Howard Gentry has decided to enter the Nashville mayor’s race nine months before election.
Gentry, Nashville’s former vice mayor and current Davidson County Criminal Court clerk, confirmed to The Tennessean late Thursday that he had appointed a treasurer that day to begin raising money for a mayoral run. It marks a return to the mayoral campaign circuit after coming up just 405 votes shy of making the runoff in the 2007 election, which Karl Dean ultimately won.
“It’s something that I’ve been considering for seven years and prayed about for seven years,” Gentry said. “It’s also something that I’ve tried to talk myself out of for seven years.
“The truth is that it’s something that I really want to do. I think I’m the person who can move Nashville forward as it grows and matures and becomes more diverse, and so I made the decision to run.”
Gentry enters the race as the lone African-American candidate in a field that had consisted of six candidates who are all white. Many had assumed the 2015 mayoral candidate field was set, but Gentry had been surveying the terrain.
He figures to draw particularly strong support from historically black North Nashville, but he also has countywide name recognition that few of the others have at this juncture.
Gentry, a longtime advocate for the homeless, served as vice mayor from 2002 to 2007. He was later appointed as Criminal Court clerk in 2011 after the resignation of David Torrence.
He was re-elected to that position in 2012. Gentry, son of late legendary Tennessee State University athletic director Howard Gentry Sr., was previously married to Sharon Gentry, who is chairwoman of the Metro school board.
The mayoral election is in August. Gentry, who plans to continue working as Criminal Court clerk during his mayoral run, said he is a “better candidate today” than he was in 2007, pointing to experience with his current job as well as recent work at the Nashville Area Chamber of Commence.
Despite being outspent handily in the 2007 race, Gentry finished a close third behind former U.S. Rep. Bob Clement and Dean. Back then, he also was the only African-American running for mayor, and if he wins this time, he would become Nashville’s first black mayor.
“The lacking of diversity is certainly an issue, but I’m not running for mayor just to field diversity. I think if you put my resume up against any of the candidates you will see that I am just as or more qualified than most when it comes to my experience in and outside of government.”