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Walk To School Day

Updated: Oct 3, 2023

Celebrate Nashville

When it named Nashville Mayor Bill Purcell Public Official of the Year in 2006, Governing magazine noted that “Purcell has proven to be both an unusually competent manager and talented communicator…If Bredesen’s (former Mayor Phil Bredesen) tenure as mayor was defined by big projects, most notably luring professional football and hockey teams to town, Purcell’s focus has been on promoting quality of life.” As the fifth mayor to hold office since consolidation of city and county governments, Purcell chose as his priorities good schools in every neighborhood, safe neighborhoods in every part of the city and a quality of life shared by all Nashvillians. As one Purcell insider characterized the Mayor’s attention to detail, “He makes sure the lights are on and the bulbs are burning.

In a quiet, unassuming, highly-effective way, Purcell has pursued an aggressive agenda, turning his sights on virtually every area of life in the city: the arts and the parks from the Symphony to the Opry. The magnificent new Schermerhorn Symphony Center became a reality because the city provided the land near the Country Music Hall of Fame, providing an entertainment triangle encompassing the Sommet Entertainment Center (formerly Gaylord Entertainment Center), County Music Hall of Fame, the Musician’s Hall of Fame, restaurants and hotels, to fuel the redevelopment of Rolling Mill Hill and SoBro districts. All this quieted naysayers who, because candidate Purcell has waxed poetically of the sanctity of neighborhoods, feared downtown would be neglected. Instead, Mayor Purcell treated downtown as Nashville’s most visible neighborhood and set about paying homage to downtown’s architecturally-rich heritage by returning Church Street to its 20th Century grandeur while working tirelessly to attract new business and industry to the city center. He added downtown housing, and not just for the higher income high-rise residents, but affordable units, as well.

Those other neighborhoods did not escape his attention, however, and he created the Mayor’s Office of Neighborhoods, helping neighborhoods work with the government to improve services. His monthly Mayor’s Nights Out bring police and fire chiefs and other department directors into the neighborhoods to respond to concerns. He added sidewalks to promote livability and interaction among neighbors, and he made the city more handicap-friendly by replacing corners on wheelchair ramps city-wide. He urged the Parks Board to pursue a master plan of the park’s system, resulting in unprecedented expansion of parks and greenways across the city, including the new park at the Public Square beside the historic Courthouse. He improved the city’s infrastructures and amenities.

Purcell believed, however, that nothing improved the quality of life more than education, and his efforts on behalf of schools have drawn national attention as a model for mayors across the country. The Mayor’s First Day Festival kicks off the opening of each school year and brings the attention of the whole city and region to the importance of education. In his first year in office, he visited every one of Nashville’s public schools, and he has since visited each twice more. What he found in those visits resulted in a seven year, 42 percent increase in school funding, and most schools have been refurbished or repaired.

He tackled the efficiency of city government, and tried to improve the ability of the citizens of Nashville to deal with bureaucracy. He consolidated all offices into the Old Metro Office Building for one-stop shopping, lowering frustrations of people who had to travel all around the city dealing with agencies. There is a new Judicial Building, a redesigned Courthouse, new fire department headquarters, new police precincts and all the while keeping Nashville’s tax rate the lowest of any major city in Tennessee.

Affectionately referred to as the Energizer Bunny Mayor for his indefatigable spirit and tireless efforts, Purcell has attended an astonishing 10,000 public events over the past seven and a half years. Those closely associated with him say that in spite of his visibility, he did the job without calling attention to himself. He preferred to let his accomplishments speak for themselves. When the Country Music Association pulled up stakes in Music City for a one-year trek to New York City, the Mayor saw it as an opportunity to showcase the city, and the city was a much as star in the Big Apple as the country music artists.

“The Mayor is the best salesman this city has,” says one former Purcell insider. “He’s done more to improve the self-perception Nashville has of itself while changing our perception outside the state than anyone could have.

Celebrate Nashville - History Of Nashville

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