On May 18, nine leading candidates in the 2023 Nashville mayoral election visited Belmont’s Fisher Center for Performing Arts to launch the Nashville Mayoral Debate series sponsored by The Tennessean, NewsChannel 5 and the League of Women Votes of Nashville.
Three Belmont students experienced the world behind the curtain on Thursday. Recent May 2023 graduate Keidron Turner, rising senior international politics student Nebiu Ermias and junior political science student Jaymey Hedberg served as escorts for the event with all-access passes to the Fisher Center and face-to-face, backstage access to candidates.
“When given the choice to be in attendance at the debates or be behind the scenes with the candidates, I chose the latter,” Hedberg said. “I have been an observer; I wanted to be a converser. I had seen the candidates as politicians, I wanted to meet them as people. From Matt Wiltshire asking me first thing: ‘So, what’s your story?’ to Natisha Brooks complimenting my outfit and asking to pose for a picture with me, the humanity of these candidates transcended their politicalness and their intentionality and genuine, down-to-earth attitude was evident when they were or weren’t mic’d up.”
Candidates joined co-moderators David Plazas from The Tennessean and Carrie Sharp from NewsChannel 5 on stage for a 90-minute question and answer session to cover a range of concerns including balancing the competing needs of residents and tourists, affordable housing and increasing concerns about public health, among other topics.
Each candidate opened with a 90-second introduction. The debate was organized into rounds with candidates answering moderator questions in a round-robin format where candidates responded to questions in groups of three, followed by lightning rounds.
Leading up to Thursday night’s debate Hedberg, Turner and political science and journalism student Braden Simmons expressed their concerns and perspectives in student editorials that were published in The Tennessean.
“From seeing the behind-the-scenes work of what it takes to manage a debate, researching what issues surround the metro elections in August, and getting a one-on-one conversation with the candidate I had the honor and privilege of escorting – councilmember Sharon Hurt – I am simply reminded of the deep devotion Belmont has to ensure students have every opportunity to participate in the democracy we live in and understands the importance that comes with being civically engaged,” Turner said.
The students wrote about easing the burden of inflation, the balance between resident and tourist concerns and the need for a mayor with Leviathan characteristics, among other concerns. Follow the link to read each student’s editorial below.
- How will Nashville mayoral candidates address housing crunch for students? By Braden Simmons
- Nashville needs to re-evaluate how it balances serving tourists and residents By Jaymey Hedberg
- Nashville needs a Leviathan, a mayor who’s a leader and protector of residents By Keidron Turner
The general election takes place on August 3, and the runoff election is on September 14. Three more debates are scheduled for the series with Belmont hosting the second debate on June 22, American Baptist College will host a third debate on July 6 and the final debate will be back at the Fisher Center on August 24 if a runoff is necessary.