Isaac Kimes, member of Stranch, Jennings & Garvey, PLLC, again appeared in an episode of “Nashville in Focus” on Sept. 24. The topic of this installment of the Fox 17 (Nashville) political panel show was the recent changing of the guard in the Nashville mayor’s office.
Joining Kimes on the panel were Kenya McGruder, Democratic Party strategist; Steve Gill, conservative radio/TV commentator; and Jackie Colbeth, Davidson County Republican Party regional vice chair.
Freddie O’Connell took the oath of office in September following the one-term service of outgoing mayor John Cooper. Panel discussion included the challenges facing the new mayor, such as filling vacancies on the Nashville Hospital Authority Board, the proposed plan to renovate the Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway, and the construction of a new $2.1 billion Tennessee Titans stadium — a project he voted against while serving on the Metropolitan Council.
“It takes political courage and foresight to say that I’m going to stand up against (the stadium) because you have to think about the lobbyist pressure,” Kimes said of O’Connell’s vote against the stadium. “I mean, these are some of the top minds, these lobbyists. They get paid massive retainers from the NFL to try to move these deals through.”
Other challenges facing O’Connell are the relationships with the city council and the Tennessee General Assembly, and the financial struggles of the Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County. Kimes and McGruder agreed that one of O’Connell’s first steps should be addressing those relationships, as well as those with federal officials.
“I think something we always have to remember is that (we have) a new mayor, a new administration, a new vision,” said McGruder. “Freddie is from Nashville. He has had eight years sitting on the council and he has a vision. We have to sit back and wait and see how he is going to pull the chessboard out and start moving the players.”
Kimes said he was hopeful O’Connell and his administration could be successful, thanks in part to three key members of his transition team — Bob Mendes, Junaid Odubeko and Katy Varney. Mendes, who Kimes described as a “monetary expert,” is an at-large member of the Metropolitan Council.
“I’m very fond of (Bob) and think he’s going to do a great job in counseling that transition,” Kimes said. “In Katy, you have someone who came up 25 years ago through Gov. Ned McWherter as one of his lobbyists; someone that cares about the state of Tennessee. … And then, in Junaid Odubeko, you have a lawyer and partner at (Bradley Arant Boult Cummings LLP) who is also part of the Gov. (Phil) Bredesen administration — a governor who was thought of maybe as a little more moderate as a Democrat. … You look at those three and those three give me confidence.”
The final topic debated by the panel was whether or not U.S. Senator Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) should debate other candidates for her seat ahead of the 2024 election. McGruder and Kimes both argued that all candidates should participate in debates.
“Marsha Blackburn has served this state in multiple capacities,” McGruder said. “The simple fact is you are a U.S. senator from the state of Tennessee, and you need to be out in front and vocal.”
If advising Blackburn, Kimes said he would counsel her not to debate, “because the state is obviously decidedly Republican,” adding, “But everyone here agrees, these are elected officials and you need to get out in front (of voters).”