Candidates, transit plan for May 1 election highlighted

The Davidson county Primary and Transit Improvement Program Referendum election is Tuesday, May 1. In order to enlighten our readers and show the importance of making an informed vote, we are once again highlighting those candidates we feel deserve the special attention of our readers, as well as the issues surrounding the Transit referendum:

Transit For Nashville
The Nashville Transit Plan, formally labeled Let’s Move Nashville: Metro’s Transportation Solution, calls for increased bus service with more frequent and improved local routes, four rapid bus lines, construction of five light rail lines, a downtown tunnel, and the establishment of 19 neighborhood ‘transit centers’ around the county over the next 15 years or so, with completion of the plan’s system targeted for 2032.

Transit For Nashville is a coalition of businesses, community groups and transit supporters who want to put an end to the gridlock. Their members and other public supporters of the Transit Plan include: Kia Jarmon, Ashley Northington, and Walter Searcy, among others. The Transit For Nashville official position is: “Job growth. More sidewalks. Community ad. Connecting neighborhood to neighborhood. This is the vision we have for Nashville. This vision is about more than transit. It’s about our future.”

“It’s time to get started,” supporters say. “Nashville is growing by almost 100 people every day. To be prepared for the future, we have to invest in a transportation system that relieves traffic congestion, connects our neighborhoods, and increases access for all Nashvillians, whether they’re new arrivals or those who have spent their entire lives here.”

Supporters note that among the features outlined in the 55-page plan for bus services are free and reduced fares for the elderly and impoverished, more access ride availability, increased route coverage and extended hours.

Opposition to the plan has grown along with support for it. Several groups, including ‘No Tax 4 Tracks’ led by Jeff Eller have emerged to seek to ‘derail’ the plan. Also working against the plan is former Chairman Rick Williams and his group No Nashville Transit Tax, Inc.

Among those publicly opposed to the plan are Jennifer Miller and jeff obafemi carr. They say that public monies were misused to hire public relations firms and fund public advocacy for the plan that they say will only help one percent of the population but burden the majority with a $9 billion cost. Their estimates say the plan will cost the average Nashville household $43,608 in increased taxes, with the city having a 10.25% sales tax, which they say is the highest sales tax of any major city in the country.

Scott Tift

Scott Tift
Chancery Court Judge, part 2

Scott Tift is a partner at Barrett, Johnston, Martin & Garrison, LLC, the law firm founded by George ‘Citizen’ Barrett. Prior to joining Barrett Johnston, Scott practiced law as an associate at Bass, Berry, and Sims from 2008 to 2010. If elected, Scott will bring 10 years of litigation experience to the bench.

During Scott’s time at Barrett Johnston, he has represented individual people in many types of civil litigation. Among these cases, Scott has successfully defended individuals’ First Amendment rights to free speech and religion, successfully recovered unpaid wages for thousands of employees who have not been paid properly for their work, and regularly represented unionized workers in arbitrations governed by collective bargaining agreements.

During Scott’s time at Bass, Berry & Sims, PLC, Scott represented individuals, small businesses, and large businesses in a wide array of civil litigation, including contract disputes, real estate disputes, zoning disputes, and arbitrations under the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA).

Combined, Scott’s work with these two firms has provided him with a broad array of trial experiences that will assist him, if elected, in his number one priority of making all judicial decisions as a fair and impartial decision maker.

Tillman W. Payne, III

Tillman Payne
General Sessions
Judge, Division 10

Tillman Payne has been practicing law almost 20 years all over middle Tennessee. Part of that time, he was an assistant public defender working with people who didn’t always get the best justice because they were poor, had mental health issues, substance abuse problems, or some other issue that made them most vulnerable.

According to Payne: “Sometimes, when they went to court there were no programs available to help them get their lives back on track, or they appeared before a judge that didn’t recognize the importance of such programs. Jail was often the default answer. This has always been a troubling reality in our judicial system. Being a vulnerable individual and not having the ability to pay fines and court costs should not dictate the quality of justice a person receives.

We need to help people get their lives back on track and I am committed as judge to keep working in the community to tackle the root causes that push so many people into the Judicial System.”

Tillman’s parents were educators and graduates of Tennessee State University, and instilled in him the importance of public and community service. After graduating from the University of Tennessee, he spent 20 years in the Air Force serving our country where he achieved the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. After four years at the Pentagon and three overseas assignments, Tillman retired from service and came back to Nashville.

Richard Exton

Richard Exton
Register of Deeds

Richard moved with his parents to Nashville in 1963, just before his fifth birthday. He has called Nashville his home ever since. A graduate of Metro Public Schools, Richard attended Glendale, Woodmont and Burton Elementary Schools, John Trotwood Moore Middle School and Hillsboro High School. He graduated in 1976. Richard then received a Bachelor of Arts in economics from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.

In June of 1983, Richard joined the real estate appraisal firm William R. Manier III and Associates, as an associate and progressed to senior associate before acquiring the firm in January of 1994. The firm then changed its name to Manier and Exton. Richard is engaged exclusively in real estate appraisal work on a fee basis. He is retained by a variety of institutional, governmental, and private clients for the purposes of providing real estate appraisal services for a diversity of property types. In addition to being a State Certified General Appraiser, Richard is a Licensed Real Estate Broker, although he does not represent buyers or sellers.

Some of Richard’s leadership roles have been as president of the Greater Nashville Association of Realtors; chair of the Davidson County Democratic Party from 2012-2014; and a member of Leadership Nashville Class of 1994.

Lonnell Matthews

Lonnell Matthews
Juvenile Court Clerk

Lonnell Matthews is a native of Nashville, Tennessee who grew up in the Bordeaux community. He graduated from Martin Luther King High School and is a proud alumnus of Tennessee State University where he studied accounting and business law. Lonnell’s career in youth development began over 15 years ago at the Northwest YMCA in North Nashville where he led empowerment programs such as the Y-CAP, Positive Beginnings, Black Achievers, Latino Achievers, Reach & Rise Mentoring, Step Up, NAZA Z and Fun Company.

Committed to North Nashville community, Lonnell Matthews, at age 27, became the youngest African American elected to Nashville’s Metro Council, representing District 1. While completing an eight-year term, Lonnell served as the speaker pro tempore, and chaired the Budget & Finance, Education, and Parks & Recreation committees.

Lonnell served as the ‘district executive director’ of Youth and Outreach at the YMCA, and as an elected official until his appointment to Mayor Megan Barry’s Administration in 2015.

As the director of the Mayor’s Office of Neighborhoods & Community Engagement (ONCE), Lonnell served on the steering committee to create the Juvenile Restorative Diversion Pilot program in the Davidson County Juvenile Court. He was also tapped to develop the Mayor’s Youth Violence Summit. Lonnell successfully organized the Race Equity and Leadership dialogues, coordinated the mayor’s spring and Fall Clean Beautification Initiatives, and launched both the Metro Night Out and Mayor’s Office Shop Talks.

No stranger to public policy and its impact on the community, Lonnell coordinated the community advisory group tasked with developing a comprehensive policy for police worn body cameras. He was also instrumental in leading the project team for Nashville’s 3-1-1 reboot and the hubNashville initiative.

Daron Hall

Daron Hall
Davidson County

In 2002, Nashville native Daron Hall became the youngest sheriff ever elected in the history of Metropolitan Government. His commitment to public safety and 25 years of experience in the criminal justice field have combined to make the Davidson County Sheriff’s Office (DCSO) a model agency for others to follow.

Under his leadership, the DCSO has become the only agency of its kind in the United States fully accredited by the American Correctional Association. The agency also boasts one of the lowest officer turnover rates in the country at 11%.

Daron is also dedicated to the community that he has always called home. He is currently a board member of the Exchange Club Family Center and has affiliations with many community organizations, including Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital, Boy Scouts Council of Middle Tennessee, and the Rochelle Center.

Daron has also passed his desire to understand the ‘why’ along to his staff. His never-ending commitment to this exploration has impacted Davidson County inmates through offender programming. The hope is an inmate can figure out the ‘why,’ change his or her behavior, and not commit more crimes upon release; therefore, not becoming incarcerated again. The police arrest the person and Daron’s staff knows it is everyone’s job at the Sheriff’s Office to arrest the problem. He wants offenders released from jail better off than they were when they came into jail.

Lower rates of offenders returning to jail further influences Daron’s commitment to what he does. Because of his leadership and beliefs, those who work at the Davidson County Sheriff’s Office support the same philosophy and ensure his vision is not lost. Daron knows there is more work to be done. With 25 years of experience, he can and will continue to effect change in the Davidson County criminal justice system.

Howard Gentry

Howard Gentry
Criminal Court Clerk

Howard Gentry has served as CEO of the Nashville Chamber Public Benefit Foundation, an organization that is focused on finding solutions to socio-economic challenges such as poverty, homelessness, adult literacy and workforce development. The Foundation facilitates collaborations with business, government, community leaders and nonprofits to identify barriers to sustain economic prosperity for all citizens and creates solutions that positively impact the community and individuals.

Gentry formerly served as CEO of Backfield in Motion, a nonprofit organization that combines athletics and academics to inspire inner-city boys to reach their maximum potential. For 15 years, Gentry held various senior positions at Tennessee State University including director of athletics, executive director of the TSU Foundation, assistant vice president for university relations and development, and associate vice president for technology and administrative services. His professional life has also included work in banking, insurance and over 30 years in sports radio broadcasting.

Gentry’s civic engagements include involvement with the state of Tennessee Prayer Breakfast Committee (past chairman); Metropolitan Homelessness Commission (founding chairman); 100 Black Men of Middle Tennessee; Nashville’s Agenda; Nashville Public Education Foundation; Music City Bowl; the Nashville Sports Council; and the Tennessee State University College of Public Service and Urban Affairs. He also serves on the boards of the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame (past president); Boy Scouts; Frist Center for the Visual Arts; Tennessee Museum Foundation; National Association for Court Management; and Operation Andrew. Gentry is the former chair of the Metropolitan Social Services Commission and the Nashville Poverty Reduction Council. Mayoral appointments include: Communities Putting Prevention to Work Leadership Team; Advisory Council for Adult Literacy; Advisory Council on Early Childhood Development and Early Education; the Advisory Group on Sustainable Healthcare Services to Underserved and Indigent Citizens; and the Mayor’s Youth Violence Summit Committee.

Karen Johnson

Karen Y. Johnson

Karen Johnson
Register of Deeds

Karen’s family moved to Nashville in 1985 and lived on the Historic Fisk University Campus. Her father became a deacon and her mother the church organist at the historic First Baptist Church Capitol Hill in downtown Nashville. Karen watched both her parents work hard as educators earning their positions here in Nashville as chief financial officer at Fisk University and head librarian at Hillsboro High School.

Karen lost both her parents while she was a student at Tennessee State University.

She became a mother at the early age of 19 years old and found herself attending college at Tennessee State University while raising two baby boys 11 months apart and working full time. After graduating with an undergraduate degree, Karen went on to graduate school (still working full time) and raising her children.

Karen began her career doing accounts receivable and accounts payable at Vanderbilt University Patient Accounting. She went on to intern in Human Resources with the Federal Government at U.S. Geological Survey where she learned that her passion was serving others and helping to make processes and procedures more efficient. She progressed in management at Shoney’s Inc., HCA, the state of Tennessee and now Mercy Health Services.

Karen has had the unique experience of serving both in the public and private sectors. This has afforded her the opportunity to acquire a cross-section of knowledge, which enables her to have a creative, open-minded management style with people and processes.

Sam Coleman

Sam Coleman
General Sessions
Judge, Division 10

Judge Coleman known to most as ‘Sam’ is a native of New Orleans, Louisiana. He attended Tennessee State University where he served as quarterback of the football team from 1973 to 1978.

Sam earned both a B.S. degree in political science and a Master’s degree in public administration from Tennessee State University. Sam later received his Doctor of Jurisprudence after graduating from Nashville School of Law in 1989 and was accepted to the Tennessee bar in 2001.

Aside from his duties with the Metro Council serving District 32, Sam practiced law and was involved in a host of civic and professional organizations. He is the former president of Community Access Corporation; interim chairman of Public Education and Government Over-Site Committee for Access Television Stations; former president of the Honor Council, Nashville School of Law; committee member of Teen Pregnancy Prevention; an active member of the NAACP; and a host of other activities.

Sam has been honored by the Napier Looby Bar Association for his work on outreach projects and also serves as a ‘pro bono attorney’ with Legal Aid of Nashville. He is a member of Lake Providence Missionary Baptist Church and the father of one son.