New Nashville Mayor John Cooper says he started his first day in office working on his top priorities, including taking meetings with the Metro Schools director and the Metro Finance Department.
As he spoke to reporters at 9 a.m. Monday, the new mayor also made staff announcements and triggered some surprise when responding to a question about the city’s new Major League Soccer stadium.
Top Staff Named
Cooper enters office retaining 11 of the 33 staff members from the prior administration, but with plenty of uncertainty about some key unfilled positions.
On Monday, Cooper announced that recent Metro Councilwoman Brenda Haywood would become deputy mayor for community engagement.
He also named Kevin Crumbo as finance director. Crumbo will leave his current post as board chairman of the Nashville Symphony. Crumbo is also a law professor and former accounting partner with KraftCPAs.
Cooper says Crumbo is an expert in financial forensics and restructuring with a deep history in the city’s nonprofit sector. Crumbo also provided informal advice to former Mayor Megan Barry, an arrangement that raised questions as
detailed by The Tennessean.
The mayor’s chief officer of operations and performance will be Kristin Wilson, who held a similar position previously in Atlanta. The mayor says she oversaw all city departments in Atlanta and has more than 20 years of experience in strategy and analytics/performance management. She most recently worked for property insurance company Velocity Risk Underwriters.
“I need a great team. Starting out with this, I think we have the makings of one,” Cooper said.
The mayor also named Paulette Coleman, an urban planner and affordable housing activist, to the board of the Metropolitan Development and Housing Agency.
Mayor Discusses Soccer Stadium
To open a brief question-and-answer session, a reporter asked the mayor if he would “dump” the plan to build an MLS soccer stadium, which Cooper was critical of while serving as a councilman.
Cooper stopped far short of that, saying he wants more information about the financing and legal status of the project. He said he’ll hold “lengthy” briefings.
“And I am going to ask for several prominent private-sector advisers to come in and listen to the briefing, as well, and as they say, the ‘true facts,’ ” Cooper said.
The project has faced a court challenge regarding its location at The Fairgrounds Nashville. But w
said the stadium plan was “finished business.”
A spokesman for the Nashville Soccer Club’s ownership group pointed to Cooper’s words when responding Monday afternoon.
“We’ve been doing work for over a year now, designing the stadium, as well as buildings that are going to surround it. That was overwhelmingly passed by Metro Council, 31-6,” Zach Hunt said. “I don’t think there’s any appetite that we know of to somehow not follow through with that. I do think it’s finished business.
“We are eager to work with him, Metro Council and the Nashville community to make that happen.”
The mayor said he and Metro Councilman Bob Mendes will meet with the state comptroller later this week about the metro budget.
One high-profile item in that budget is a plan to sell the District Energy System, which heats and cools a few dozen downtown buildings.
Metro has planned to net $11.5 million from the sale, but some leaders are uncomfortable with the idea. The city has gone so far as to choose one of three bidders. But that contract is under protest and awaiting a hearing from one of the companies that wasn’t selected.
“I’m puzzled by a lot of these things,” Cooper said.
Meanwhile, the mayor says he began his morning looking at his policy book —
as detailed here by WPLN — and preparing to start work on it.
“I’m going to, within the next day or two, take a big piece of paper and write out what we need to get done and Scotch tape it up on my wall,” Cooper said. “I do feel good today about this start.”
Correction: An earlier version of this story misstated Kevin Crumbo’s role with the Nashville Symphony.