Megan Barry was recently elected the seventh mayor of Nashville’s metropolitan government and is the first woman to hold the city’s top office. Her experience on the Metro Council, community involvement and impressive career over two decades as a professional consultant focused on ethics and compliance issues, have prepared her to lead Nashville, one of the fastest growing cities in the United States. She just completed her first 100 days in office, and we’re thrilled that she is here today to discuss her initiatives and top priorities for the city of Nashville.
It is with great pleasure that we introduce Mayor Megan Barry as our first FACE of Nashville 2016.
After graduating with a degree in elementary education from Baker University in Kansas, you decided to pursue an MBA at Vanderbilt. What attracted you to Vanderbilt?
After spending some time both teaching and working in other fields, I realized that in order to do what I wanted to do, I needed to earn an MBA. After looking at programs throughout the country, Vanderbilt was the place I wanted to be. I met with Joel Covington, the admissions director at the time, and convinced him that even though I didn’t have a strong finance background, I could do the work. He told me he was sure I could land a job upon graduation so he admitted me.
Joel passed away last year – but I hope somehow he knows that I ultimately did land the best job in Nashville.
Your work as mayor takes you to all corners of the city, sometimes multiple times a day. Name a hidden gem in Nashville that you’ve discovered in your campaign or during your first 100 days as mayor.
Ed’s Fish on Dr. D.B. Todd Blvd. They are a family-run business and they have the best fried fish sandwiches. They are a great example of some of the wonderful restaurants and shops in North Nashville that don’t make a whole lot of “best of” lists, but should.
In the campaign for mayor, you talked about your management style as being collaborative. Now that you are in office, do you find the demands of your job make collaboration more or less difficult?
I want to get the best results for the people of Nashville and that means collaborating. As mayor, it is my role to hear multiple and often differing points of view, challenge those ideas and perceptions, and then identify common ground where we can come together. This leads to better decisions and better outcomes.
The vast majority of StyleBlueprint’s readers are women. Can you share some things you have learned with our readers who are pursuing careers that are typically held by men?
Just because something has always been done one way in the past, don’t fall into the trap of thinking that’s the way it has to be done. I love the little girls who meet me and say with big smiles – “you mean a woman can be the mayor?” Women often bring a different perspective and way of doing things to a job that may not be business as usual – and still be very effective.
What do you think are the two most important issues facing our city?
I have to pick two? The one thing I’ve learned is that everything is interconnected and issues blend into each other. Take public education, for example. We have to make sure that our children have an excellent education experience that sets them up to be successful in college or some other postsecondary experience. That means making sure we have excellent teachers and engaged parents. If we’re going to end youth violence, we have to give so many of our children hope and opportunities.
But since you said two – let’s throw in transportation/traffic. It’s the concern I hear frequently expressed by residents in Davidson County and throughout the Middle Tennessee region. For the first time ever in the mayor’s office, we have a transportation team focused on coordinating the various local, regional, state and federal departments, agencies and organizations that have an interest or role in improving our transit.
If someone reading this column wanted to get involved in making Nashville an even better place to live, what do you think they should do to get started?
Make a difference in the life of a child, a teenager or a young adult by becoming a mentor and a role model. You can do this through your faith community, many local nonprofits and your workplace. Youth need to see what’s possible.
At every turn, Nashville’s traffic is a topic of conversation. Are there short-term solutions that can alleviate traffic while the long-term plan is crafted?
Absolutely, and my administration has been working to do just that. We are implementing a traffic signal study and optimization plan that will upgrade equipment and re-evaluate signal timing so that we can adjust traffic flows to match increased density and volume in parts of town.
We are also updating the sidewalk and bikeways master plan to address gaps in our pedestrian infrastructure that will hopefully result in more people being able to walk to work, school or to other transit options.
You recently held a youth violence summit to call attention to the issue. What would you like to see happen in Nashville to increase opportunities for all young people in the city?
I want to see expanded opportunity for youth. I want all of us – the public and private sector — to come together to create internships and jobs for our youth. Boston put 10,000 young people to work last year through their program. We are the same size as Boston and I want us to be working toward that goal. Through the Youth Violence Summit, we will be identifying how best to make that happen.
Your days are very scheduled, but if you had a day off to do anything you wanted to do, what would it look like?
As mayor, there are a lot of great events to attend and people to meet throughout the course of a normal day. So when I do have some time off, I like spending time around the house with my husband, Bruce, and our dogs, catching an episode or two of “Law and Order” and reading. Reading is my great pleasure. A perfect day is if Bruce uses his outstanding culinary skills to make dinner and all I have to do is the dishes.
As we start the new year, do you have any resolutions personally?
Most years I vow to give up Diet Coke. I’m still working on that one.
Do you have a piece of advice that has continued to resonate with you?
I have a quote in my office that says – “Power is about waking up every day and using that power to make a difference in people’s lives.” Because I’m privileged to sit in the mayor’s seat – I believe that is my obligation and responsibility every day.
Is there something our readers would be surprised to learn about you?
To be honest, it is hard to think of an aspect of my life that wasn’t explored in my campaign for mayor. But many people don’t know that before moving to Nashville to go to school, I lived and worked in London, England, while figuring out what I wanted to do with the rest of my life.
Name three lighthearted things you can’t live without (not faith, family or friends).
- McDonald’s Diet Coke, yes – only a McDonald’s one will do
- Angry Birds
- The Belcourt (although I will have to get by without it for a while with the recent start of renovations)
Thank you Mayor Barry!
Download our free SB App (available from iTunes) to keep up with the best of local (now including our daily content) all from one place!