Howard Gentry picked to replace Torrence as Criminal Court clerk

Tuesday, August 16, 2011 at 11:41pm

The Metro Council turned to a familiar face Tuesday to fill the tarnished office of Davidson County Criminal Court clerk, electing by a wide margin former Vice Mayor Howard Gentry, who becomes the first African-American ever to occupy one of Metro’s constitutional seats.

Gentry, a candidate for mayor in 2007, replaces former clerk David Torrence, who resigned from the post amid public humiliation after a series of television reports revealed he worked only three days a week. Gentry begins his new job in September.

Addressing reporters following the vote, Gentry said the job had long been on his “bucket list” but he didn’t want to run against an incumbent.

“I just decided that this was my opportunity to move back into a level of public service that I felt very comfortable in,” said Gentry, who most recently held a position with the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce.

“It’s unfortunate that occurred,” Gentry said of Torrence’s troubles. “I do plan to come to work. I plan to be there. I plan to be the face of the Criminal Court. That system is well run. You don’t have to go in there and blow it up and make wholesale changes.”

Gentry avoided a runoff by collecting 23 votes. Councilman Michael Craddock, who unsuccessfully ran for the job last year, finished with 10 votes. Steven Murff collected five votes. Gayle Barbee and Frank Friedman finished with one vote apiece.

In short time, Gentry will have to shift into campaign mode. By Metro Charter, he must be elected by Davidson County voters in August 2012 to retain the seat. From there, he would finish out Torrence’s term, which runs through 2014.

“My election starts tomorrow,” Gentry said.

Councilman Lonnell Matthews Jr., who formally nominated Gentry as clerk, said Gentry has always been one of his mentors. He said he’s known his family for years.

“I think he’s more than qualified to run an efficient office,” Matthews said. “It’s an office that will regain the public trust that’s been lost.”

Leading up to Tuesday’s vote, some observers had anointed Gentry as the choice of Mayor Karl Dean’s administration. Privately, several council members were bemoaning perceived behind-the-scenes politicking.

“Who doesn’t want the support of the mayor’s office?” said Gentry, adding he never spoke to Dean about the position. “The fact is, that kind of politicking, I wasn’t involved with. I’m a former vice mayor. I know how to count my votes. Give me some credit.”

With his victory, Gentry becomes the first African-American to hold one of Davidson County’s elected constitutional offices, which also includes seats such as public defender, county clerk and sheriff.

“As excited as I want to be about that, it’s also a shame that it’s taken so long,” Gentry said. “I have mixed emotions about that.”

Moving forward, Criminal Court clerk may not be the final office Gentry seeks.

“I plan for it to be, but my political career has never quite worked out by plan,” Gentry said. “To say that it will be the last, I’d like for it to last long enough to be effective. But to say that it will be the last, I think, is more the right thing to say than reality. I don’t know what my political future is going to be.”

16 Comments on this post:

By: yogiman on 8/17/11 at 5:58

Segregation has become a thing of the past in the USA. Why are we constantly notified when an African-American has been elected or chosen for a political post?

And by the way, What is an African-American? Is Mr. Gentry an African or an American?

By: Loner on 8/17/11 at 6:10

"But to say that it will be the last (elected office), I think, is more the right thing to say than reality"

WTF is this guy trying to say here? Is he saying that sometimes telling lies is better than telling the truth?

Gentry is starting out on the right foot...his left is stuck in his big mouth.

By: Loner on 8/17/11 at 6:11

But, at least Craddock did not get in...that's a blessing.

By: Loner on 8/17/11 at 6:18

Yogi, segregation is alive and well and US taxpayer supported...but not in the USA; we bankroll and defend segregation in the Holy Land. Who do you think is bankrolling those thousands of Jews Only housing units on occupied Arab land? Israel is the top recipient of US economic aid, as well as the top recipient of US military aid. They use the money to finance and defend their apartheid schemes.

The Arab is the new "negro" and Israel is the new South. Oh yes, American-sponsored, race-based segregation is more powerful and more inhumane than ever has simply moved offshore.

By: macjedi on 8/17/11 at 7:00


More of the same.

Lame. Hope Murff runs against him.

By: Melstruck on 8/17/11 at 7:28

I wish the press would stop saying Torrence "resigned". Mr. Torrence retired and is taking and $80,000 a year pension. So, just to recap, he was working part time making $125,000 paid by the taxpayers. Now, he isn't working at all and making $80,000 per year for life paid by the taxpayers. Taxpayers should be VERY angry about this and our Council should be trying to get his pension taken away.

By: dragous01 on 8/17/11 at 8:37

@ "yogiman" you are an idiot. African American is a race and for you to make a comment like that let's me know just who and what you are. @ "Loner" you are also an idiot. The comments that you made about Jews is sick. Then for you to say "The Arab is the new "negro". That also let's me know who and what you are also. Now let's get down to the real business at hand. Mr. Torrence was not doing his job and like others if he is not doing his job he should have been replaced. I agree that it is a shame that he will be paid for the rest of his life for not doing his job. I am glad that we have someone else in his place no matter what his race is. It is sad that it has taken this long for a Black person to hold a constitutional seat here in Davidson County but at least it has happened. I hope that he does a good job. Now if we could all think of this as just a job that someone has to do no matter if they are Black, White, Mexican, Jew, or Gential it would be a blessing.....but I know that some people see the world on the other side of the plantation and that is a shame to know that we still have those who are stuck in yesteryear.

By: yogiman on 8/17/11 at 9:09

No, dragous01,

You are the idiot.When did African American become a race? Where did you go to school?

There is only 4 races on this earth: (alphabetically) Asian, Caucasian, Indian and Negro. Then there is mixes in between, but there is no official African-American race.

Maybe you need to go back to school.

By: rolffz on 8/17/11 at 9:43

So for not doing his job, Mr Torrence gets a pension that begins the day following his filing of papers to "retire". Why Metro didn't have the balls to fire the guy is a mystery to me. This person does not deserve retirement or pension for robbing taxpayers and not doing his job. Come on Nashville. We're better than to let someone do this to us...and we have teachers getting let go because there's no money in the budget to pay them(?) Here's one reason why...bad financial decisions. What do we owe someone that ripped us off while completely denying it all the time until the city asked him to retire?

By: Reesgm on 8/17/11 at 10:37

I'm sorry to inform Yogiman that it is he who is the bigger idiot! There are not four races, there's only ONE HUMAN race; and it is unfortunate that bigots and racist have wrongly believed and espoused otherwise to justify their exploitation of people of color!

The Asian, Caucasoid Indian and 'mixes' that yogiman included in his remarks are ALL VARIATIANTS of the original AFRICAN DNA Population (genetic or hereditary material).

Really, yogiman, this has been tested, and challenged and finally accepted and documented as factual since the 90's -- oh, maybe you weren't around then when the breakthrough mitochondrial studies about human origins was headline news!

Dragous 01, The term African American is a term which describes 'ethnic origin, not race! It simply denotes people taken from the area at the time called 'Africa'. There were no western style 'nations' there at that time. Today there could be Ghanaian- Americans, Nigerian American etc., etc.

By: rosemary126 on 8/17/11 at 11:50

As Mr. Torrence only worked half of the time, his pension should be half.

Half work, half pay.............Sees fair to me.

If I only work part time, my pay is part time pay. I get paid for the hours and my pay is accordingly.

It also effects my pension.....The less time I put in, the less my pension is........

By: yogiman on 8/17/11 at 3:22

I'm sure I went to school at a different time than you, Reesgm. In the OLD days we were taught there was four races on this earth. And yes, as I stated, over the centuries of time on this earth, there has been and continuing to be mixtures of all races on this earth because of the men and women of different races "getting together"..

Call me what you wish, but to me, you should go by the name of the nation you live in, not a dual mixture. Should someone be ashamed of a race? Has anyone had a choice of what race they would be born in to? Maybe today, but why should anyone be ashamed of their God given race?

Heritage is one thing, current life is another.

By: Nitzche on 8/17/11 at 4:55

golfer Ernie Els is from South Africa, he becomes a US citizen, Ernie is now African American.....oohhh, he is white, now what?

By: govskeptic on 8/18/11 at 4:22

How do this postings get so off track on so many occasions? The choices given the
Council to decide between are always as lame as this one. It extremely hard to get
the most worthy candidates for most of these offices to step forward or get nominated
when they know they don't have a chance against "the insiders"! Incumbency
will make Mr. Gentry the front runner next year, but we will just have to see if
someone else that may be more qualified wishes to take on the challenge!

By: on 8/18/11 at 7:02

Gentry has done a good job in other positions and it is likely he will do well in this one. As far as the race comments, the PBS series "Race: The Power of an Illusion" would help people understand. Information is on their web site.

By: pswindle on 8/18/11 at 8:11

Mr. Gentry is a good guy. Congratulations!