Mayor Karl Dean has nominated former Davidson County Sheriff and State Correction Commissioner Gayle Ray to fill an open seat on the Metro Board of Fair Commissioners.
“Gayle Ray has a great deal of experience managing budgets, operations and major projects,” Dean said in a statement. “As long as I’ve known her, she’s been someone who is active in issues that are important to our city.”
The Metro Council is set to consider the nomination next week. A seat on the five-member commission opened when the term of former board chair James Weaver expired last week. Katy Varney, a principal at McNeely, Pigott & Fox Public Relations, has since been named the new chair.
Typically, a nomination to the fair board wouldn’t be particularly noteworthy. However, given the mayor’s desire to redevelop the 117-acre fairgrounds, and the momentary time out of those plans, the fair board has taken on an unusually high-profile role.
Instead of voting to demolish the property’s racetrack, the council in January opted to allow a new master plan to dictate the future of the fairgrounds. The fair board is to oversee this process.
“While the fairgrounds is in this period of master planning, [Ray] is a well known and tested community leader that the public can have confidence in,” Dean said.
Metro Councilman Eric Crafton, who has been critical of the fair board, seemed pleased with Ray’s nomination.
“I haven’t had a chance to talk to her, but most people feel like she did a pretty good job as a sheriff,” Crafton said. “I guess if she can bring those managerial skills to the fair board, and make it successful, I think it’d be great.”
Crafton has introduced a bill to remove members of the fair board, but the resolution is currently on deferral. Crafton said he wants to give commissioners time to talk to the council to discuss the future master-planning process.
“My goal is to get the council and fair board working together, instead of being adversarial,” Crafton said.
• Of note, the council next week will also consider Dean’s nomination of community leader Francis Guess to the nine-member Convention Center Authority, which is overseeing construction of Nashville $585 million Music City Center.
If appointed, Guess would replace Darrell Drumwright, who stepped down from the authority several weeks ago.