Nashville Metro Council Member Nancy VanReece made history in 2015 when she became the first out woman elected to a legislative body in Tennessee. Each day since, Council Member VanReece has been a tireless champion for the people of Nashville’s 8th District – laser-focused on bringing regional investments and opportunity to her constituents. Happily married to her wife, Joan VanReece, for 30 years, NVR – as she sometimes goes by – is Vice President of Business Development of Batch Nashville, LLC and Founder of Carpe Diem Management, a social media strategy and training company.
Victory Institute caught up with Council Member VanReece on Monday, March 13 – which happened to be her birthday – for a conversation about being a first-time elected official, Nashville’s infrastructure plans, LGBTQ equality, and out women running for office.
On being a first-time elected official:
“Relationships really do matter for building coalitions and getting your legislation passed. At first, I was shocked by the pace of government. You have to start your projects as soon as you get in because a great idea fully funded is still 18 months from a shovel. There are too many voices in the room that will take up all the oxygen, if you delay. You graciously get things started, so things keep moving.”
“The question a newly elected official should ask him or herself: ‘Who do you know that can help you learn quickly?’ There are people who will run who are fully engaged and understand zoning code, for example. But, for [other first-time elected officials], there are people who can help. You need to know what your weaknesses are and ask for help.”
On unprecedented growth in Nashville:
“Nashville is resilient. We are actively working to address growth in the Nashville-Davidson region. Several years ago, there was an extremely diligent public involvement plan done, with over 20,000 people participating, and three transportation-related solutions came out of it: bus only, bus with additional amenities, and a transit plan. In those public meetings, the community made it clear that they wanted the whole ball of wax, which will cost approximately $5 billion. The Tennessee State Legislature gave Counties the authority to raise funds for transit. Davidson County is leading the way with our referendum. That referendum vote will be on May 1, 2018 and is a chance to move Nashville forward – an opportunity I hope we embrace.”
On fighting for LGBTQ equality in Tennessee:
“Nashville continues to be a blue heart in a red state. Our progressive attitude continues to annoy the state legislature, but we continue to have one. We have a very supportive Davidson county delegation, and the Tennessee Equality Project is doing great work to extend its reach to people who have not been traditionally supportive of equality issues. We speak with confidence with regards to having a place at the table. Overall, I believe we have the right people in place to kill discriminatory bills and advance equality.”
On encouraging LGBTQ women to run for office:
“Running is winning. Even considering the sacrifices, running is worth it no matter what. Winning a race is better but winning doesn’t happen unless we run. Right now, encouraging more women, including out women, to run has to be paramount.”
On the historic number of women running for office:
“The collective story of women over the past two years has been incredible. We’re not going back. Our culture has officially changed – and it has changed for the better. Much like obtaining marriage equality and removing restrictions on women serving in the military, the flywheel has moved, and if we all keep working to advance progress, I believe it’ll continue to move.”
Each week, Out with Reggie will bring you new perspectives from an LGBTQ elected official or out public leader. Council Member VanReece is one of 518 LGBTQ elected officials currently serving in the U.S. To see all of them, please visit Victory Institute’s Out for America map!