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Greg Adkins

A Conversation with Planning Commission Chair Greg Adkins

Special Guest

Greg is the current Chairman of the Nashville Metropolitan Planning Commission and is
also the President & CEO of the Beverage Association of Tennessee (BAT) a statewide 501(c)(6)
professional trade association representing local and regional soda, water, and juice bottlers.
Prior to this role he was President & CEO of the Tennessee Hospitality & Tourism Association 
(TnHTA) which represented Tennessee restaurants, lodging, and tourism entities. Adkins is a former board and executive committee member of the American Hotel & Lodging Association, former member of the Governor Haslam’s Tennessee Tourism Committee, former Nashville Metropolitan Parks Board member, past Chairman of International Association of Hotel Executives, and former executive committee and board member of the Music City Bowl.

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Sonia Allman

Our Inadequate Infrastructure: Challenges, Possibilities, and Best Practices


A 20 year staff member of Metro Water Services, Sonia Allman, manages media relations and public messaging strategies for Nashville’s water, sewer, stormwater and waste services as the Manager of Strategic Communications.  Sonia is a University of Tennessee graduate and holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in Biology. Her personal interest in the environment led Sonia to a career in the water industry. 


Fabian Bedne

Our Inadequate Infrastructure: Challenges, Possibilities, and Best Practices


Fabian works in the Office of Mayor John Cooper as Senior Manager in Community Development in the office of Economic and Community Development. He is responsible for liaising with planning, neighborhood development, and infrastructure. His work includes engaging with Nashville residents, working on program development, and supporting needed investments. For over 35 years, Fabian has been involved in community development projects. Prior to serving in the Mayor’s Office, Fabian was elected to Nashville’s Metro Council where he served two consecutive terms finishing his service.

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Keith Benion

The Green Umbrella: Ways to "Green" Your Neighborhood


Keith is Co-founder of The Village Cultural Arts Center (1996-2006).  He has dedicated over 20 years of working with children in aftercare and summer enrichment programs while establishing educational modules that allow youth to participate in environmental, performing arts, and social media safety training. When it comes to helping others, he has always been involved in grassroots organizations that provide positive direction and benefits in urban neighborhoods. He plays an active role in the Haynes-Trinity Neighborhood Coalition, Resha Heights (Downtown Bordeaux) Neighborhood Organization, and North Nashville Leadership Council. Concern for how established neighborhoods will continue to exist and maintain their cultural identity has been the focus of attention since Nashville became The It City.   


JS Bolton

More than Pouring Concrete: Addressing the Issues and Challenges of Sidewalks

Session Leader

JS has been a leader in The Nations neighborhood for the last few years, serving as a board member and President of the Neighborhood Association.  Advocating for sidewalks kicked off her passion for empowering neighborhood leaders, connecting her with the strong Neighbor 2 Neighbor community and curriculum.  She also serves broader Nashville through the Junior League, where this year she is the VP for Community service and partnerships. 

American manufacturing and sustainable blue collar jobs are another passion for JS, who lives and breathes her dedication day in and out in manufacturing at Nissan in Smyrna.   Outside of factory walls and zoom community meetings, JS spends time breathing fresh air, either walking (sidewalks!), running, hiking, or snow skiing.  


Dede Byrd

A Neighborhood-Based Approach to Homelessness


Dede is a life long Davidson County resident. She graduated from John Overton High School and received a BS in Nursing from UTC. She has worked as a certified nurse anesthetist for over 30 years.


Dede became active in the homeless arena when individuals started overdosing in her community. She have spent the last two years educating herself about this devastating tragedy. Her focus is on addiction and mental health, but the housing of our most vulnerable has become a passion.


April Calvin

A Neighborhood-Based Approach to Homelessness


As the Interim Director of Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County’s Homeless Impact Division (MHID), April manages the coordinating efforts of the Nashville-Davidson Continuum of Care (CoC).   April provides leadership in collaboration with the Mayor, Metro Council, Metropolitan Development Housing Agency, and the Homelessness Planning Council (CoC Governance Board entity). Vital responsibilities include overseeing MHID’s role as Homeless Management Information System (HMIS) Lead, Coordinated Entry (CE) Lead, along with strategic coordination of agencies providing services to the unhoused Nashville population.


Twana Chick

Mayoral Candidates Forum on Neighborhoods


Twana is a rare native Nashvillian who has witnessed first hand the changes in our community. She spent 28 years with the Metro Police Department, including working with Community Affairs, which broadened her community engagement. She has been the president of Cane Ridge Community Club for 3 years. Cane Ridge is currently struggling to balance growth with the needs of the community.


Lt. Michelle Coker

Creating a Neighborhood Safety Campaign

Session Leader (Co-Facilitator)

Michelle is a Nashville native. She joined the Metropolitan Nashville Police Department in 2006 in efforts of connecting more and servicing the various diverse communities of Davidson County. During her time with the department, she has worked in various roles instrumental to developing her knowledge in aiding the community as a patrol officer, Youth Services Investigator, evening shift precinct supervisor, precinct community affairs liaison, Secondary Employment supervisor, and now overseeing the Office of Community Outreach & Partnerships Division where this team’s focus is to connect with the many underserved communities around the city. The goal is to build community trust while educating & empowering each community to be equipped with knowledge on strengthening neighborhood partnerships through collective efficacy.

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The Honorable Mayor John Cooper

Celebrating 60 Years of Metropolitan Government

Guest Speaker

John is the ninth mayor of the Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County.


Since taking office in 2019, he has achieved historic results for residents by making Nashville’s neighborhoods the centerpiece of his agenda.

After just three years in office, Mayor Cooper has made Nashville’s teachers the best-paid in Tennessee, provided paid family leave to ALL public school employees for the first time ever, and provided significant pay increases to bus drivers, cafeteria workers and paraprofessionals.

The financial turnaround Mayor Cooper helped engineer has enabled record neighborhood investments in schools, transportation, and parks.


For the first time ever, Mayor Cooper established that all Metro Nashville employees will be paid a living wage of $18/hour at minimum.


Meanwhile, Oracle Corporation is investing $1.2 billion and creating 8,500 jobs in Nashville; the economic development project is unrivaled in the state’s history.


After adopting a Metro Transportation Plan for the first time, Nashville now has a local Department of Transportation (NDOT), dedicated entirely to pedestrian safety, neighborhood infrastructure improvements, and better traffic management.


The city has more than tripled its affordable housing resources, including a first-ever Metro Housing Division.


Jessica Dauphin

Transit: Building a System that Works for Our Neighbors and Neighborhoods

Session Leader

Jessica is an accomplished nonprofit professional and TEDx Speaker. She was born in Nashville, raised in Pegram/Kingston Springs, and is an alumna of Middle Tennessee State University. She has dedicated the 15 years since working for nonprofits to helping to bring awareness and hope to individuals and communities. Be it autonomy, safety, or access, the drive toward positive social change has been her calling card and personal brand. Today, Jessica is the President and CEO for the Transit Alliance of Middle Tennessee. For Jessica, joining the Transit Alliance in 2017 was a vital step. Access to effective and efficient transit options is key to sustaining growth and economic competitiveness in the region as well as preserving the high quality of life we all strive toward.

Dauphin recognizes that even with the best schools, jobs, healthcare, parks, etc. a city can provide, if a person is not able to get from where they are to where they are going, living a good and happy life can seem like an insurmountable challenge. Transportation challenges underscore many issues facing growing cities and deserve thoughtful, engaging conversations that lead to intentional investments of well-connected systems.


Thomas Dodson

Creating a Neighborhood Safety Campaign

Session Leader (Co-Facilitator)

Thomas is a resident of North Nashville and a board member of Neighbor 2 Neighbor. For the past 14 years, Thomas has been working with small and large companies, nonprofits, elected officials, and public agencies, helping them create lasting and engaging social media campaigns. As a former television news journalist, Thomas helps his clients blend the art of engaging content with the science of digital technology to create effective strategies that move people to act.


Khalil Ekulona

Our Inadequate Infrastructure: Challenges, Possibilities, and Best Practices

Session Leader (Moderator/Host)

Khalil is thoroughly enjoying hosting This Is Nashville for WPLN News. From the host’s chair he is able to meet and talk with people from all  parts of Nashville and Middle Tennessee. It is a wonderful position that he is honored to have.


Before moving to Nashville in 2021 Khalil  served as the host and producer of No More Normal, the pandemic-focused radio show on KUNM in Albuquerque. He’s also served as the co-host of Good Day New Mexico on KOB4, and as a correspondent with New Mexico PBS. Khalil has worked as an educator for at-risk high school students and an associate producer for film, and he founded the hip-hop group Fresh Air. He continues to create music and mentor the next generation of artists.

Khalil loves to find humor and wisdom in life’s turns and corners, and enjoys discovering the events that define our lives by talking to his fellow human beings and strives to learn from their experiences. He is an avid fan of elevator music and is the father to three cats. 

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Brad Freeze

Our Inadequate Infrastructure: Challenges, Possibilities, and Best Practices


Brad is the Chief Engineer of the newly formed Nashville Department of Transportation & Multimodal Infrastructure. He currently oversees the transportation infrastructure development and delivery for the city of Nashville. Brad is a licensed engineer and holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Engineering from Tennessee Technological University and a Master of Science degree in Civil Engineering from University of Tennessee.  Previous to his current position at NDOT, Brad served as the Director of the Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) Traffic Operations Division. Born and raised in the Nashville area, Brad currently lives in Goodlettsville, Tennessee, with his wife (Rachel), 12-year-old daughter (Eliza), and 9-year-old daughter (Emajean).

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Tony Gonzalez

Digging into the History of Your Neighborhood

Session Leader (Facilitator)

Tony oversees special projects at WPLN News and produces the Curious Nashville podcast. Since arriving in Nashville in 2011, he’s covered major breaking news, tapped into data and public records for civics stories, featured inspiring people, and told unusual tales from local history. He lives in Lockeland Springs with his wife and daughter and dabbles in hobbies like juggling and birding.

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Jim Hawk

Nurturing a Culture of Engaged Residents

Session Leader (Co-Facilitator)

Jim is a long-time Nashville community advocate and a champion of supporting local neighborhoods and their residents.  During his nine years as the Executive Director of Neighbor 2 Neighbor, he has demonstrated his passion and strength for equipping residents and neighborhood organizations with the tools they need to create safer and more vibrant neighborhoods.

Originally from Clarion, Pennsylvania, Jim received graduate degrees from The Divinity School at Vanderbilt University and  Scarritt Graduate School. He and his spouse live in East Nashville and are members of Historic Edgefield Neighbors.

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Angie Henderson

More than Pouring Concrete: Addressing the Issues and Challenges of Sidewalks


Angie is a Metro Council member serving District 34 in southwest Nashville. She has served as a member of the Council's Transportation & Infrastructure (formerly Public Works) Committee, twice as vice chair and once as chair, for seven years. She ran for office in 2015 to elevate and expand Nashville's sidewalk requirements, and successfully did so with countywide legislation passed unanimously in 2017 with 37 council member co-sponsors. She subsequently fine-tuned the policy in 2019 and then delivered sidewalk-associated, street tree requirements for all NashvilleNext "centers" in 2020. She has detailed insights on the city's capital sidewalk & development-required sidewalk programs and continues to work to deliver a more walkable Nashville through committee oversight of NDOT and land-use policy improvements.  


Mike Hodge

Nurturing a Culture of Engaged Residents

Session Leader (Co-Facilitator)

Mike retired at the end of 2022 from NOAH (Nashville Organized for Action and Hope), where he had served as Organizing Director since 2014.


Mike grew up in Savannah, GA and graduated from Scarritt College in Nashville in 1977 with a Master’s Degree in Church and Community Ministry.  For 34 years, he worked both for a United Methodist agency and for a non-profit group, helping residents of challenged neighborhoods organize to solve neighborhood problems. However, the most needed neighborhood changes were beyond the power of one neighborhood to achieve.  Mike was excited to work for NOAH, which draws together congregations, unions, and other community organizations to build city-wide power for change.


For over 30 years, Mike was married to Sandy Bryan Hodge, a Christian educator and pastor, who died in 2007.   In 2021, Mike married Carleen Dowell, a retired special education teacher and an active leader at First Unitarian-Universalist Church.   Mike has 3 sons and 9 grandchildren, while Carleen has 2 daughters and 2 grandchildren.

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Ryan LaSuer

A Neighborhood-Based Approach to Homelessness


Ryan strives everyday to become a stronger servant leader through the power of Christ.  He has years of experience marketing, creating grassroots promotion, client engagement and building stakeholder relations. He graduated from Trevecca Nazarene University with a Masters in Organizational Leadership and comes from a strong business background with more than 15 years of leadership experience improving non-profit organizations. Since joining Community Care Fellowship, he has increased the operating budget form just over $400,000 to approximately $2.4 million and CCF’s has grown from one location to 4. The Mayor’s office has partnered with CCF to launch four Mobile Housing Navigation Centers in local churches by the end of 2022. This is a collective impact initiative with non-profit partners, Metropolitan Government, and partner congregations to provide temporary housing for our neighbors experiencing homelessness throughout the Nashville area, including those in encampments.

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Eddie Latimer

Affordable Housing: Who, What, Where, When, and Why

Session Leader

Eddie is the founder of Nashville’s oldest non-profit housing development corporation, Affordable Housing Resources, Inc. (AHR).  For 30 years AHR’s HUD homebuyer education classes have helped over 19,000 people buy their first home. AHR developed a full cycle lending continuum offering various 1st mortgage loans and down payment and closing cost loans to first time, lower income and minority homebuyers. AHR’s lending works in partnership with local banks.  AHR has been Nashville’s largest non-profit housing development corporation constructing and rehabbing over 1500 quality, affordable homes and townhomes. AHR has also developed a fourth line of business – Disaster Response. AHR was involved in the clean-up and initial rebuilds after Nashville’s 1998 and 2020 tornados plus on the Gulf Coast after Katrina.  During the housing, AHR was ranked second in the nation by NeighborWorks America, for saving homeowners from foreclosure, serving 20% of all home saves in Tennessee. Most recently AHR put out $1.6M in Emergency Rental Assistance aid to those made unemployed by Covid.


Steve Lopez

Our Inadequate Infrastructure: Challenges, Possibilities, and Best Practices


Steve is the Capital Performance Manager in the Mayor’s Office of Performance Management.  He oversees a system and process that distributes Metro’s capital investments effectively, efficiently and equitably for the City of Nashville and throughout Davidson County.  Steve’s mission is to ensure all Metro citizens have access to safe and well-maintained infrastructure.

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Traynce Parmer

The Green Umbrella: Ways to "Green" Your Neighborhood

Session Leader (Moderator)

Traynce is an East Nashville native and gardener. She is the District 8 Beautification Commissioner as well as a Field Member and Tree Captain at Root Nashville. She specialize in small space gardening and maximizing harvests. When I'm not gardening, I'm hiking, reading or writing.


Van Pinnock

Mayoral Candidates Forum on Neighborhoods


Van has over 40 years of varied business experience that includes communications, higher education, transportation and financial services. Presently, Van provides management consulting to small businesses organizations engaged in a variety of industries and adjudication services for healthcare entities.

From a volunteer perspective, Van is a member of Tennessee State University’s Board of Trustees and Chairs its Housing Committee; is Vice Chair of Neighbor 2 Neighbor’s Board of Directors; on the advisory board of the Davidson County Relative Caregiver Program; and served on former Nashville Mayor Megan Barry’s Solid Waste Task Force, and participated on the Routes and Modes task force of her mass transit initiative.


Van graduated from Fisk University with a degree in Business Management.  He also received an Associate in Risk Management certification from The (Insurance) Institutes.  Finally, inspired by his father (who came to America from Jamaica at age 40 to continue his education), completed an online program for a Master’s in Business Administration from the University of the People in 2020. 


E. Kelly Sanford

A Conversation with Planning Commission Chair Greg Adkins

Session Leader (Moderator)

Dr. E. Kelly Sanford is originally from Oxford, NC and graduated from the Sociology Department of North Carolina Central University. He completed his M.A. in Sociology and Ph.D. in Africana Studies from Howard University. He is currently an Associate Professor in the Sociology Department at Tennessee State University. Dr. Sanford is an avid flower and vegetable gardener, and also enjoys foreign films, fly fishing, and golfing.


Wesley Smith

More than Pouring Concrete: Addressing the Issues and Challenges of Sidewalks


Wesley (he/him) joined the Walk Bike Nashville team in July 2022. He is passionate about livable neighborhoods and active transportation. A graduate of Hume-Fogg and the University of Tennessee, Wesley is pursuing a master’s degree in Community Development and Action from Vanderbilt University. His past experience includes public policy research, program development, and academic writing at the intersection of geography and sociology. 

As Policy and Government Relations Manager, he leads the organization’s “grasstops” efforts, planning and implementing advocacy campaigns and working with government entities. Interested in our advocacy efforts? Get in touch with Wesley to make our city more walkable and bikeable!


Troy Vaughn

The Green Umbrella: Ways to "Green" Your Neighborhood


Troy lives in East Nashville, has a bachelor's degree from Belmont University, and will graduate with an MBA from Purdue University in May 2023. Mr. Vaughn works for WM Recycle America as a major account manager supporting the Mid-South region. Troy specializes in recycling and waste diversion solutions for large manufacturing, industrial, and distribution facilities.  


Rev. Jay Voorhees

A Neighborhood-Based Approach to Homelessness

Session Leader (Facilitator)

Jay is the lead pastor of the City Road Chapel United Methodist Church, a congregation located in Madison that is heavily engaged in ministry with persons experiencing homelessness. City Road Chapel partners with Community Care Fellowship to operate a homeless services resource center (Showers of Blessings) and a 15-bed residential program to move persons from the streets to permanent housing. Jay has served churches throughout the Nashville area for 25 years and has been a leader in helping connect local congregations to the needs of their neighborhoods. Jay is on the Board of the Madison Rivergate Area Chamber of Commerce and serves on the Shelter Committee for the Nashville area Continuum of Care which coordinates the work of various agencies addressing homelessness. 


Tamika White

Creating a Neighborhood Safety Campaign

Session Leader (Co-Facilitator)

Tamika is a native of Nashville. Tamika is a mom and wife. She is currently serving on the board of Neighbor 2 Neighbor. She is also an executive committee member of the NAACP, as well as the Davidson County Democratic Party.  As a lifelong, Nashvillian it is important to her to make sure that all of our communities are equipped with the resources they need to thrive.


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Special Thanks to Piedmont Natural Gas for underwriting the cost of video recording the conference sessions.

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