This was not how David Briley expected his day to go.
The new mayor of Nashville described his first, unexpected hours in office on Tuesday as “drinking from a fire hose” — from small tasks like getting a new ID badge made, to taking calls from former mayors, to talking about school funding with the district’s director.
Amid that scramble, he also composed a formal statement reacting to news of Megan Barry’s resignation, wrote up his priorities and by 5:30 p.m. was taking questions from reporters until they had no more to ask.
The start of his day hadn’t been easy, either.
“Well, my car was not working well this morning, so I dropped it off at the shop and then took the bus in,” Briley said, noting that he rides the 52B route.
By the time he reached his office, he knew something was afoot, and took a call from Megan Barry around 8:30, learning that he’d be occupying the city’s top office.
Next, he resigned from his law firm, to avoid conflicts of interest.
“So I’m a full-time mayor now. I’ve got no other job to do,” he said.
And on Wednesday, he’ll meet again with the mayoral staff that he inherits, before the onslaught of management tasks in front of him.
Transit Referendum Has Briley’s Attention
Briley listed various priorities: transit solutions, neighborhoods, crime prevention, schools, public health and jobs.
“That work will be conducted transparently and with a dedication to act with utmost ethical standards, to earn back any loss in public trust and confidence in this office and in our government,” Briley said.
And he returned often to his clear top agenda item: passing the mass transit referendum to fund the city’s first light rail lines.
“I’ve been behind that from the very beginning. It is the most important thing that is confronting our city right now,” Briley said.
He characterized the coming vote on May 1 as a turning point for Nashville.
“That’s what this moment is about: Is Nashville going to make an investment in itself? Do you want to live in a city that is prosperous in 20, in 50, in 100 years? You have to make this investment if you want that,” Briley said.
The new mayor will be on deadline to deliver a budget proposal — also by May 1. And unlike recent years, it will likely include cuts across departments.
Briley said he’s a strong believer in Metro helping to provide affordable housing, and noted that there are still votes to come about specifics of the new MLS soccer stadium. He added that he’s committed to having a public-funded hospital, which the previous administration had mulled closing.
Briley was at times somber about Megan Barry, whom he called a friend. And talking to reporters, he was comfortably unrehearsed.
He answered one question for a Spanish TV station in Spanish, was blunt about all that he needs to learn, and said he’s at least feeling support from the community, despite moving into the mayoral position through a technical process.
“I think people are going to get behind me, not because they care about David Briley, but because they care about moving the city forward,” he said.
Part of that task will be restoring trust in government after what Briley described as a damaging, disappointing and distracting day. He said he’ll hold town hall meetings and regular press conferences, and he charged the members of Metro Council and city employees with the task of representing the city well.
“This day presents a unique challenge … for everybody who works for Metro government,” Briley said. “Their mettle is going to be tested. My mettle is going to be tested.”
Briley will hold the post until an Aug. 2 election. He coolly rebuffed a question about whether he would also run to stay in the office.
“There are plenty of days for politics, but this ain’t one of them,” Briley said. “This is a day for somebody to get back to work leading the city, and that’s what I intend to do.”
The new mayor, who started his day with difficulty getting to the office, also had to answer a question about the travel decisions that brought down his predecessor.
How will he use his security team for trips?
“I intend to drive myself to work every day,” Briley said. “If I do travel outside the city — which is important for the mayor to do, let’s be clear … I will travel without a detail.”