Skip to Content
NASHVILLE.gov - Metro Government of Nashville & Davidson County, Tennessee NASHVILLE.gov - Metro Government of Nashville & Davidson County, Tennessee (Print logo)
Mayor's Office

Mayor Karl F. Dean, Biography Mayor Dean at podium

Karl Dean is the sixth mayor of the Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County. He was elected on Sept. 11, 2007 and was re-elected on Aug. 4, 2011. Mayor Dean’s priorities are improving schools, making neighborhoods safer and bringing more and better jobs to Nashville. He also works to sustain and improve Nashville's high quality of life through numerous initiatives that promote health, sustainability and volunteerism.

Education

Since first running for office, Mayor Karl Dean has made education his No. 1 priority. Mayor Dean recognizes that educating our children is the most important thing a city does. During his many years as a Public Defender, Mayor Dean saw first-hand how the quality of our public schools is directly linked to public safety and in turn, the city's overall success. Mayor Dean also believes the city has a moral obligation to provide every student a high quality education and the chance to succeed in life.

To that end, Mayor Dean has acted as a strong advocate for education reform. He has fully funded the budget for Metro schools every year despite cuts to most other departments. He also has allocated additional funds from Metro’s general operating budget for innovative education-related programs that keep students engaged in school and enhance their learning experience. The most successful of these programs include:

  • the Metro Student Attendance Center, which combined with new strong attendance policies enforced by Metro Schools, has helped reduce truancy by 45 percent;
  • the Nashville After Zone Alliance, which provides free, high-quality after school programming to at-risk middle school students;
  • Limitless Libraries, which combined the resources of the city's Public Library with school libraries to give public school students access to more than 1.5 million library items through direct delivery to their schools;

All of Mayor Dean's education initiatives have been geared toward increasing graduation rates and helping students become fully prepared for success in college and career. Many have also involved industries, nonprofits and volunteers through their creation or operation. Mayor Dean believes that educating the city's youth is not just the responsibility of the school system, but a community responsibility that requires support from parents, businesses, community organizations and city leaders alike.

Especially when it comes to trying new methods of reform, Mayor Dean believes Nashville’s philanthropic community can play an important role by providing private financial support to help pilot education initiatives. Mayor Dean formed the Education First Fund at the Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee to collect and manage these donations.

To date, private funds have helped:

  • bring two national teacher recruitment organizations – Teach for America and The New Teacher Project – to Nashville;
  • launch the Tennessee Charter School Incubator, which is training top-notch education professionals to run high-quality public charter schools to serve Nashville’s most at-risk students;
  • create Music Makes Us, a revolutionary new approach to music education in Nashville public schools that includes new contemporary curriculum and technologies, but also builds on and improves traditional music curriculum in band, orchestra and choir.

Public Safety

Mayor Dean believes that a city has to feel safe and be safe in order to be successful; and once a city has a reputation for being unsafe, it takes a long time to reverse that perception. The mayor’s focus on public safety has been reflected in the city’s budget. Even during the recent recession, while most other Metro departments were facing significant cuts, Mayor Dean protected funding for public safety and provided resources for enhancing the services provided by Metro Police and Fire.

Mayor Dean has worked to see more police officers protecting our streets. Early during his administration, Mayor Dean set a goal to bring the Metro Police Department up to full staffing. Once that goal was met, Mayor Dean encouraged the department to seek a federal COPS grant to add 50 new police officer positions and he later increased the department’s budget to keep those officers. During his administration, MNPD has recruited and trained more than 480 new sworn police officers. Today, MNPD has its largest number of sworn officers in history.

Larger police ranks, combined with innovative crime reduction initiatives and enhanced police-community partnerships in neighborhoods, have led to significant results. The Police Department estimates that overall major crimes in 2012 dropped 8 percent below 2011 numbers – a year that had the lowest number of homicides in over four decades.

As the city continues to grow, Mayor Dean has supported the addition and replacement of police precincts to keep up with population trends. Mayor Dean included funds in several capital spending plans to construct replacement police precincts in West Nashville and Downtown Nashville, as well as a new precinct in the 12th South area, a new precinct in Madison and the city’s first-ever full service DNA crime laboratory. Adding precincts improves police protection throughout Davidson County by reducing the coverage area of the other precincts.

Mayor Dean has also included funds in several capital spending plans to implement a fire facilities master plan, which calls for renovating and replacing outdated fire halls with new, modern facilities. The construction of eight new and renovated fire halls has been funded under Mayor Dean’s administration.

Economic Development

While Nashville’s high quality of life, low tax rates and central location make it an appealing place for people to do business, Mayor Dean believes the city cannot afford to rest on its laurels and must be aggressive about business recruitment and retention. The Mayor’s Office of Economic and Community Development works every day in partnership with the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce and the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development to help businesses create new, high-quality jobs and expand the city’s tax base. Their work has paid off. While the national unemployment rate was at 7.7 percent in November of 2012, Nashville’s unemployment rate fell to 5.7.

Mayor Dean’s approach to economic development has been anchored by investing and building upon what the city already does well. With an international brand as Music City and tourism leading as the city’s No. 2 private employer, Mayor Dean was a strong advocate for the development of Music City Center, a new downtown convention center in Nashville. Located just steps from the Ryman Auditorium and the world-renowned honkytonks on Lower Broadway, the Music City Center will attract hundreds of thousands of new visitors to Nashville.

With strong support from the Metro Council, work began on Music City Center in early 2010. The project is paid for entirely by visitor-related taxes and fees that are far exceeding revenue projections. Omni Hotels & Resorts was selected to construct the new convention center’s headquarters hotel, which will connect to an expansion of the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, creating what Mayor Dean describes “as the most unique convention center campus in the country.” Both the Music City Center and Omni Nashville Hotel are scheduled to open in 2013.

Mayor Dean also created the Music City Music Council, a group of music industry professionals and executives, who have worked to bring the city and the industry together as partners in expanding its presence here and its world-wide recognition.

In addition to business recruitment and expansion, Mayor Dean has worked to support entrepreneurs and small businesses, especially minority- and women-owned businesses. The first economic development initiative Mayor Dean undertook as mayor was to help women- and minority-owned businesses receive a fair share of Metro Government contracts. Dean formed the Mayor’s Minority Business Advisory Council and began work on legislation to address the findings in two disparity studies conducted by Metro over a 10-year period.

An ordinance creating the Procurement Non-Discrimination Program was passed in April 2008. The program is administered out of a new Office of Minority and Women Business Assistance in the Department of Finance, which has worked to significantly increase the number of companies approved for Metro’s small business program and the number of minority-owned business registered with Metro.

Mayor Dean’s administration has also provided financial support for the development and ongoing operation of the Nashville Entrepreneur Center, a business incubator which is helping creative people in Nashville turn ideas into jobs and revenue.

Mass Transit

As the population in Nashville and the Middle Tennessee region continues to grow, Mayor Dean recognizes the increasingly important role mass transit will play in the city’s future economic success and in protecting the area’s high quality of life.

With the creation of the Middle Tennessee Mayors Caucus and the Transit Alliance, a nonprofit advocacy organization, Mayor Dean set the course for the development of a true regional mass transit system. He was a strong supporter of legislation passed by the Tennessee General Assembly to enable the creation of dedicated funding for mass transit.

Nashville has made significant transit improvements in recent years. Music City Central, the city’s state-of-the-art, climate-controlled downtown transit station, opened in the fall of 2008. Bus Rapid Transit “lite” is being implemented in phases along Gallatin Road and will be expanded to another major traffic corridor, Murfreesboro Road, in the near future. And Nashville now has a free downtown circulator, the Music City Circuit, which operates on three routes.

With support from Mayor Dean, the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) is working on preliminary design and engineering for the East West Connector, a dedicated-lane Bus Rapid Transit line planned for a 7.5-mile route from Five Points in East Nashville through downtown and out West End Avenue to near the intersection of Harding and White Bridge Road. The MTA plans to seek federal and state support to help fund this project.

Quality of Life

Mayor Dean recognizes that as people consider where they want to locate and live, more families and individuals want a city that is walkable, bikeable, has plenty of parks and open space, and supports sustainable practices. For this reason, Mayor Dean has worked to create a city where people can be healthy, active, green and involved in their community through volunteerism.

Environment

In the spring of 2008, Mayor Dean formed the Green Ribbon Committee on Environmental Sustainability and set a goal to make Nashville “the greenest city in the Southeast.” The committee completed its work in April 2009 and presented a summary report with 16 goals and 71 recommendations. Since that time, Mayor Dean has worked to prioritize and implement the initiatives.

Major environmental accomplishments to date include creating the city’s first comprehensive Open Space Plan and an Open Space Fund that has allowed the city to acquire over 1,500 acres of undeveloped land to be permanently preserved as park space. Mayor Dean also addressed Nashville’s need to improve water, sewer and stormwater infrastructure through the creation of the Clean Water Infrastructure Program. The program is funding $500 million in capital projects for Nashville’s water and sewer systems and more than $50 million in stormwater capital projects that are paid for by a dedicated stormwater fee.

Bike / Ped

To help further expand transportation and recreation options for residents, Mayor Dean formed the Bicycle Pedestrian and Advisory Committee in 2009, which works in partnership with Metro departments to make Nashville a more bicycle- and pedestrian-friendly city.

BPAC helped launch Nashville’s first bike share program with 30 cruiser-style bicycles available to the public to use for exercise or leisure for free. The program has grown to over 90 bikes available at 10 community centers across the city. In 2012, a new fee-based bike share program called Nashville B-Cycle was launched to offer a low-cost, convenient and healthy transportation option for quick trips within the city’s urban core. The bikes can be picked up and dropped off at any of 20 convenient automated kiosks located within a three-mile radius of downtown.

These efforts, along with Mayor Dean’s commitment to continuing to fund new sidewalks and bikeways across Nashville-Davidson County, were recognized in 2012 when the city received a new designation as a “Bicycle Friendly Community” by the League of American Bicyclists.

Health

With Nashville facing some dire health statistics, such as 38 percent of the city’s youth being obese or overweight, Mayor Dean has focused a great deal of attention on the issue of health. His goal is to make Nashville a city where the healthy choice becomes the easy choice for all residents. Under Mayor Dean’s leadership, Nashville has developed a comprehensive approach to health that includes improving the city’s built environment, educating and engaging community members, and providing numerous, readily-available resources that support healthy, active lifestyles.

Since Mayor Dean took office, the city has invested more than $130 million in public infrastructure to promote healthy, active living, which has included not only sidewalks and bikeways, but also community centers, parks, multi-modal streets and public health facilities. In 2010, Dean signed a Complete Streets executive order designating that all Metro streets being either repaired or built support and encourage a transportation system that is safe and convenient for all users, regardless of age, ability, or mode of transportation.

In addition to building an infrastructure that supports healthy living, Dean feels strongly that it is important to take an active role in motivating a healthy culture through education, programs, and events. Since he took office in 2007, Dean has led over 4,000 participants in the Walk 100 Miles with the Mayor campaign, involved over 5,000 walkers and runners in the Mayor’s Challenge 5K two years in a row, engaged more than 3,000 children and families in the Mayor’s Field Day with the Tennessee Titans and created several other community engagement initiatives that have involved residents and businesses.

Volunteerism

Mayor Dean believes that volunteerism is a great tool to address some of the city’s most pressing challenges. On Sept. 10, 2009, Mayor Dean pledged that Nashville would help the country achieve the goals of the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act by joining Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York City to launch the Cities of Service coalition. By signing the Declaration of Service, Mayor Dean promised to do his part by developing a comprehensive local action plan to increase civic engagement. Nashville’s local service plan, called Impact Nashville, seeks to leverage institutional and cultural capital through impactful volunteerism directed toward two of the mayor’s top priorities: public education and the environment.

Background

Mayor Dean first held public office when he was elected as Nashville’s Public Defender in 1990, a post he was re-elected to in 1994 and 1998. Mayor Dean served as Metro Law Director from 1999 to January 2007, when he resigned to run for the office of mayor. Mayor Dean completed the program for Senior Executives in State and Local Government at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard in 1999. He has also served as an Adjunct Professor of Law at Vanderbilt.

Mayor Dean is married to Nashville native Anne Davis, whom he met in law school. Ms. Davis practiced civil and criminal litigation with Bass, Berry & Sims and Neal & Harwell. She has taught at Vanderbilt Law School for nearly two decades, including courses on white collar crime, trial advocacy and legal writing. Ms. Davis is currently the director and managing attorney of the Southern Environmental Law Center’s Nashville office. They have three children: Rascoe, age 25; Frances, age 19; and Wallen, age 17.