Mayoral candidate Karl Dean hosted a lunch meeting today for area bloggers. About a dozen folks showed up at the Flying Saucer, among them Bruce Barry, Hutchmo, Ned Williams, Nathan Moore and myself. I have lots of notes to review, but I'll offer this brief post in the meantime.
Dean strikes me as a cross between Bill Purcell and Phil Bredesen. As he noted during lunch, Nashville has been blessed to have 16 years of great mayoral leadership under those two leaders, so that's definitely a compliment. (Since they have reportedly struggled to get along at times in the past, I'm not sure how they'd feel about this comparison, but it rang true for me today.)
Dean sounds a little like Purcell when he talks: He has a lot to say, and he did ramble at times. He carefully and thoughtfully weighed his responses to many questions. There is a deliberateness about Dean that reminds me of Purcell. I left with the impression that Dean would not take any issue affecting the city lightly or make any decision without considering its consequences. That's good leadership.
He reminds me of Bredesen because he comes across as intelligent and highly practical. Sure, he mentioned similar lofty ambitions for his leadership vision the way most other candidates do, but I got a strong sense that Dean would focus most on what he could help the city get done. Discussing his experience as Metro law director and as public defender, he couched himself as a problem solver who seeks to get to the heart of an issue and figure out what to do about it. This approach appears to fit with his emphasis on his experience in the executive (as in to execute, to get things done, to do) branch of government as opposed to the legislative area. Dean was sure to point out that three of his opponents, David Briley, Howard Gentry and Buck Dozier, are current council members and that Bob Clement is known best for his time as a congressman.
Describing Dean in this way, I realize that I'd still like to see and learn more about Dean's own voice and personality. Compared with the other major candidates, he entered the race fairly late (in December) and is arguably a lesser known, though respected, community leader. Until recently, Dean has been fairly quiet on the campaign, apparently focusing (quite successfully) on catching up on fundraising since he announced his candidacy later than everyone else.
It's still awfully early in this race, so there's plenty of time remaining for Dean to raise his public profile, but I generally like what I have seen so far and what I heard today. He is an electable candidate in this race, but in my opinion so are three of the other four candidates. (I'm hoping personally that Clement is not, but that's up for the voters to decide, not just me.)
I'll share more about today's discussion and issues that were raised over the next few days. Stay tuned.