Karl Dean

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Karl Dean
Karl Dean 2007.jpg
68th Mayor of Nashville
In office
September 21, 2007 – September 25, 2015
Deputy Diane Neighbors
Preceded by Bill Purcell
Succeeded by Megan Barry
Personal details
Born Karl Foster Dean
(1955-09-20) September 20, 1955 (age 62)
Sioux Falls, South Dakota, U.S.
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Anne Davis
Children 3
Education Columbia University (BA)
Vanderbilt University (JD)

Karl Foster Dean (born September 20, 1955) is an American attorney and politician from the state of Tennessee. He served as the sixth mayor of the Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County, Tennessee. He was sworn in on September 21, 2007.[1] From 1999 to January 9, 2007, Dean served as Nashville's Director of Law under Mayor Bill Purcell.[2] In 1990, 1994, and 1998, he was elected the city's public defender.[3] Dean is an Adjunct Professor of Law at Vanderbilt University Law School. He graduated with a bachelor of arts degree from Columbia University in 1978 and a J.D. from Vanderbilt University in 1981.[4][5]

Although elections in Nashville are nonpartisan, Dean, like nearly all elected officials in the city, is known to be a Democrat.[6] He served as mayor of Nashville from 2007 to 2015. His campaign message focused on improving education, public safety, and economic development saying "it's all connected."

During Dean's first year in office, he reworked the arrangement between Metro and the Nashville Predators in order to keep the team in Nashville. During Dean's first term, he faced two major challenges: the Great Recession and the 2010 Tennessee floods.

During his two terms in office, Dean transformed downtown Nashville by adding a new minor league baseball stadium, a riverfront amphitheater and park, and a new convention center dubbed the Music City Center. Dean was friendly towards business and often used tax incentives to lure companies to Nashville.

Dean is also involved in conservationist efforts of historical areas such as Music Row though his involvement with Music Industry Coalition. He helped preserve historic sites such as RCA Studio A.[7]

In 2017, Dean declared his candidacy for Governor of Tennessee in the 2018 election. In the first three months of the campaign, Dean raised $1.2 million and spent $200,000.[7]

Legal opinions as Metro Law Director[edit]

In March 2005, Karl Dean wrote that Mayor Bill Purcell could seek a third term, despite a 1994 referendum on "any elected office authorized or created by the [Metro] charter." This was because the 1963 charter states that there is a three-term limit for mayors, the 1994 amendment took place against a backdrop of a push for congressional term limits, and local public discussion focused on the Metro Council.[8] In January 2003, he said a proposed law to ban job discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation was not unconstitutional.[9]

When Metro Council members' health-care benefits came under scrutiny in September 2004, because the Metro Charter does not allow pension benefits for Council members, Dean said that a health-care benefit wouldn't legally fall under a pension benefit, and therefore wouldn't be against the Charter.[10]

When asked if an amendment to the Metropolitan Charter requiring raises in the maximum property tax rates approved by the Metro Council to also be approved by Metro voters, Dean said that a court was likely to find that provision of the Metro Charter invalid. This is because, he said, the Tennessee General Assembly has not authorized the charter of a consolidated government to restrict the authority of a legislative body to levy an ad valorem tax on property.[11]

Mayor of Nashville[edit]


Dean announced his mayoral candidacy on December 19, 2006.[3] His campaign message focused on improving education, public safety, and economic development saying "it's all connected." In the general election on August 2, 2007, he placed first with 24.6% of the vote. This advanced him to a run-off election against Bob Clement.[12] On September 11, 2007 Dean won the run-off election with 52.2% of the vote.

Dean easily won re-election in August 2011 with 79.2% of the vote.[13]

Dean left office on September 25, 2015. He was succeeded by Megan Barry, the first woman to be Mayor of Nashville.

Education policy[edit]

During Dean's two terms, the budget for Metro Nashville schools increased by $218 million (37 percent) and Nashville schools saw increased graduation rates, reduced dropout rates, and improved test scores.[14] He created the Limitless Libraries program, which connects Nashville Public Libraries to Metro Nashville Schools, part of a greater push to enable opportunities for underserved schools in the city.[15]

Dean also improved school choice by recruiting charter schools to the city and augmented teaching talent by partnering with Teach for America. As a part of this partnership, summer academies were created, improving college and career outcomes for students of all ages.[16]

Economic development[edit]

Dean's tenure as Mayor marked sales taxes revenue increased by over $100 million (36 percent), indicative of the growth of Nashville as a major city.[17] One of the marque projects of Dean's mayoral career was overseeing the creation of Music City Center, a massive convention center that has generated over $735 million in revenue for the city. Other projects included the construction of Ascend Amphitheater and First Tennessee Park, public venues that bring in millions of dollars of revenue to the city and have been instrumental in the expansion of downtown Nashville. Finally, Dean incentivized businesses to relocate to Nashville, including Bridgestone Americas and HCA.[18]

Great Recession[edit]

Dean led Nashville through the Great Recession, with the city experiencing 7 years of GDP growth and an increase of $35 billion (45 percent) in that time.[19] Nashville has had one of the most successful recoveries from the recession. By the end of Dean's mayoral term, Nashville had added the third highest percentage employment since its lowest point in the recession out of all cities in the US, adding over 144,300 jobs (19.3 percent employment growth).[20]

Crime and safety[edit]

With public safety as one of Dean's primary campaign promises, Dean increased the size of the Nashville police force by 13.5 percent.[21] In conjunction with this, Dean opened two new precincts to more equally distribute areas of coverage and started Nashville's first DNA crime lab.[22] By 2013, Nashville had reached the lowest crime numbers and homicide rate in its history.


Dean's time as Mayor was accompanied by increased construction of greenway and bike paths around the city of Nashville. He added over 4,000 acres of park land and created the city's Office of Environment and Sustainability. As a result of his efforts, curbside recycling was expanded around the Metro area and the city moved in a more green direction.

Gubernatorial campaign[edit]

On February 26, 2017, Dean announced he would run for Governor of Tennessee in the 2018 election as a Democrat.[23] He is casting himself as a pro-business moderate running on a message of education, jobs, and healthcare in Tennessee.

In the first three months of the campaign, Dean raised $1.2 million and spent $200,000, making him the third most funded candidate for governor behind Republicans Randy Boyd & Bill Lee.

Personal life[edit]

Dean is married to Anne Davis, who is a relative of Joe C. Davis, Jr. and Rascoe Davis and is a proprietor of the Joe C. Davis Foundation in Nashville. Both Anne and Karl are Catholic. Dean also has three children, Rascoe, Frances, and Wallen.


  1. ^ Cass, Michael (September 21, 2007). "Dean: "We need to raise the bar on our expectations"". The Tennessean. Retrieved 2007-09-21. [dead link]
  2. ^ "Karl Dean for Mayor of Nashville". Retrieved September 11, 2007. 
  3. ^ a b Harless, Bill (December 20, 2006). "Dean will leave law director post to run for mayor". The Nashville City Paper. 
  4. ^ "Vanderbilt University Law School :: Karl F. Dean". Archived from the original on September 8, 2008. Retrieved September 11, 2007. 
  5. ^ "Karl Dean – Mayoral Election News Story – WSMV Nashville". Archived from the original on October 15, 2008. Retrieved September 11, 2007. 
  6. ^ Reisinger, Brian (February 8, 2011). "Nashville Mayor Karl Dean announces team for 2011 election". Nashville Business Journal. Retrieved June 29, 2012. 
  7. ^ a b "Studio A Nashville 50th". The Tennessean. Retrieved 2018-04-08.  Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name ":0" defined multiple times with different content (see the help page).
  8. ^ Schrade, Brad (March 11, 2005). "Metro law director says Purcell can seek 3rd term". The Tennessean. 
  9. ^ Paine, Anne (January 31, 2003). "Metro lawyer says gay rights law meets constitutional test". The Tennessean. 
  10. ^ Schrade, Brad (September 21, 2004). "Health-care benefit shift for council questioned". The Tennessean. 
  11. ^ "2006-03.pdf" (PDF). Retrieved September 11, 2007. [permanent dead link]
  12. ^ "ELECTION UPDATE: Dean, Clement match-up set; Gentry & Dozier concede". The Nashville City Paper. February 23, 2007. 
  13. ^ "Metro election 2011: Vote totals". nashvillecitypaper.com. Retrieved 18 May 2017. 
  14. ^ Nashville. "Nashville | Fact Sheet - Highlights of the Fiscal Year 2016 Budget". www.nashville.gov. Retrieved 2017-07-17. 
  15. ^ "About | Limitless Libraries". www.limitlesslibraries.org. Retrieved 2017-08-02. 
  16. ^ [(https://nashville.teachforamerica.org/teaching-here) "Teaching Here"] Check |url= value (help). Teach for America. 
  17. ^ Nashville. "Nashville | Fact Sheet - Highlights of the Fiscal Year 2016 Budget". www.nashville.gov. Retrieved 2017-08-02. 
  18. ^ Garrison, Joey (August 22, 2015). [(http://www.tennessean.com/story/news/politics/2015/08/22/karl-dean-legacy-nashville-downtown-changes-leadership-flood/31863187/) "Karl Dean legacy: Downtown Changes, Leadership Flood"] Check |url= value (help). The Tennessean. 
  19. ^ "Total Gross Domestic Product for Nashville-Davidson--Murfreesboro--Franklin, TN (MSA)". 2017-06-01. 
  20. ^ "Which Metro Areas Have Gained the Most Jobs Since the Great Recession?". www.pewtrusts.org. Retrieved 2017-08-02. 
  21. ^ Nashville. "Nashville > Page Not Found" (PDF). www.nashville.gov. Retrieved 2017-08-02. 
  22. ^ Nashville. "Nashville | Mayor Opens Nashville's First Full-Service Crime Laboratory". www.nashville.gov. Retrieved 2017-08-02. 
  23. ^ "Former Nashville Mayor Karl Dean to run for governor of Tennessee". Retrieved 18 May 2017. 

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Bill Purcell
Mayor of Nashville
Succeeded by
Megan Barry