Karl Dean ’81 to succeed Bill Purcell ’79 as Nashville’s mayor

Sep 12, 2007

Karl Dean, ’81, is the new mayor-elect of Nashville.

Dean was a political newcomer who served as Metropolitan Nashville’s Law Director before he resigned to enter the mayoral campaign in December 2006. He will succeed Mayor Bill Purcell, ’79, who has served two terms as Nashville’s mayor. His candidacy was endorsed by both of Nashville’s daily papers, The Tennessean and The City Paper.

Dean will be take office Sept. 21.

Before serving as Metro Nashville’s Law Director, Dean was elected as Metro Nashville public defender three times during the 1990s before joining Purcell’s staff as the city’s law director in 1999. He is also an adjunct professor at Vanderbilt Law School, where he teaches trial advocacy. His wife, Anne Davis, ’81, teaches legal writing at Vanderbilt. Dean and Davis met at Vanderbilt.

“On their first date, Anne Davis and Karl Dean attended Vanderbilt Law School’s annual dance, The Barrister’s Ball,” reported the Nashville Scene in an Aug. 30 profile of Dean. “They were two of a kind that night, as both second-year law students were hobbling on crutches. Dean had broken his leg at a company picnic after working all summer at a Massachusetts paper mill, and Davis broke her knee and hip in a bad car accident.”

Dean won 52 percent of the vote in a runoff election held Tuesday, Sept. 11, to win a hard-fought election against former Congressman Bob Clement.

Although Dean was well know only to city insiders when he announced his candidacy in December 2006, local voters proved receptive to his campaign’s emphases, which included improving schools, fighting juvenile crime and spurring downtown and riverfront development. Dean revived a campaign slogan – “it’s all connected” – to describe his approach to critical decisions about public safety and economic development.

"I’m looking forward to getting down to work on the things this city needs," Dean said in his victory speech. "I also want to bring people together."

Three of the four winners of Metro Nashville at-large council seats also have Vanderbilt ties. Ronnie Steine earned his bachelor’s and law degrees from Vanderbilt. Megan Barry is a graduate of Owen Graduate School of management and is married to Bruce Barry, a professor of management and sociology at Vanderbilt and chair of the executive committee of the Faculty Senate. Charlie Tygard graduated with an undergraduate degree in business administration and economics from Vanderbilt.

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