One of Nashville’s favorite sons is on ballot for re-election as the Criminal Court Clerk of Davidson County. Howard Gentry, Jr. is a graduate of Nashville’s Pearl Senior High School and Tennessee State University. Howard was elected three times to countywide public office. He was a Metro Council member-at-large before being elected Metro Nashville-Davidson County’s first African American vice mayor. He currently serves the Metropolitan Government of Nashville as the Criminal Court Clerk of Davidson County. He was appointed Criminal Court Clerk in 2011 and elected for a full term in 2012.
The Criminal Court Clerk of the Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County is responsible for performing the clerical duties for the operation of the criminal courts in General Sessions and State Trial Courts. The Clerk is responsible for record management of the hard and electronic copies, and responsible for preparing the minutes (official record) for the Criminal State Trial Court. Upon conclusion of cases, the Clerk calculates court costs and begins the collection, as required by statute. The Clerk prepares all cases under appeal for the Court of Criminal Appeals. The Criminal Court Clerk is also the custodian of all evidence submitted to the Criminal State Trial Courts.
Above and beyond that mere record-keeping function is the opportunity to utilize that information and work with the people behind the records to help improve their lives. Last weekend, Howard told the PRIDE that when he came in to office, he examined how many expungements were being given, then looked at how many people were eligible for expungement. He took the initiative to reach out to many people who were eligible to have their criminal records expunged, and set up a mechanism whereby they could use the legitimate functions of the Clerk’s office to restore their lives. This has helped thousands of people. A criminal record can follow a person for an entire lifetime and affect employment, educational and even housing opportunities even if a criminal case does not result in a conviction. Gentry has publicly said that during his tenure as Clerk expungements in Nashville have “tripled” reaching over 30,000 annually.
“The expungement of criminal records has had an amazing affect on individuals and their families within the community,” Gentry is on record as saying. “People are able to get jobs and housing. They are able to reclaim their lives and become productive citizens. I believe the people who come through the criminal justice system and pay their debt to society deserve to live a life of dignity. The expungement process which is our Constitutional right provides people that opportunity and I will work to increase the number of expungements in the future.”
Howard has also worked to increase the public’s access to criminal records (case information, dockets and reporting, map crime viewing and arrest data) via a redesigned website. The collection of court fines and costs are a major component of the Clerk’s Office and Gentry has established an aggressive yet fair approach to this task.
“We have instituted a compliance department that assists people who owe court costs and fees,” Gentry has also gone on record to reveal. “We assist in assessing an individual’s ability to pay by providing judges with documentation that helps them determine a person’s financial capacity and offer affordable payment plans for those who are unable to pay the total amount assessed. We are also able to reinstate driver licenses while people are on the payment plan.”
Howard has amassed a diverse resume of work achievements in business, academia and government, with experience in banking, human resources, insurance and the Chamber of Commerce, along with fifteen years in higher education in development, institu-tional advancement, technology and athletics administration as the director of athletics for his alma mater, TSU.
“My life experiences prepared me for the real world. They helped me to understand the importance of fairness, integrity, honesty and the value of hard work,” Gentry is also on record as saying Howard has been heavily involved in civic and charitable organizations for decades.
A natural leader who works to provide for those who need help most, he is the founding chair of the Metropolitan Homelessness Commission and the Nashville Poverty Reduction Council.
He has served as chair of the State of Tennessee Prayer Breakfast Committee, the Metropolitan Social Services Commission, NAACP, and United4hope.
He is also a member of 100 Black Men of Middle Tennessee, Nashville’s Agenda, Nashville Alliance for Public Education, Music City Bowl, Nashville Sports Council, and Leadership Nashville. He has also served on the boards of the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame, Nashville Public Television, Arts and Business Council, Fisk University, Boy Scouts of America Nashboro District, Frist Art Museum, Operation Andrew and Key Alliance.
Early voting begins April 11 and runs through April 26. Election Day is May 1.