by Douglas Hagler • photo by Selena Haynes
Metropolitan Nashville Council Member, District 6, Brett Withers is a busy man. Like most of the members of the Council, Brett continues to work his full-time job even after being elected to the Council in 2015. “Between council meetings, community meetings almost every night, meetings with individuals, and community events on the weekends — yeah, there’s not much personal time,” Brett said. “But I’m not complaining. I love it.”
Council Member Withers is passionate about his work. You can hear that passion when he talks about the current issues in which he’s involved. For example, Withers and several other council members, including Nancy VanReece (District 8), Fabian Bedne (District 31), and Scott Davis (District 5) are co-sponsoring a resolution to recognize the second Monday in October as Indigenous Peoples’ Day. “It’s a shift from Columbus Day that would give groups affected by colonizations a chance to tell their stories,” said Withers. The resolution is particularly important to Withers, who describes himself as shy and uncomfortable speaking up.
“I understand what it’s like to feel that no one is speaking for you,” he said.
Another area of passion for Withers is centered around affordable housing. Adequate and safe housing for families and children is important to Withers and was part of his campaign platform. Today, he is deep in the issues surrounding Envision Cayce, a revitalization effort directed at the James A. Cayce Homes in East Nashville. Built in the late 1930s and early 1940s, some of the public housing units have never been renovated due to structural limitations. While some people are excited about the project, others see it as yet another example of gentrification. As their council member, Withers assures current residents that they will not have to move as a result of the Envision Cayce project. “The vision is to create a mixed income community with a goal to increase the number of affordable housing units even while we add middle income and market rate housing. Everyone will live in the same building together. It’s pretty exciting,” said Withers.
No matter what the issue, Withers works to insert himself as a bridge builder.
“As a cisgender, white, middle-class man, I see how far I and those who are like me have come,” Withers said.
“There’s still further to go. But I believe we also have work to do with transgender folks, with lgbt people of color, with immigrants. We need to work to remove stigmas based on race, economic status, sexual orientation and gender. It’s all about coalition building and building one another up.”
Withers plans to run again for the District 6 Council position in 2019.
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