At the end of January, Nashville’s Mayor Barry admitted in a news conference that she has had a two-year affair with the head of her security detail.
Like others across our city, I was shocked and saddened to hear this news and since her admission, the battle lines of public opinion are hard and in stone.
Should Mayor Barry resign or not?
I have never been one super overly excited about a local city’s mayor. I never thought it really mattered, honestly. Then, Mayor Barry entered the political scene. She was ambitious. She was cool. She was someone who welcomed everyone. And she made me feel at home in Nashville.
Although many of my friends in the community worked hard for her campaign and a few work for her administration, I’ve never even met her.
But, I feel like I know her. And I like her.
She’s done so much for Nashville so quickly: earning us a new MLS franchise, making affordable living a priority, focusing on jobs for graduates, turning our government structure into a more business-like atmosphere, putting Nashville on the short list for Amazon’s new headquarters, and finally attempting to solve one of Nashville’s biggest issues currently: traffic.
Her ambition carrying her big agenda has never been questioned by me. I actually thought that she could do anything for Nashville.
But I never considered her someone who would get plagued by sexual scandal. I never imagined Mayor Barry would have to admit that she was not honest, loyal, and above reproach ethically. I never thought she would be under criminal investigation by the TBI.
I never thought our Mayor would get calls to resign. I failed in not considering that she could fail Nashville so miserably while also being one of the biggest Nashville champions.
After reading numerous Tweets from supporters and those ready to fire off the hardest of stones at her, reading the honest and incomplete assessment from the Tennessean editorial board, and spending time reflecting on it all, I’ve made my decision.
Like all of us, sometimes our values we advocate for aren’t always the actions that we choose. Our circumstances create incredibly tough situations for us to escape. We fail miserably. Our strong belief system that we are known for and speak of, sometimes gets hit by an atomic bomb. And we all sometimes really let others down.
But like, Barry, we are human.
For me, my biggest disappointment personally came when I was on posters in Nashville bathrooms in early 2012 promoting living healthy and volunteering as an HIV negative man, the same exact time I just received news that I had been exposed and contracted HIV. I was embarrassed, disappointed, and thought that I was the worst human alive. I wanted to crawl under a rock and live there. But I had work to do, I believed.
So, I attempted to be honest and tell the city where I had failed myself and them, and I was transparent and owned my diagnosis—because it was right for me to do and I could. Mayor Barry is owning her mistakes. I do not take that transparency and vulnerability lightly.
I can’t pretend to know what the pressure and loneliness at the top is like, she does. I’ve never been there. I won’t come close to understanding the pain of losing a child, she does. I don’t have much experience with death. And I would be an idiot to forget all the amazing things the Mayor has done for Nashville—even while she was doing some things that may have been pretty wrong morally, in some people’s opinion. She is human.
But, I am human, too.
Part of humanity is still believing in someone who let you down. The grace we have all enjoyed in life is a magical reset that we don’t deserve, but are humbled when it is given to us. Forgiveness is an action I want to believe is possible for anyone and everyone—even the Mayor of Nashville.
I love Mayor Barry. I’m still excited about her leading Nashville. And I will continue to pay attention to her initiatives. But, I will look at her differently than before: as a human, now. And that is practical. She deserves that from me. She’s already earned my admiration. She deserves some grace, too.
We all need to see her make it through this. Why? Because: “We Are Nashville.”
And she is our Mayor!