By Tribune Staff
NASHVILLE, TN — The predominant themes in this year’s mayoral campaign thus far have been encouraging corporate relocation and investment, wooing big league sports, and reducing the size of city government improving its efficiency. But when Metro Councilman John Cooper changed his mind about running for the office, he also adopted a different strategy. Cooper’s emphasis will be on neighborhood improvement, as well as sound fiscal policy, and rebuilding public trust in city government.
When Cooper made his announcement he didn’t hop on the “It City” bandwagon, or talk about getting NASCAR or Major League Baseball to come to town, or cite the need for bigger buildings and more downtown shopping and tourist opportunities. Instead, he cited simplifying government, spotlighting teachers, and improving the pay for both them and police officers.
Cooper, a four-year Metro Council member, has a strong background in finance, real estate development and project management. But he says a lot of what he’s seen and heard from other candidates, most notably current Mayor David Briley’s plan to put $750 million into an affordable housing initiative, caused him to recant a February statement he wouldn’t run for the office.
He talked about making teachers a prime resource in the community, calling them “the developers we need to support.” He also said it’s time folks who live in outlying areas stop footing the bill for downtown expansion. He previously showed his dedication to neighborhood issues and willingness to confront both developers and city government during the battle over the old Greer Stadium property.
He opposed former Mayor Megan Barry’s bid to bulldoze the area for condos, an artist village and makers’ space. He instead urged that a park be built to commemorate the property’s cultural significance as the place where slaves camped during the construction of Fort Negley next to it.
A married father of three, the 62-year-old Cooper’s family political pedigree includes his brother, U.S. Representative Jim Cooper, and his father, former state governor Prentice Cooper. His fiscal background is equally impressive, with an MBA from Vanderbilt and time spent on Wall Street. Since returning to Nashville he’s had a successful career on development projects, most notably the Heritage at Brentwood.
But his hope is despite reversing his prior stance, and not having either a staff in place nor the campaign contribution chest amassed by opponents Mayor Briley, Carol Swain and John Ray Clemmons, his focus on making neighborhoods a priority and reducing the size of metro government while improving its effectiveness, will prove attractive enough to overcome any disadvantage from entering the race at this late juncture. His view is that people in neighborhoods who are concerned that too much focus has been placed on downtown expansion and too little on improvements in neighborhoods and city services will form an effective voting bloc and enable him to become Nashville’s next mayor.
Cooper’s brother Jim represents Nashville in Congress. His father Prentice was governor of Tennessee.
This article originally appeared in The Tennessee Tribune.