Monday, January 18, 2021

Louella T Ballenger Williams, A remembrance of the woman I loved and of our life together.

Louella Ballenger
by Rod Williams - My dear wife, Louella passed away on December 21st.  She passed peacefully as I held her hand. She was in Brighton Garden's nursing home and due to lockdowns and quarantine I had last seen her on December 4th.   Fortunately, I did get to be with her when she passed. Her eyes were open most of the time and I got one faint smile.  I had about three hours with her.  I told her everything I wanted to say and held and kissed her and petted her and then told her that if she was ready to go, she could go at any time. About 20 minutes later at 12:40PM she took her last breath.

Louella is survived by me, Rod Williams her husband; two brothers, Ben Dillingham and Bruce Dillingham; a sister, Linda Eppard; and her two children, Lee and Dana. 

For those who only knew Louella after she was sick, I wish you would have known the Louella I knew. She was smart, well educated, cultured, adventurous, kind and had a easy smile and boundless curiosity.  She had formal education but never stopped learning and knew so much about so many things. She knew philosophy and art and history and was a ferocious reader.  She could name by the pattern numerous oriental rugs and loved fabrics and tapestries and especially oriental rugs.  She knew classical music.  She broadened my knowledge and we explored and learned things together. 

Louella was born at home in Barnardsville, North Carolina on May 5, 1941.  I have visited the community.  It is an unincorporated community isolated in the mountains.  Louella lived there until she was twelve years old. Part of that time she and her family lived with her grandparents on a farm and Louella shared fond memories of that period.  She told me of them keeping a goat and how when you got too close it, it would butt you.  She told me of playing in the attic and hiding and making scary noises and scaring her younger siblings, and the one time she left a gate open and the cows got out and how she got a real scolding from her granddaddy. 

When she was twelve her family moved to Engleside, Virginia where her father went to work with his brother at a market he owned.  Shortly after that move, her father died in a tragic accident. Sometime after that her mother remarried and they  moved to Alexandria where Louella graduated from high school.

Upon graduation from high school, Louella's aunt, Aunt T, encouraged Louella to go to college and invited her to come live with her and so she could, and Louella did.  Louella often told me how much she loved her Aunt T, and if not for her she would not have gotten to go to college and her life might have turned out much differently.  She lived with Aunt T in Winston-Salem and attended Wake Forrest where she graduated with a degree in Economics.

After college she move back to Northern Virginia, worked for a while then got married and had two children. She stayed home until her children were in their early teens and then worked part time for the Federal Government, working as a field representative, compiling data for the Consumer Price Index.  

Knowing she wanted to work full time as her children got older, she said she knew she needed more education to get the good Federal jobs. She enrolled in George Mason University and got a masters in Economics.  She said one of the high points of this college experience was sitting in a class taught by Walter Williams. She also studied Spanish and went on a several week study-vacation to Spain. 

Upon graduation, and after her children were grown, she went to work full time and then sometime after that her marriage ended in divorce.  During her career she worked for the IRS, some other agency a short while, and the CIA, but most of the time she worked for the Department of Labor.  She returned to the Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statics, working again on the Consumer Price Index but in a full-time higher paying position. She told me that to advance with the Federal government one had to be willing to move within the government as job openings became available. After landing the job with the CPI, she said she reached a point where she did not care to advance higher, and stopped seeking advancement. She was content and enjoyed her job.

Fascinated that she had worked for the CIA, I asked her one time what she did.  She looked at me without cracking a smile and sweetly said, "I could tell you, but I would have to kill you."  She then told me she was an analysist in the Mexico division but it did not involve cloak and dagger. Actually she did not like working for the CIA. A funny thing I recall is that she told me she failed her lie detector test for getting the position.  Even failing when they asked her, her name.  She over analyzed each question. She said she thought about her name and asked herself if her real name was her married name or her maiden name and did the initial constitute her middle name, or is her full middle name called for to be considered her name.  After being coached to just answer honestly and not think about it too much, she passed and got the job.  She did not like the CIA however.  She would go to training session and was not even to tell anyone where she was, and she said you were not to discuss normal chit-chat stuff about your job with family or friends. 

I met Louella in May 1992. I was underemployed at the time doing whatever I could to earn a living.  I got a part-time job with the Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, working as a field rep on the Consumer Price Index.  I had to go to a several-day training session in Annapolis, Virginia and it is there that I met Louella. She was one of the trainers. We connected due to an ice breaker game that this type training sessions often start with.  This one involved naming one's favorite broadcaster, beverage, and book.  We both named Atlas Shrugged. At break, I sought her out. I did not expect to find a fan of Ayn Rand at a federal government training session and I wanted to meet this person. As it turns out, neither of us were libertarians and were both pretty much mainstream pragmatic conservative Republicans but like a lot of people, Ayn Rand was somewhat of an introduction to purist thoughts on the nature of individualism, liberty and free markets.  

That brief introduction at break led to going with a group of about eight or so to a popular sea food restaurant where we got to know each other better.  Then the next night she and I met for drinks in the hotel lounge after the day's training. The drinks turned into a meal and we stayed late into the evening.  I had never talked with anyone so easily and had so much to talk about.  She was passionate about ideas, especially economics and political philosophy.  We knew so much on the same topics and had read so many of the same books.  Besides political conversation and current events however, we shared our life stories, and talked about family and she told me of her trip to Spain.  We got to know each other and immediately liked each other and had a lot in common. 

I was smitten. She was pretty, smart, curious and a good person and shared my views and values and was passionate about ideas.  When I talked about something, she knew what I was talking about. We kept in contact by letters, and email, and phone conversations, after that week.  A few weeks later I went for another, more advanced training session, this time in Baltimore, and we picked up where we left off and began a romantic relationship. 

We had a long-distance relationship that lasted until she moved to Nashville in 2001.  Long distance relationships seldom work out but ours did.  We saw each other frequently. The airline schedule worked to our advantage.  Louella's office was right next to the Union Station, across from a side street.  She had flex time and would leave work a little early on Friday, walk across the street, catch a train to the airport, and get a direct flight to Nashville, and I would pick her up at the airport at the curb and we would be home having dinner by 7PM, while some of her co-workers were still heading home on the interstate.  On Monday morning, I dropped her off at the airport about 7AM for a flight to Washington where she would again catch the train to Union Station and be at her desk by about 9:30.  On three-day weekends I went to visit her.  We saw each other at least twice a month.  

We enjoyed life.  We took up serious Asian cooking and would learn new recipes and shop for ingredients and cook together.  We had both been casual occasional wine drinkers; we became knowledgeable wine drinkers and went to wine tastings and read about wines, enjoyed shopping for wine and discovering new taste. 

Louella taught me to dance. I had been limited to swaying to a slow song, Louella taught me dance steps and to hear the beat of the music and we took a few formal dance lessons.  We went to the summer Big Band Dances in the Park and we often went out dancing to country music.  We loved going to the Broken Spoke, a bar on Trinity Lane that had a big dance floor.  I never became a great dancer but enjoyed it immensely. 

We loved art openings and the monthly art crawl.  We enjoyed annual events like Wine on the River, the Belmont Christmas program at Belmont Mansion, The Whitland Ave 4th of July, Festival of Nation, the Southern Festival of Books and others.  We went to lectures, writer's nights, free concerts at the Blair School of Music, honky-tonking on Lower Broadway, and we took hikes and long walks and enjoyed yard sales and dining out.  We were always on the go and having a good time. 

On three-day weekends, I would go to Washington and visit her where we enjoyed all there is to do in Washington.  We went to free cultural events hosted by embassies, we saw most of the Smithsonian Museums taking it in, in small doses at a time and we enjoyed eating out and exploring the city. Between visits, we talked on the phone, often for hours at a time.  

Each year we took a foreign vacation.  Travel had appealed to me but for some reason I thought it was too expensive and too daunting.  Louella convinced me it wasn't.  Our first trip was to Spain and it was wonderful.  Subsequent trips included Italy, France, Portugal, Mexico twice, Turkey, Czech Republic, and Hungary. We traveled light, without reservations.  With two good guide books we figured it out as we went. We stayed at ma and pa pensions mostly.  If we loved a place we would stay an extra day, if we had seen enough we moved on.   We had an itinerary but not a schedule. We took local trains and buses and subways. We visited the great museums of the world and explored and had adventure.  Prior to our trips, we spend a lot of time deciding where we would go and for months in advance we read about the country we would visit and its history and culture and art and what we wanted to see. We were knowledgeable travelers.  Louella was a great travel companion and we had magical moments and romance and adventure. 

The terrorist attack of 9-11 was a wake-up call for us.  We realized life is uncertain and short and if we were going to be together we ought to do it.  We bought a house together and Louella retired and moved to Nashville on Thanksgiving weekend, 2001.

Unfortunately, something was not right. Louella who had been full of life and had varied interests suddenly did not care what we did and had little enthusiasm.  We didn't fight much, but were just not happy.  In addition to quitting her job and moving away from her children, her mother died that year.  I thought Louella was experiencing depression but thought maybe also she was having regrets about our relationship and her move.  It wasn't constant, however.  We still enjoyed some things and there would be times when the dark cloud  would lift and things would seem as they were before, but something was not right. Then one day something happened that caused me to realize that there was definitely something going on beyond depression.  It took a while to get a firm diagnosis but by March 2005 she was diagnosed with Alzheimer's.  As it turned out it was not Alzheimer's but Hydrocephalus, which is treatable and if she had been correctly diagnosed and treated early she would have gotten well, but by the time she was correctly diagnosed the brain damage had already occurred.

After being diagnosed, and getting on medication we had the sadness of the realization of her condition, but the undefined dark cloud lifted. We enjoyed life again.  In the early stages Louella still had her knowledge and still appreciated the same things she had appreciated, she just could not do things that required reasoning.  We had one more adventurous vacation, this one to Greece. Louella could not make change or read a map, but otherwise not much was different. We had a wonderful romantic time. We decided to not stop having fun and living life until we absolutely had to.  We enjoyed our family, and still went out to dine, and to events and enjoyed the political social life. On December 4, 2005, we were married in a beautiful ceremony at our home.  

Over the following years Louella's health declined.  We still had some good times, however.  But as the years rolled by she became less and less able to do the things we had done.  I was fortunate to find a good caregiver for Louella who worked for us forty hours a week.  The rest of the time, I was her full-time caregiver.  There were trying times when Louella experienced periods of agitation, and periods of insomnia, and there were scares where she almost died.  She declined and the last five years or so of her life she was "total care."  She had to be fed and changed and was in a wheel chair.  She totally lost the ability to talk.  It was sad watching her decline.  It was trying but I loved her and was glad I could take care of her.  Despite her inability to talk, Louella still had lots of personality and would say syllables in conversational tones and would smile and laugh and love attention. Despite her condition she was jealous of my attention.  If we had a guest and I was engrossed in conversation and ignoring her, she would act out.  In many ways she was child-like.

In February of 2020 there were some changes in circumstances and I realized I could just not take care of her at home anymore.  I found a place for her and put her in Brighton Gardens of Bentwood.  There are bad nursing homes and good ones and this was a good one.  They really cared about her and treated her with dignity.  The food was good and Louella was engaged and talked to. I visited with her for hours on end almost everyday, enjoying our time together in this new setting.  Unfortunately, the next month after putting her in the nursing home, the Covid-19 virus crisis erupted and my visits were restricted and there were periods of no visits at all.  She continued her decline and passed away on December 21. 2020.

I am glad I had Louella in my life.  I wish you would have know the woman I loved. I miss her. 

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Armed soldiers to protect the inauguration are justified

Ralph Bristol
by Ralph Bristol, 1/18/21, reposted from Facebook - I’ve seen two separate posts (so far) that have said “If you need…Armed Soldiers to protect your inauguration from The People, then you probably weren’t elected by The People.” 

The 25,000 federal troops plus 10,000 police and other law enforcement are guarding the Capitol, along with a 12’ fence topped with razor wire BECAUSE hundreds of most fanatical wing of pro-Trump protesters easily overran the Capitol police force on 1/6/21 and launched a deadly attack with the stated (during the attack) intent of capturing and/or killing both the Vice President and the Speaker of the House.

They did so immediately after the President, his son and his lawyer held pep rallies for them and urged them to march to the Capitol, “fight like hell” and conduct “trial by combat.” The most fringe element took them literally and attempted exactly that. Most people know not to take Trump literally, but we’re not talking about the hottest French fries in the Happy Meal here. 

Within days, that same element encouraged what they called “armed protests” at the U.S Capitol and state Capitols on or before inauguration day. Given those facts, the troops guarding the incoming administration are justified, and the threat is not coming from “the people.” 

The people who conducted a deadly attack on the Capitol on 1/6/21 and have announced plans for “armed protests” on or before Inauguration Day represent the darkest side of the angriest half of the losing side of the election. That’s not “the people.” Their numbers are large enough to represent a clear and present danger that warrants extraordinary security measures, but they are a very small fraction of one percent of “the people.” Just so the math is clear.

Ralph Bristol is a former popular local conservative radio talk show host with Super Talk 99.7 (WTN 99.7) where he worked for 11 years. He is now semi-retired.

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Sunday, January 17, 2021

Democrats elect Remus new party chair

Hendrell Remus
Nashville Post - Members of the Tennessee Democratic Party’s executive committee on Saturday elected Hendrell Remus as the new party chair.

Remus, an assistant emergency operations officer at Tennessee State University, is said to be the first Black leader of the state party organization. He has previously run, unsuccessfully, for local and state offices in Memphis. Remus is vice chair of the Tennessee Young Democrats and in that role has served as an ex-officio member of the TNDP Executive Committee. 

Remus takes over the party from three-term chair Mary Mancini at a low point for Tennessee Democrats, who have not won a statewide election since 2006 and whose House and Senate caucuses have dwindled to super-minorities. 

The House and Senate caucuses supported Wade Munday for the chairmanship.(read more)

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Saturday, January 16, 2021

Please, No Capitol protest says local pro-Trump leader

by Rod Williams - Rick Williams, a friend of mine and well-know conservative political leader and the organizer of many Trump rallies in the middle Tennessee area, is urging his followers to abstain from any protest for the next seven days.  Without mentioning the capitol protest by name, it is assumed than any pro-Trump protest on inauguration day would take place at the capitol building.  The legislative plaza in front of the Tennessee capitol has been the scene of several pro-Trump rallies since the election. Nationwide, numerous protest are reportedly planned at state capitol buildings. I am pleased to see responsible statement from Rick.  Below is a Facebook posting from Rick Williams.

The Metro Police Department and the Tennessee Highway Patrol have  urged "Nashvillians to enjoy the upcoming weekend and inauguration week as normal, while being mindful of the POTENTIAL for demonstrations in the area of the State Capitol Sunday thru inauguration day." Here is a message from Chief Drake and Col Matt Perry.

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Thursday, January 14, 2021

Metro Budget 101 Series

Metro Nashville press release - Councilmembers Kyonztè Toombs (Chair) and Delishia Porterfield (Vice-Chair) of the Metro Budget and Finance Committee, will be hosting a virtual Metro Budget 101 Series over the next few months. The sessions, beginning at 6 p.m., will provide transparency and education for the general public concerning Metro Nashville Davidson County's revenues, finances, and the budget process. Questions from the public may be submitted to by 5 p.m. on the day before the session. All questions must be on-topic. 

How the City Gets Money 
  • November 19, 2020 - Property Taxes: Assessor of Property Vivian Wilhoite, Trustee Erica Gilmore (Join November 19 meeting) 
  • December 3, 2020 - Sales Taxes: What about Downtown Revenue? Councilmember At-Large Bob Mendes (Join December 3 meeting) 
  • December 17, 2020 - City/State Revenue: Finance Director Kevin Crumbo and State Rep. Harold Love (Join December 17 meeting) 
How the City Spends Money 
  • January 7, 2021 - Metro Nashville Public Schools (Join January 7 meeting) School Board Member Freda Player-Peters Chief Operating and Financial Officer Chris Henson 
  • January 14, 2021 - Metro Public Works and Metro Parks Departments (Join January 14 meeting) Public Works Interim Director Shanna Whitelaw Metro Parks Director Monique Odom 
  • January 21, 2021 - Nashville General Hospital (Join January 21 meeting) 
  • January 28, 2021 - Public Safety (Metro Nashville Police Department, Sheriff's Office, District Attorney's Office) (Join January 28 meeting) Community Panel Discussions 
  • February 4, 2021 - Community Panel Discussion (Join February 4 meeting) 
  • February 11, 2021 - Expert Panel Discussion (Join February 11 meeting) 
  • February 18, 2021 - How the Budget Process works (Join February 18 meeting) 
  • February 25, 2021 - Participatory Budget (Join February 25 meeting) Councilmember At-Large Zulfat Suara
This series of sessions will provide helpful information, and I hope you will participate as we work through this upcoming 2021 budget year. The schedule will be updated as speakers are confirmed. Members of the public may watch the following meetings live online at, and Metro Nashville and Davidson County residents can view Metro Nashville Network on Comcast channel 3, AT&T U-verse channel 99, Google Fiber channel 3, and streaming on the Metro Nashville Network Roku channel.

Rod's Comment: This should be informative for anyone who wants a deeper understanding of metro's finances.  It appears to me the groundwork is being laid for another tax hike on top of last year's massive tax hike.  For anyone who wants to be able to talk intelligently about the budget, I would recommend these sessions. 

The above press release had dead-end links for joining the specific meeting.  I would assume the links will be activated closer to the dates of the meeting.  To view the press release with the links for joining the individual sessions, follow this link

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Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Lawmakers reelect Tennessee secretary of state Tre Hargett despite objection from some Democrats


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My advice to the new Mayor Cooper appointed Affordable Housing Task Force

by Rod Williams - Mayor Cooper has appointed a new affordable housing task force to make recommendation to the mayor for the 2022 fiscal year budget.  I don't think one would be stepping out on a limb to bet that they will recommend a considerable increase in spending on affordable housing.  Unfortunately, it appears to me, the ground work is being laid for an additional tax increase on top of this year's 32% tax hike. 

From years of working in the affordable housing field, I know some of the people on the task force such as Kay Bowers, Eddie Latimer and Lethia Mann.  They are good people and have valuable insight into the difficulties faced in developing affordable housing.  Most of the task force I do not know but know of them. 

I would like to take this opportunity to offer some advice to the task force.

Realize that as a Metropolitan area is more than Davidson County. The metro area is a 13-county area. To find affordable housing one may need to go to Burns or Watertown or Bethpage.  And, that is OK. This is normal.  Nashville is a hot market with more people moving here by the day.  When the city offers incentives to entice businesses to move here or if businesses move here without incentives because we are a desirable place to be, that drives up prices.  That especially drives up prices when the businesses we entice to move hear provide good paying jobs.  People who make more money are going to pay more for housing and lower valued housing will be replaced by more expensive housing. The areas closer to the city center are going to be more valuable, so people who cannot afford the higher prices may need to move further out. Actually some people prefer the suburbs and do not mind the commute. Look at affordability of greater Nashville, not just Davidson County.

Realize that the greatest cause of the loss of affordable housing is simply supply and demand. While the city could set aside money to build some affordable housing, it will be a drop in the bucket as far as making any significant difference. What is happening in Nashville is a natural process.  When there is more demand for something the price goes up.

Acknowledge that single-family-only zoning restricts supply and drives up prices while also contributing to urban sprawl. At one time Nashville's zoning code allowed duplexes in every residential neighborhood.  At some point a new classification was created that allowed neighborhoods to be zoned to prohibit duplexes.  Almost every months, big swaths of  the county are zoned to prohibit duplexes.  Decreasing housing density decreases supply and causes increased housing prices.  New rezoning to single-family-only should end. 

Stand up to those who stop the development of affordable housing.  There is a lot of pious hypocrisy on the part of councilmembers who claim to favor affordable housing but don't want it in their district and also on the part of affordable housing advocates who won 't advocate.  Look no further than the long drawn out fight to stop an affordable housing apartment development called The Ridge at Antioch.  The property was already zoned to allow this development, but the Council person from the district and an adjoining district tried to down zone the property. Down zoning is a taking of property. Property rights are more than holding title. If the government takes away the right to develop the property that you already possess, that is a taking of your property. Eventually, the attempt was unsuccessful. The builder could not develop the property with this hanging over his head however, so for two years the project was delayed. I don't think the property was ever developed. The Council members fighting to stop this development argued they did not oppose housing development on the property but argued their part of town already had too much affordable housing. Also, neighbors filed a law suit to stop the development but were unsuccessful. This was not "the projects," it was a "tax credit" development. It was an apartment complex that no one would have known was subsidized housing. This "not in my back yard" attitude and willingness to trample property rights is one of the reasons for a shortage of affordable housing. 

Recognize that raising property taxes makes housing less affordable.  This is a simple fact.  

Look at how our sidewalk policy inhibits development of affordable housing.  If one builds a home or substantially improves a home in Davidson County one has to build a sidewalk in front of the house, even if there are no other sidewalks on the street,  or pay a fee into the sidewalk fund.  Sidewalks are extremely expensive to build in Davidson County and this policy can add thousands of dollars to the cost of a property.

We should allow mobile homes and modular homes.  It is almost impossible to build a mobile home park in Davidson County and mobile homes can greatly increase the supply of affordable housing. 

Be aware that beautifying low income neighborhoods destroys affordable housing.  The city  drives up housing prices by policies that beautify low income neighborhoods. I wish everyone could live on a beautiful street with a park-like setting, but neighborhoods with low income housing are going to look different than neighborhoods with expensive housing. Rules that restrict the type of commercial services that can be on a thoroughfare such as restricting the number of used car lots and used tire stores and requiring nice screening and disallowing payday lenders, changes the character of a neighborhood. It makes the thoroughfare more attractive to higher income people and the affordable housing gets replaced by more expensive housing.  The city has a plan to change the character of Dickerson Pike.  When that happens the mobile home parks and cheap rental housing will disappear.  Thousands of units of affordable housing will disappear. 

Below is the press release announcing the creation of the housing task force. 

Mayor John Cooper Launches Affordable Housing Task Force

Group Will Focus on Policy, Access, Financing, Land Use

Metro press release, 1/12/2021 - Mayor John Cooper today announced he’ll engage 21 housing experts in his mission to create better and more affordable housing for Nashville.

The group will meet on Thursday, January 21. Their recommendations will inform the 2022 fiscal year budget plan that Mayor John Cooper will make later this year to Metro Council.

“Nashville’s housing needs are urgent,” Mayor John Cooper said. “By working together and listening to one another, we can find solutions that work best for Nashville’s neighborhoods.”

The Task Ahead

Mayor John Cooper’s team, as well as the Metro Planning Department, the Metro Development and Housing Authority (MDHA) and other city agencies will support the task force as they focus on:


  • How can Nashville preserve and create affordable housing that benefits all residents at different income levels?
  • How can the city tie affordable housing to other community investments, such as transportation, libraries and schools?
  • How can nonprofit organizations better align their efforts and develop stronger relationships with for-profit builders?


  • How can Metro make it easier for Nashvillians who need affordable housing to get it?


  • What tools are missing from Nashville’s affordable housing “tool box?”
  • What requests should Nashville make to state and federal partners? What has worked in other cities?

Land Use

  • What policies can help residents remain in their neighborhoods, even as those neighborhoods change?

“With their extensive experience and deep expertise, this group will identify creative, cost-effective financing options and policies to help Nashville meet its growing housing needs,” Mayor John Cooper said.

Doing the Work, Transparently and Inclusively

The task force will meet virtually at 5 p.m. on January 21. Recordings of all task force meetings will be posted to

Mayor John Cooper has asked the group to make recommendations on how to track the creation of affordable housing units, in keeping with his commitment to transparency.

“This task force represents an important step toward meeting Nashville’s pressing housing needs,” Metro Council Member Burkley Allen said. Allen and Metro Council Member Zulfat Suara will serve on the task force.

“I look forward to working with my colleague, Council Member Suara, and with the other members of this task force to make recommendations to Mayor Cooper and the Metro Council,” Allen said.

As they hear from counterparts in peer cities, task force members will also work with residents who have lived experiences to share about what it’s like to need, seek and find affordable housing in Nashville.

“Nashvillians need help,” Kay Bowers, an MDHA board member, said. Bowers will serve on the task force.

“I’m pleased to be part of a diverse group with the skills, knowledge, and, most of all, commitment to find real solutions to our urgent housing affordability problems,” Bowers said. “I could not be more pleased that Mayor Cooper has recognized that now is the time for Nashville to act.”  

Meet Mayor John Cooper’s Affordable Housing Task Force

Mick Nelson, founder and CEO of Nelson Community Partners, and Edward Henley, III, principal and project executive at Pillars Development, LLC, will co-chair the task force.

“Nashville’s housing needs are critical. Mayor Cooper has assembled a group with the experience and the expertise to identify meaningful solutions to those challenges,” Henley said. “I am eager to get to work and excited by the impact we will make.”

Edward Henley, III
  • Founding Principal, Pillars Development
  • Board Chair, Rebuilding Together
  • Task Force Co-Chair

Mr. Henley is the Founding Principal of Pillars Development, a Nashville- based real estate planning, development, and management firm. His passion is development that brings housing and commercial uses to fruition that better serve communities. His areas of focus currently are in furthering civic and cultural projects, increasing diversity, equity and inclusion in real estate development, and creating resources of information, networking and capital for new and nontraditional investors and developers.

Mick Nelson
  • Founder and CEO, Nelson Community Partners
  • Task Force Co-Chair

Dr. Nelson is founder of Nelson Community Partners, a firm that develops, preserves, and manages affordable housing throughout the southeast. He earned his doctorate from Vanderbilt University, where he focused on affordable housing policy, real estate analysis, and urban development patterns. Mick has been an integral member of the Nashville housing community for more than 15 years, assisting in establishing the Barnes Fund and working at the Tennessee Housing and Development Agency in research, strategy, and asset management. 

Edubina Arce

Agent, Realty of America

Ms. Arce has a long history of an involvement in real estate and civic engagement with the Latinx community. A trained attorney with a Master in Conflict Management, Ms. Arce has worked as a realtor for the past 18 years. From 2010 to 2016, she served as the Bilingual Mediation Program Director for the Nashville Conflict Resolution Center, where among other responsibilities she managed the group´s relationship with Catholic Charities and the Tennessee Human Rights Commission. She holds degrees from the Catholic University of Bogotá, Colombia, Externado University in Bogotá, and Lipscomb University. 

Burkley Allen

At-Large Member and Former Affordable Housing Committee Chair, Metro Council

Ms. Allen is a senior mechanical engineer at IC Thomasson Associates, where she assists with the design of LEED-certified buildings and infrastructure planning. A nine-year veteran of Metro government, Ms. Allen has sponsored legislation to improve stormwater regulations in neighborhoods, protect sidewalk and bikeway access in construction zones, and provide solutions to our housing affordability challenges.

Emel Alexander

Director of Community Development, MDHA

Mr. Alexander is the Director of Community Development at the Metropolitan Development and Housing Agency. In this role, Mr. Alexander is responsible for overseeing HUD federal funding appropriated to alleviate homelessness, revitalize neighborhoods and develop high-quality, affordable housing for low- and moderate-income families living in Nashville-Davidson County. Mr. Alexander oversees the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program, HOME Investment Partnerships program, Emergency Solutions Grants (ESG), and the Housing Opportunities for Persons with AIDS (HOPWA). Additionally, Mr. Alexander oversees CDBG Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) funding and HUD funding allocated through the CARES Act legislation to respond to the COVID-dway19 pandemic. Before joining MDHA, Mr. Alexander was the President and CEO of an awarded housing and community development agency in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, where he led the production of new affordable housing, community development programming, and vital public and private partnerships. Mr. Alexander has 20 years of additional professional experience working within government and nonprofit sectors.

Dwayne Barrett

Managing Member, Reno & Cavanaugh, PLLC

Mr. Barrett is the Managing Member of Reno & Cavanaugh. In his role as Managing Member, Dwayne leads the firm's management committee in strategic planning, firm administration, and practice development. Dwayne has a broad range of transactional experience on issues relating to affordable housing and federal and state tax issues, including: low-income housing tax credit (LIHTC) developments, TN community investment tax credits (CITC), tax-exempt bond financing, tax increment financing, Affordable Housing Program (AHP) Funds, Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds, HOME funds, and mixed-finance transactions. His experience also includes drafting state legislation, structuring numerous joint ventures, and appeals of property tax matters.

Kay Bowers
  • Former Director at New Level CDC
  • Board Member, MDHA

Ms. Bowers has more than 25 years of executive experience with affordable housing organizations. She previously served as the executive director of New Level Community Development Corp., an affordable housing organization affiliated with Mount Zion Baptist Church that builds, sells, and rents affordable homes, as well as providing comprehensive housing services.  

Greg Claxton

Metro Planning Department

Mr. Claxton joined the Planning Department in 2012 as a Community Planner working on NashvilleNext. In 2016, he began leading the department’s Capital Planning and Grants team, focusing on aligning Nashville’s capital improvements and implementation efforts with the General Plan. In addition to serving as a Commission member, Claxton will help support the task force’s data needs.

Dr. Paulette Coleman
  • Board Member, MDHA
  • Member, NOAH

Dr. Coleman is one of Nashville’s leading social justice activists, a certified mediator, and an experienced urban planner. From 2014 to 2019, she chaired the Affordable Housing Task Force of Nashville Organized for Action and Hope, a multi-racial, interdenominational, and faith-based coalition that works for solutions to Nashville’s growing affordable housing crisis.

Marshall Crawford

President and CEO, The Housing Fund

Mr. Crawford is an experienced nonprofit executive and shares THF’s commitment to help individuals and communities create and maintain affordable and healthy places to live and work. As the President and CEO, his responsibilities include organization leadership and management, strategic planning, resource development, management of loan portfolio and lending operations and community external relations. Prior to The Housing Fund, Crawford served as the president of the housing and multifamily development division of  Community Ventures Corp. in Lexington, Kentucky.

John Deane


Mr. Deane is a healthcare-entrepreneur-turned-resort/marina owner. In 1998, he established Southwind Health Partners, a health consulting firm, out of his home in Nashville. Over the course of the following 20 years, it grew into one of the country’s foremost health consulting companies. Today, John divides his time between managing Wildwood Resort & Marina in Granville, Tenn., and being active in a number of civic and social justice organizations, including Nashville Organized for Action and Hope (NOAH).  

Gina Emmanuel
  • Principal, Centric Architecture
  • Chair, Housing Trust Fund Commission

Ms. Emmanuel is a principal at Centric Architecture, one of the oldest architecture firms in Middle Tennessee. She serves on the NAIOP and Catholic Charities boards and chairs the Housing Trust Fund Commission. An (almost) lifelong Nashvillian (she moved here at an early age from South Africa), Ms. Emmanuel is involved in affordable housing design and advocacy, as well as neighborhood investment.

Jeremy Heidt

Director of Industry and Governmental Affairs, THDA

Mr. Heidt serves as the primary point of contact between the Tennessee Housing Development Agency and the Tennessee Legislature, the state’s nine U.S. representatives, and Tennessee’s two U.S. Senators. He also works with public housing entities, private developers and financing entities involved in Housing Tax Credit developments. In 2020, he worked with the state legislature to raise the THDA’s debt limit to $4 billion.

Angela Hubbard

Director of Economic and Community Development, Greater Nashville Regional Council

Ms. Hubbard joined the Greater Nashville Regional Council in 2018 and oversees the economic development sector of northern Middle Tennessee. Hubbard has more than 20 years’ experience working with state and local government, previously working at MDHA, serving as the director of community development, and working for the State of Tennessee as a Legislative Performance Auditor. She serves as the lead coordinator for the 13-county Greater National region as it develops a  regional housing assessment.

Kia Jarmon

Founder and CEO, MEPR Agency

Ms. Jarmon is the Agency Director for MEPR Agency, a communications and community engagement firm that specializes in guiding high-capacity leaders, organizations, and systems through the process of designing more resilient programs, processes, and policies. Ms. Jarmon serves on the Metropolitan Beer Permit board, Neighbor to Neighbor board, is a Pathways to Inclusion fellow with the Urban Land Institute Nashville and is co-chair for Give Black, Give Back with the Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee. She is also a consultant with the Center for Nonprofit Management.

Eddie Latimer

CEO, Affordable Housing Resources

A 30-year veteran of the nonprofit housing development industry, Mr. Latimer oversees the development of AHR’s single-family homeownership programs, construction, lending, education and foreclosure. He represents AHR and the need for affordable housing to political organizations and to trade and government affiliates at the local, state and national levels.

Lethia Mann

Vice President and Community Development Manager for Middle and East Tennessee and North Carolina, Regions Bank

Ms. Mann brings more than 18 years of banking, community development, and nonprofit management experience to the task force. Prior to joining Regions, Mann was Vice President and Community Development Manager with First Tennessee Bank. She also served as Vice President with the Nashville Minority Loan Fund for 12 years. A native of Nashville, Mann earned a bachelor of arts degree in Economics from Vanderbilt University. She is a graduate of Whites Creek High School. She is actively engaged in the community, currently serving as board chair of Residential Resources, Inc., and as a board member with Habitat for Humanity of Greater Nashville. Mann is also a commissioner for Metropolitan Nashville and part of the Davidson County Human Relations Commission, as well as an advisory board member of Dismas, Inc., and the Tennessee Higher Education Commission.

Hunter Nelson

Partner, Elmington Capital Group

Mr. Nelson leads the affordable housing portfolio at Elmington Capital, which focuses on creating affordable and workforce housing opportunities to provide much-needed housing in emerging urban neighborhoods. With an expertise in Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) development, Hunter oversees Elmington’s 4% bond financed and 9% competitive tax credit development portfolio, as well as day-to-day operations, including sourcing new construction and rehabilitation deals, project management, financial analysis, government relations, syndication, and due diligence activities. 

Kelsey Oesmann

Design Initiatives Manager, Urban Housing Solutions

Ms. Oesmann is a licensed architect and the Design Initiatives Manager for Urban Housing Solutions, a leading nonprofit provider of affordable housing. She is the author of the Civic Design Center’s Affordable Housing 101 Toolkit and creator of The Game of Rent.

Zulfat Suara

At-Large Member and Affordable Housing Committee Chair, Metro Council

Ms. Suara has been active in community service and leadership since the late 1990s, even as she continued to work full-time as a certified public accountant. The accounting firm founded by Ms. Suara has worked with county governments in Hardeman, Haywood, Lake, and McNairy counties. She is currently the Executive Director of Grants and Contracts at Meharry Medical College.

Emily Thaden
  • Director of National Policy + Sector Strategy, Grounded Solutions Network
  • Vice Chair for Housing, MDHA

Dr. Thaden is a national affordable housing expert who works in communities across the United States to advance equitable land use and permanently affordable housing solutions. Locally, she has been deeply involved in setting up the Community Land Trust and serving on the MDHA board. She is also the Chair of the Board of Directors for Shelterforce Media and serves on the Public Policy Taskforce for Habitat for Humanity International’s Cost of Home campaign. She advocates on the federal level for affordable housing programs and financing.

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