The votes are in: Nashville is “ready for Freddie.”
Freddie O’Connell, a former two-term member of the inner-city Metropolitan Council, is the 10th mayor of the Nashville metropolitan area.
On Thursday he won a decisive victory against business leader and former political strategist Alice Rolli, winning 63.8% of the 114,226 votes cast, compared to Rolli’s 36.0%.
“Tomorrow the rest of the work begins. We know we can do better together,” O’Connell said, declaring victory just after final results were reported at 8:38 p.m. “This is our chance to make Nashville a place where you want to stay and I can stay, and I want you to stay. “You are the reason Music City’s future will be even better than its past.”
His administration, he said, will be organized around how to make it easier for people to stay in Nashville. That starts with countywide investments in schools, parks and libraries, the “public resources that bring neighborhoods and neighbors together.”
“Our interactions with our local government should make us feel satisfied that a real person worked to solve our problem,” O’Connell said. “From trash to downed trees to potholes, we should be able to trust our people and the systems we use to keep this city vibrant. We’re going to make this city work for all of us.”
Earlier in the evening, cheers erupted when a screen broadcasting NewsChannel 5 showed O’Connell with a substantial early lead in his election night event at the Eastside Bowl. People in T-shirts that said “More ‘Ville, Less Vegas” and O’Connell bellboys with pizza and drinks in hand as they waited for O’Connell to take the stage. “Ready for it?” by Taylor Swift was playing over the speakers, but you could barely hear it over the hum of the increasingly packed crowd.
Making history:Women Capture Nashville’s Five At-Large Council Seats, Put Tennessee on Notice
District Council 30 member Sandra Sepulveda introduced O’Connell before his victory speech.
“This is not the old policy,” he said, drawing loud applause from the crowd. “This is the new leadership.”
O’Connell thanked each of his opponents in the race, saying that “we all wanted better for this city,” and also thanked his predecessor, Mayor John Cooper.
“There can never be a time in this period of Nashville’s history when we don’t remember that he led the city through some of the worst crises in our history and left us in good shape,” O’Connell said. “His efforts are incredibly important as we all try to move toward our future successes.”
A new vision of Nashville:My Neighbor Freddie O’Connell Wins Nashville Mayoral Race, Offering Hope to Residents
O’Connell dedicated the evening to his colleague Dr. Whitney Boone’s father, David, who passed away after a prolonged illness on Friday.
“We missed him terribly tonight,” he said.
Rolli took the stage at his Plaza Mariachi event at 8:40 pm to announce that he had called O’Connell to congratulate him on his victory.
“You carry the hope and best wishes of our family,” Rolli told O’Connell.
Leaving the stage shortly after 9 p.m., he asked attendees to do two things: drive safely and keep believing in Tennessee. Minutes later, a five-piece mariachi band took her place on stage and Rolli made her way through the crowd, drink in hand, giving hugs and sharing a few laughs.
“I think we made a lot of people step up and say, ‘Hey, it doesn’t have to be like this.’ We can demand better for our children. We don’t have to settle,’” Rolli said. “I like to think we raised the bar for what was possible.”
Rolli said she’s not sure she’ll return to politics anytime soon, but she hinted at it, referencing how Lamar Alexander, whose subsequent campaigns Rolli ran, lost his first run for office but later returned to serve the state. For now, she had other things on her mind.
“I have a lot of thank you notes to write,” Rolli told The Tennessean in an interview in her dressing room, far from the crowd of dancers who attended Plaza Mariachi’s regular Thursday night salsa dance. “And I have a margarita to finish.”
Live election results:Follow along as the votes are counted.
O’Connell and Rolli emerged as the top two contenders in a field of 12 candidates in the August 3 general election. For the past six weeks, the couple has laid out their diametric visions for leading Nashville.
Both candidates broadly agreed: Nashville needs to support its schools, improving transit is a top priority, affordability is a major pressure point, the city’s relationship with the state needs a reset, and public safety is paramount.
But they clashed over how to achieve meaningful results.
The nonpartisan race was more polarized than previous Nashville mayoral races, said Pat Nolan, a longtime Nashville political analyst. O’Connell ran as a “true progressive” and Rolli identified her politics as “center-right.” Both at times used partisan labels in their ad campaigns, with O’Connell running ads calling Rolli an “extreme Republican” in the week leading up to Thursday’s election.
O’Connell, a software architect with about two decades of heavy involvement in community leadership and local politics, built his campaign around bolstering the city of Nashville’s core services, promoting a viable transit plan and the orientation of the city’s priorities toward residents.
His campaign slogans point to the sentiment that Nashville’s rapid growth and sustained popularity do not necessarily benefit all Nashvillians: “I want you to stay,” “More ‘Ville, less Vegas,” and “A Nashville for the Nashville residents.”
Nolan called O’Connell a “surprise candidate” who faced initial doubts about his fundraising ability but ultimately emerged as the front-runner in the race.
With the victory, O’Connell becomes the fourth mayor of Nashville elected after serving on the Metro Council. He launched his bid for the seat, his first countywide campaign, in April 2022, allowing him more than 16 months to raise funds for a campaign without the help of personal loans.
O’Connell said his knowledge of Metro government and policies is positive, citing his eight years of service representing District 19, Nashville’s fastest-growing district that encompasses the downtown footprint.
O’Connell brought a wealth of policy expertise developed over eight years representing Nashville’s most populous and fastest-growing district. He distinguished himself from other candidates by his vocal opposition to the $2.1 billion deal to build a new Tennessee Titans stadium (former AllianceBernstein executive Jim Gingrich was the only other candidate to denounce the deal).
He gained early support from labor groups and council members, and consolidated support from the business community during his runoff campaign, as evidenced by his runoff financial disclosures. O’Connell’s list of donors indicates support from a broad base that includes organizations with competing interests, something that could prove difficult for O’Connell while he is in office.
During his runoff campaign, O’Connell earned the endorsements of six of his former competitors: Matt Wiltshire, Jeff Yarbro, Heidi Campbell, Sharon Hurt, Vivian Wilhoite and Jim Gingrich. He garnered support (and donations) from several union groups and prominent Nashville business interests.
About a quarter of the $1.2 million in O’Connell’s runoff war fund came from political action committees (some tied to major local businesses) and LLCs.
Rolli, whose career as a business strategist was most recently rooted in the educational software sphere, previously served as assistant commissioner of strategy for the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development under former Gov. Bill Haslam, and led former Sen. Lamar’s administration Alexander in 2014. United States Senate primary campaign. She spearheaded an effort to prevent development around Fort Negley in 2017.
Rolli presented herself as a necessary change from what she calls Nashville’s “permanent political class.” Her campaign focused on “building a bridge” with state and regional leaders and moving away from the “cookbook that has failed other big cities with higher taxes, higher crime and failing schools.”
Nashville Mayor Election:See who has endorsed Freddie O’Connell and Alice Rolli
Rolli’s endorsements include the Nashville Fraternal Order of Police, the Davidson County Republican Party and Community Leaders for America (home of the national forum of Republican mayors and local leaders). She received endorsements from former competitors Fran Bush and Stephanie Johnson, who joined Rolli’s campaign after the general election.
His runoff election coffers of nearly $442,000 include donations from a handful of political action committees and several LLCs and corporations. She reported about $146,000 in personal loans outstanding as of September 4.