On Monday, we will honor and remember the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., starting with a youth rally at the Jefferson Street Missionary Baptist Church, followed with a march to the convocation at Tennessee State University.
I’ve been honored to participate in this march many times, but this will be my first time walking as Mayor of Nashville.
I will do so with the weight of knowing that as a person in a position of power, I have the responsibility to turn words into actions – hope into opportunity – and make a difference in the lives of the people I serve.
During the first few months of my administration, I have aimed to do just that, starting with building the most diverse administration in the history of Nashville – an administration that reflects the city we are tasked with leading.
For the first time we have a majority woman staff in the Mayor’s office, and we have African-Americans in key positions to make a difference in our community,with one of my first appointments being Talia Lomax O’dneal who is the city’s first African-American and first woman finance director. In this position, Talia is responsible not just for managing the city’s money, but also ensuring that our human resources and procurement departments are ensuring fair and equal access to jobs and metro contracts.
I’ve also brought together a young and talented team focused on some of the most important issues facing Nashville – starting with former Councilman Lonnell Matthews, Jr., our Director of the Office of Neighborhoods and Community Engagement, who is leading on the efforts to reduce youth violence in Nashville.
Those efforts started with a meeting at Pearl-Cohn in December which brought together metro and community leaders to talk with the community about their plans and goals for engaging youth in our city, and will continue with meetings in January and February to culminate in a concrete youth engagement plan in time for this Metro’s budget season to ensure words turn into action.
Ashford Hughes, Sr., who played an important role in the founding of Nashville Organized for Action and Hope (NOAH), joined my team to focus on workforce development. His first task, leading efforts to implement the local hire charter amendment that overwhelmingly passed last year, has brought business leaders, organized labor, and community advocates to the table for the first time in many years – a critical step forward to successfully addressing the issue of hiring and training more Davidson County workers on jobs funded with their tax dollars.
Adriane Bond Harris has built a career in making sure low-income and working families have access to safe, affordable housing, and she is continuing those efforts in my administration as the senior advisor on affordability. We have our work cut out for us on this issue – with incredible growth in the housing market and rising prices, more and more people are struggling to find their place amongst the growth and change we have experienced over the last few years. But with Adriane’s leadership and the support of the community, I know we can succeed where other cities have failed, by developing sustainable and long-lasting affordable housing policies that bring advocates and developers together to find solutions that ensure more working families can find a place to call home.
These are just a few of the talented members of my team who are focused on making a positive difference in the lives of all Nashvillians. Many of these issues, from racial equality to economic and social justice, are at the heart of Dr. King’s legacy. As we walk together on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, let us not stop that march for equality at the TSU, but continue marching towards a more just and equitable Nashville in the weeks, months, and years to come.