With a slate of seven candidates vying to represent Bellevue and parts of Belle Meade on the Metro Board of Education, Metro Council members have a big decision to make — but there are doubts as to whether west Nashville councilmembers can come to a consensus.
Ronnie Steine, an at-large West Nashville Council member, said Monday night at a “meet and greet” sessions with candidates that it seems clear that members of Council living in the area represented by the school board district at stake will be unable to unify and back a single candidate.
There are two “clear frontrunners,” Steine said — Elizabeth Merkel and Kay Simmons — and the west Nashville Council members Steine has spoken with are divided in their support.
Steine, for his part, supports Simmons.
Bellevue Council member Eric Crafton, however, is more optimistic about the likelihood of a consensus vote. Though it may take some time, Crafton said he thinks west Nashville Council members will be able to come “pretty close” to a consensus. Crafton said he’ll make public his pick for the seat in meetings with Council members Tuesday evening, and that all the candidates seem to have something to bring to the job.
“We have a slate of qualified candidates,” he said.
The seven candidates remaining in the race are Paul Brenner, Rich Haglund, Martin Kennedy, Michael La Haie, Julie Lamb, Merkel and Simmons.
Metro Council members are set to collectively vote at Tuesday’s council meeting to appoint a new school board member to represent District 9, a seat held by Alan Coverstone for the last year.
Coverstone recently stepped down from the board to pursue an administrative job with Metro Nashville Public Schools. His Council-appointed replacement will hold the seat for about a year, until the next regularly scheduled election. The candidate then elected by the public will finish Coverstone’s original term, and face another election in 2012.
Council member Frank Harrison, chair of the Council’s Rules and Confirmations Committee and a coordinator of the appointment process, said the election timeline means the Council-appointed Coverstone replacement will have a full plate.
“They automatically have to start campaigning,” he said.
When the process to replace Coverstone first began, several Council members said publicly that it would be desirable for west Nashville Council members to come to a consensus. A unified vote from representatives of District 9 voters could provide a strong light for the rest of the Council to follow. But as one candidate after another has emerged in recent weeks, many have suggested that the likelihood of a consensus has grown slim — leaving Council members from outside the area with plenty of options for support.
Council member Duane Dominy, who represents part of Southeast Davidson County, said decisions made by West Nashville Council members don’t remove any responsibility from the rest of Council for making an informed decision.
“I would hope that the west Nashville folks would come to a consensus, but it’s the 40-member body that has to do that,” Dominy said. “We have to make a decision based on who’s qualified for the job.”