A resounding vote led to the Metro Council appointment of Kay Simmons as the new school board member representing Bellevue and parts of Belle Meade. There were seven candidates, but Simmons netted 29 Council votes. Only one other candidate, Elizabeth Merkel earned any votes, and she received support from nine Council members.
A victory for Simmons was widely predicted. Some of the candidates publicly told Council members that they had doubts as to the fairness of the process. In speaking to the Council prior to the vote, candidates Martin Kennedy and Paul Brenner pointedly directed their remarks to those who hadn’t yet made up their minds.
Kennedy cited a City Paper story quoting at-large Council member Ronnie Steine as stating that Merkel and Simmons were frontrunners in the race.
“Now I don’t know how, precisely, the front-runners were determined — the candidate meet-and-greet was only last night,” Kennedy said, in remarks that were also posted Tuesday on his blog. “My strong suspicion is that the horse-trading and back-scratching has been under way for at least a week now.”
Brenner, who also ran in last summer’s race for the school board seat, told Council members that the process appeared to be consistent with a trend in local education generally.
“There seems to be a trend here … where people are being picked without actually being interviewed,” Brenner told Council members.
In last summer’s election, most votes were divided between winner Alan Coverstone and runner-up Lee Limbird. Coverstone and Limbird both raised tens of thousands of dollars from supporters.
Not all the candidates publicly objected to the process, though. Candidates Rich Haglund and Julie Lamb stuck to education in their remarks. Candidate Michael La Haie acknowledged the remarks of Kennedy and Brenner, but said the process left him “excited,” “undeterred,” and still interested in running for the seat in 2010.
“All I can speak is for myself,” Simmons said. “This was a very important vote for all the … Council members. I think they took it very seriously. I certainly talked to many of them, because I felt it was important they know who I was, so I think it was a very fair process.”
Simmons takes over the seat vacated by Coverstone, who stepped down recently to take an administrative job with Metro Nashville Public Schools. Simmons will serve until the next regularly scheduled election, slated for August of 2010. The winner of that election will complete the remaining two years of Coverstone’s original term.