Board Member Spotlight
Freddie O'Connell, Metro DES Advisory Board Member
Councilman Freddie O'Connell was appointed as an advisory board member on Sept. 1. In addition to being the District 19 Councilmember, O'Connell works as a software developer at Rustici Software. He and his partner, Whitney, have a 5-year-old daughter named Halley Ann. We asked O'Connell a few questions about his new position.
Q: How has Metro Nashville government changed over the past few years?
The most obvious changes have been the election of Nashville’s first woman mayor and most diverse Metro Council—with the largest number of minorities, two new Americans (one Latino and one Japanese-American), two openly LGBT members, and more women than ever before. In turn, with work done by the Metro Human Relations Commission and the mayor’s office, an effort is underway to ensure that public service is undertaken by civil servants who better reflect the community they serve.
I think the recent completion of NashvilleNext offered a transformative model for the way in which Metro conducts its public processes, and Nashville MTA’s nMotion and Public Works’ WalknBike planning processes seem to have drawn some lessons from it. I hope our public engagement continues to be as ambitious in terms of data-driven outreach.
Finally, we are modernizing. Metro Council now uses a fully digital tablet-based system for reviewing information and recording votes. Digital innovations are becoming available across multiple departments, and the increasing availability of civic data offers better transparency.
Q: What do you see as your most important task in your time on the advisory board?
I see my most important task as offering a reliable service that is provided with fiscal responsibility.
Q: What do you think is the biggest challenge that Metro DES will face in the immediate future?
I think the rapid growth of downtown will present as many challenges as opportunities in ensuring that awareness of DES is as broad as possible and that if capacity is perceived as a limiting factor we have a plan to address it. I think the sheer amount of excavation will also put DES infrastructure at occasional risk.
Q: How has your experience shaped you to serve on the DES board?
My consistent work with downtown organizations, as well as my service on a Citizens Advisory Committee for what is now the Clean Water Nashville Overflow Abatement Program, has offered relevant preparation. The latter opportunity, in particular, gave me a rich opportunity to learn much more about our water and general utility infrastructure.
Q: Tell us about your life outside of your day job(s).
I have a 5-year-old daughter, and she’s pretty much my life outside of my day job. Having grown up in Nashville, I marvel at the opportunities for young children in this city, many of them available for free.
Before she arrived, I was an avid reader and movie viewer; now I’m occasional at best. I still try hard to see and stay in touch with friends. I generally enjoy and take advantage of Nashville being at the heart of a region with a lot of small towns, beautiful countryside and natural wonder. And I love our music scene and rich cultural offerings.