ID or university ID. We just got this off the ground at our four major historically Black colleges and universities and other colleges and universities do it.”
O’Connell said the state of Tennessee, Metro, and Vanderbilt University Medical Center are the largest transit trip generators in the region.
How do you think we should be addressing crime in Nashville?
O’Connell said that one of the important ways the city addresses crime is by financially supporting the Metro Nashville Police Department with pay increases, as well as improvements to facilities and equipment.
“As we know there have been increasingly dangerous conditions,” O’Connell said. “We have gone to great lengths to support the heroism they’ve demonstrated after the 2nd Avenue bombing and the Covenant School shooting where we are making headlines for the way our law enforcement make us proud.”
In addition to policing, O’Connell said the city has created an office of community safety that looks at group violence intervention.
“Looking at models like we’ve deployed in Napier, which where we have watched violent crime rates drop after we’ve introduced this model called ‘The Village,’” O’Connell said.
O’Connell added that it’s important to extend the mental health capacity as well.
What plans do you have to make Nashville more affordable for homeowners?
O’Connell believes that property taxes are a complex issue.
“I feel like it’s inappropriate to have a discussion about taxes without knowing what the needs for investment are,” O’Connell said.
O’Connell said that every year the city has a budget and financial meeting to discuss which areas need investment.
How do you plan to address to address homelessness in Nashville?
O’Connell said one of the things he is excited about having done over the past few years was creating the office of homeless service.
“Mayor Cooper left us with the largest investment we’ve seen in one-time federal money, $50 million, that we’re going to deploy strategically,” O’Connell said. “Now we need to align it to the best data we’ve ever had on our homeless population and a strategic community plan that is being refreshed right now.”
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