NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) - John Cooper is being sworn in as Nashville’s new mayor Saturday at Stratford STEM Magnet High School. He is the ninth mayor in Nashville history as a Metropolitan municipality, which dates back to 1963.
Notable attendees to the swearing in ceremony include his brother, Congresssman Jim Cooper, former Nashville Mayors Bill Purcell and Karl Dean, MNFD Fire Chief William Swann, MNPD Chief Steve Anderson, and Cooper's opponent, Mayor David Briley.
Cooper is no stranger to politics. His father, Prentice Cooper, was the Governor of Tennessee from 1939 to 1945. Since 2003, his older brother, Democratic U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper, has represented the Nashville area in Congress.
John Cooper’s career as a politician began in 2015 when he successfully ran for an at-large seat in Nashville’s Metro Council. As a council member, he was an outspoken critic of major financial decisions championed by past mayors Megan Barry and David Briley, like the transit plan -- which voters eventually rejected -- and putting the new MLS stadium at the Fairgrounds. Cooper also opposed publicly funded incentives for corporations. However, Cooper did vote in favor of approving the $17.5 million incentive package for Amazon.
Cooper, who graduated from Harvard and earned an MBA from Vanderbilt, is a wealthy man. He contributed almost $2 million of his own money to his mayoral campaign. Before moving into politics, he worked as a private developer in Williamson County. He also worked in finance on Wall Street.
Cooper branded himself as the fiscally responsible alternative to David Briley. Cooper previously served as the chair for Metro’s Budget and Finance Committee, a position that Briley appointed him to. When he takes over as mayor, Cooper will have his work cut out for him.
There is a good chance he will inherit a significant hole in the city’s budget: In a letter to the state Comptroller released earlier this month, Metro Finance Director Talia Lomax-O’dneal detailed two plans for the sale of assets –including property and parking rights—which make up an estimated $41.5 million of the city’s 2020 budget.
If one or both of those plans fail, Cooper will have to make up that money in other ways. When News4 asked Cooper for comment on the looming issue, his campaign said he would only answer questions related to governing once he was inaugurated.
Near the end of his term at a council member, Cooper told the Tennessean he would not run for reelection and would not run for Mayor, adding that he wanted to educate the public on fiscal matters in a non-political way. He ended up changing his mind.
While running for mayor, Cooper focused much of his campaign message on improving the city’s neighborhoods. He was able to secure an endorsement from the Nashville Neighborhood Defense Fund. In the Sept. 12 run-off election, Cooper won 33 of 35 districts, with his strongest support coming from further outside the city.
In the mayor's race, @JohnCooper4Nash took 33/35 districts. He won 26 districts by at least 30 points and eight districts by at least 50 points. District 6 went Briley 53-47 and District 18 went Briley 53-46. pic.twitter.com/r0DcE1GsvC— 𝘋𝘢𝘷𝘦 𝘙𝘰𝘴𝘦𝘯𝘣𝘦𝘳𝘨 (@DaveRosenbergTN) September 13, 2019
“Not everyone is benefiting from Nashville’s boom,” Cooper wrote on his campaign website. “It is time for that to change. We need tourism dollars to benefit the city – all of our city. It is time for smart solutions for traffic and affordable housing. It’s time to support our teachers and first responders. It’s time to build a Nashville that works for everyone.”
Cooper eventually defeated incumbent mayor David Briley in the run-off election by almost 40 points. Briley, who only served 18 months after taking over for Megan Barry, was the first incumbent mayor to lose an election in Metro history.