Opinion » Editorial

Political Drama in Nashville

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For all the eternal mutual jealousies afflicting Tennessee's two preeminent cities — Memphis and Nashville — there are very few here on our end of that dichotomy who are enjoying the state's latest scandal, the one that this week ended in the resignation of the capital city's mayor, Megan Barry.

Nashville Mayor Megan Berry
  • Nashville Mayor Megan Berry

Barry had served honorably and well on the Nashville-Davidson Metropolitcan Council in the years just before her election as mayor in 2015 in a hotly contested multi-candidate race. Circumstances have not been especially kind to her since that victory. The entire state — in fact, the nation — grieved with her following the loss of her son Max, who died in Denver, Colorado, in 2017, as the result of a drug overdose. The scandal, stemming from an affair she had with her assigned police bodyguard, followed not long thereafter

Technically, the cause of Barry's fall may have been the fact that she had to acknowledge — via a nolo contendere plea — felony theft by virtue of having illegally expended taxpayer money on the bodyguard, Nashville police sergeant Robert Forrest.

In reality, her disabling weakness was an affair of the heart — one that threatened to make her an unwitting counterpart to the excesses that have been subject to much public condemnation in this age of #MeToo and Time's Up sentiment. Recognizing the connection, Barry said upon resigning that she did not want to linger lest she further "muddy the #MeToo movement."

Barry's fall and disgrace is conspicuously more tragic than the case of one of her predecessors as chief executive of Nashville. That would be Bill Boner, who was forced into retirement in 1990 after a reckless affair with a country music singer that drew national headlines. One of the many differences between the two cases was that no one had thought of the aptly named Boner as a potentially significant political force on the American political scene. Barry, on the other hand, as a Democratic progressive in the South and consequently as a bridge between factions of her party, had been seen as a likely candidate for national office at some point. She was certainly regarded as a forward-looking executive as mayor, and leaves behind her a $5.4 billion mass-transit proposal for the voters of her city to dispose of in a referendum to take place on May 1st.

Nashville voters will also have the opportunity to select a replacement for Barry this year in a special election, which is likely to be a rerun of the 2015 contest which had drawn a fair number of the capital city's big names, many of whom will get to try again. What is it they say about an ill wind that doesn't blow somebody some good?

For our part here in the Bluff City, having seen many of our own prominent public officials separated from their reputation and their careers during the Tennessee Waltz affair and related scandals of the current century's first decade, we know how it feels, Nashville, and we don't feel the least bit superior in virtue. We are all human. That was Megan Barry's unshakeable curse. And our own.

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