‘Metro@50’ birthday party celebrated at Public Square

Former Metro mayors prepare to go onstage [l-r]: Richard Fulton, 1975-87; Bill Purcell, 1999-2007; Phil Bredesen, 1991-99; and Karl Dean, 2007 – present.
photo: Cass Teague

‘Metro at 50’ was a celebration of the 50 years of consolidated government for Nashville and Davidson County. On April 6, the citizenry was treated to a big birthday party blowout on the courthouse lawn at Public Square.  Mayor Dean and co-chairs, John Seigenthaler, founder of the First Amendment Center and former editor and publisher of The Tennessean; George Cate, Metro’s first vice mayor; and TN  state Sen. Thelma Harper,  invited the Nashville community to the free citywide birthday party.

There was a birthday cake and a reunion of four of the mayors during the past half-century. There were also various civic and social leaders, entertainers, merchants and exhibits. Current mayor and host Karl Dean was joined by previous mayors Richard Fulton, Phil Bredesen and Bill Purcell, along with many luminaries and prominent Nashvillians inside and outside of government.

According to Mayor Dean, “fifty years ago on April 1,” the implementation of a consolidated Metro Government took place.  The celebration was held the weekend following the 50th.

To mark this historic 50-year milestone for Metro government, the birthday party was dedicated both to celebrating that achievement and educating the public about the remarkable story of how Metro came to be. There were exhibits about Metro’s history, including: photographs, news clips, first-person remembrances, as well as documents concerning key decisions and documents that shaped the formation and future of Metro.

The program was opened by the Tennessee State University Aristocrat of Bands. Other musical performances from historic and contemporary multi-genre artists, included: Sam Bush & Del McCoury, the Night Train All-Stars presented by Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, the Nashville Symphony Ensemble, the Barbershop Harmony Society Music City Chorus, and Rebecca Lynn Howard.

There was food from local restaurants and food trucks; interactive booths from other partners and sponsors; Dogville, a dog-friendly area with activities for dogs and their owners from great organizations; Kidsville, a kids area with great activities; and exhibits from local shops, vendors and artisans.

Fifty years ago, the citizens of Davidson County and the City of Nashville had a great debate about their future. They understood the higher costs and inefficiency involved in keeping two separate forms of local government in place. They decided to do something different about their government—different from the rest of the country. They voted to consolidate the competing and duplicative city and county governments into one. They called this new government Metro Nashville. They saw this as a way to make the community stronger and more efficient in delivering services to the citizens. They voted to create the first fully unified government in the United States with the passage of the Metro Charter on June 28, 1962.

Five decades later, it’s clear those voters were right. The consolidated metropolitan form of government has saved money and enhanced resources. Throughout the years, cities and counties from all over the nation have visited to see what Nashville/Davidson County did and how it’s worked. Some have even found a way to consolidate their own local governments as well.

According to the National League of Cities, to date there are only 14 city-county consolidations in the United States. Consolidation is a merger of city and county governments and the services of each, representing the creation of a new governmental entity and not the taking over of one by the other.

On the ‘Metro@50’ website, you can learn how local schools, civic clubs, neighborhood organizations, the faith community and individuals like you can play a role and get involved. Visit <www.metroat50.org>.