Sep 18, 2023 - News

Nashville Mayor-elect Freddie O'Connell prepares for office

Freddie O'Connell and his family last week. Photo: Courtesy of the O'Connell campaign

Mayor-elect Freddie O'Connell unveiled the team of advisers who will set the course for his early weeks in office.

Why it matters: In Nashville, the transition to a new mayor occurs at a breakneck speed. The city charter leaves just a few weeks between the runoff election and an inauguration.

  • O'Connell says his transition committee has three areas of focus: how Nashville works, moves and grows.

State of play: It's no surprise that O'Connell, a former WeGo board member, singled out transit as a top early priority.

  • He says he hopes to hit the ground running on the transit front by implementing existing plans already on the shelf.
  • "Mayor Cooper not only created but brought to council a comprehensive transportation plan" in 2020, O'Connell tells Axios. "That is on the table. It's got a lot of stuff in it that we should still do."

What's next: On whether he will renew a push for another referendum on dedicated transit funding, "we're going to start with the near-term things," O'Connell says. Voters rejected dedicated funding for mass transit in a 2018 referendum.

  • "My sense from talking to tens of thousands of voters around the city and county all year is that there … is a lot of appetite to restart that conversation."
  • "I'm eager to test that appetite."

Yes, and: O'Connell added that ensuring the success of a redeveloped East Bank will also be a priority. The city selected a firm last week to oversee the project, though the contract still needs to be negotiated.

Who's who: The transition committee will be led by Alex Jahangir, David Esquivel and Christy Pruitt-Haynes.

  • Jahangir is a former Metro health board member and chair of the city's pandemic response team. Esquivel is an attorney and board member of the nonprofit Conexion Americas. Pruitt-Haynes is an author and C-suite collaborator.
  • O'Connell tells Axios that former Councilmember Bob Mendes, former public relations executive Katy Varney and attorney Junaid Odubeko will also advise him on the transition.

What we're watching: A mayor's most important hires are finance director, legal director and senior political advisers.

  • O'Connell says he'll take his time making those job offers.
  • His campaign manager Marjorie Pomeroy-Wallace and former council members Dave Rosenberg, Kevin Rhoten and Mendes are among the names bandied about by insiders as potential key hires. Alex Apple, who served as campaign spokesperson, is a good bet for a similar role.

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