Metro Council At-Large Interview: Delishia Porterfield

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Metro Council At-Large Interview: Delishia Porterfield

This interview is part of a partnership between the Nashville Banner and NewsChannel5. For more information, go to

So for the last four years, I’ve had the opportunity to serve District 29 as a councilman. I currently serve as the chair of the minority caucus. And I previously served as chair of the Education Committee and vice chair of our public health and safety committee. I am a single mom to an amazing 11th-grade student who’s an MNPS student, and community organizer. I work for a nonprofit currently. So just a person in the community who wanted to make a difference in Nashville and decided to run for council.

And what brought you to Nashville from Memphis? Correct?

Yes, ma’am. I’m originally from Memphis. And I went to Howard University in Washington, DC. And after two years, I absolutely loved Howard, I love D.C. But after two years, I was ready to move back down south. So I transferred to TSU and fell in love with Nashville, and I’ve been here ever since.

Right representing District 29, you quickly became one of the most vocal council members, you wouldn’t argue with that. Right? What made you decide to run for an at-large seat?

Yeah, so being fully present for you know, the district issues. And when you think about what a district council member does, we focus on trash and community investment and infrastructure improvements. So I’ve been able to successfully get sidewalks and stormwater improvements and traffic calming, which is amazing. So I’ve been fully present for those really localized community issues. But I’m really passionate about the citywide issues. So when we’re looking at public investment, like should our funding should our dollars go to a stadium, when we think about things like Airbnbs, and affordable housing, and just affordability and Nashville period, like we need to make sure that we have people that are going to advocate for working people. So I was fully present for those fights and fully present for the service in my district. And at some point, I had to just kind of make a decision on what I thought where I could be of the best service and the issues that I’m most passionate about and the fights that I’m called to. They really transcend district borders. So I stepped out on faith and made the decision to run at-large.

Do you think that’ll change your approach? Will you be as one one-on-one with constituents?

I still will definitely be one-on-one. So what I saw even as a district council member, again, being fully present in district 29, but also being around the city and hearing concerns from people all around the city and just building out personal relationships with people. That’s something that just naturally occurred over the last four years. And it’s something that I’m looking forward to for the next four years. Hopefully,

If you were going to write the job description for an at-large councilmember, how would it read?

So that’s an interesting question. So people are always wondering, like kind of what’s the difference with at-large and a district council person, and again, that that at-large person, they’re really digging deep into policy. So I think that’s one thing. Another thing is that they also help district council members. So for example, last year, I got really sick, I almost died. And I spent two weeks in the hospital and shout out to Metro General Hospital because the People’s Hospital saved my life. So I’m very thankful to be here. And councilmember Bob Mendes, he stepped in. And he helped support my community during that time when I was in the hospital. So I remember being in ICU and constituents callingand I was foolish enough to answer but being able to, you know, direct people to talk to him. So at-large council member, they help the district when the district council member is not available, or you know, there’s something going on. But they also really dig deep into like these policy issues, because I do have more time, they’re still doing those constituent services. But they’re they’re looking at it more globally. So they’re thinking about how these things impact all of Nashville, as opposed to how it impacts one corner of Nashville.

What do you think your top priority will be going into the next council, should you be elected?

Yes, ma’am. My top priority is affordability. So I am a working mom, I spent almost 10 years in our public school system. So I know what it means to you know, live paycheck to paycheck. I know what it means to work with individuals that are having to make these hard choices between buying their lunch or paying for gas or buying medicine. And right now the people that make Nashville run and make the city that we are a lot of those people can’t afford to live here anymore. So you see a lot of people push it getting pushed out further to like the borders of the city, but then also outside of the city. So you see a lot of people living in like Clarksville and Smyrna and Laverne and we need to make sure that we’re making a Nashville that is truly for Nashvillians. And addressing that affordability making sure that people can afford to live here. Raising wages. Obviously, we can’t do anything about the minimum wage in our city. But when we raise the wages of our Metro employees, that gives a boost. Metro is one of the largest employers in the city. So that gives a big boost to people that work for Metro. But it also causes other industries to have to raise their wages as well to be competitive. So making sure that we’re looking at things like affordable housing, but all of that plays into the affordability of Nashville

Of all Metro employees, who do you think needs a raise first?

I think that all of our Metro employees need, everyone does an important job, right? So what a lot of people don’t realize is we have like the Metro government. And then we have MNPS. So we have we look at the wages for all of Metro employees. And then we look at the way it was just for MMPs. And ideally, we will live in a society where we could just, you know, wave a magic wand and we can hit everyone at the same time. But unfortunately, it doesn’t go their way. So last year, we were able to help get our teachers, the highest paid teachers that may have been two years ago, we were able to get our teachers, the highest paid teachers in the state of Tennessee, then we were able to put a lot of money into our support staff, employees, which when I started this work, I got elected in 2019. But in 2018, I was actually at the council meeting advocating for more and more pay for our support staff, and our paraprofessionals, which help our most vulnerable students with disabilities in our school system. On average, they were making $20,000 a year working full time.

You know, you can’t live with dignity making $20,000. So last year, I was able to get $1,000 an amendment to give them $1,000 bonus. So that was like a really full circle moment for me to have individuals that I directly saw the work that they did, and were able was able to help get them more pay. So unfortunately, we do have to kind of segment it. So you know, we did the teachers two years ago, then we did had a focus on support staff this year, we focused on Metro government. So we were able to, thankfully Mayor Cooper did a 4 percent cost of living adjustment, we were able to get that as the council, we were able to get up to 6 percent, I did have an amendment trying to get us to 7 percent. Unfortunately, we couldn’t quite get there. But we did get 6 percent. And I think you know, right now, we’ve done a good bump and wages, we just have to make sure that we’re maintaining it across the board.

You were pretty vocal against the stadium deal up until the final vote. Now that it’s passed and it’s a done deal, what would you do as an at-large council member to make the most out of what we’re planning on the east bank?

Absolutely, we need to make sure that the East Bank is going to work for the people of Nashville. So we need to make sure that we’re listening to the residents in the community. There were a lot of like listening sessions leading up to it when they were imagining what East Bank could look like. And I did attend a few of those sessions. And a lot of those sessions were with, they were filled with people who had the privilege to be able to attend. And what I mean by that is a lot of times working people working families, they don’t have the opportunity to go to community meetings, maybe you have football practice with your kid or y’all are doing homework or you’re working two jobs to make the ends meet. So a lot of times like just work, regular work, and people don’t have the ability to attend some of those meetings. And if you are maybe retired if you’re independently wealthy, if you’re more affluent, sometimes you are able to attend some of those meetings. One, I think we need to make sure that we’re fully engaging with the community to get a good understanding of what the people of Nashville are saying that they want. And how do we make the East Bank in a way and build it out in a way that is best for the people in Nashville? So when we’re looking at housing, and what percent of affordability can we do there? What can we do to put as many protections in place for people in Nashville?

Transit, of course, is top of mind for so many people in Nashville. Where does it lie on your priority list? And what do you think the biggest need is?

Yes, I’ll transit for me is a matter of equity. And we have to have equitable distribution. So we think about, you know, Highline transit and people think like, oh, we should do trains or, you know, these are the systems that we need, which is great, but we have to get the basics right first, right. So we made a great investment. This, this council, this Mayor’s office in this council made a great investment in our bus services. So those are the things that we have to do we have to get out of that low hanging fruit right before we try to move to other things. So when we think about expanding bus hours, making sure that people can do cross county routes like right now where we live in South East to for my daughter to ride the bus to school. I have to drive her seven minutes, she has to take a bus down to the station, then she has to get on another bus and then she has to walk. So how do we make those routes like more accessible because as a family, I couldn’t take the bus with my child to get her somewhere, and then get to another place. So how do we make these routes like more accessible, and make them more friendly for people, but it is an issue of equity because we want to make sure that people that are transit dependent, do have that reliable service so that they can get to, you know, get good paying jobs, and get to interviews or get to workforce development courses. So we have to make sure that we are doing that investment in transit. But it can’t just be to, you know, benefit, you know, tourists or people that are just going to shop or have fun. It needs to benefit everyone in our city, especially people that are transit-dependent.

So how do you get your daughter to school? Is she driving with you?

Not yet, so she rides with me most day. So we, we do drive in most days. But if we get up early enough, then I drive her to the bus stop. And then she takes the bus to school. So she took the bus to school, she took the public bus to school this morning. Usually around two o’clock, we’re texting to figure out what our schedules look like to determine if she’s gonna take the bus back home, or if I need to, you know, kind of reroute my day to get to pick her up. So when I say I’m a working mom, like I’m a real-life working mom, so we just figure it out.

And I was gonna finish by asking, What do you want the voters to know about you? I guess because you’re a working mom?

Yeah. So I think the biggest thing for me is that people tend to not trust people in government, right? And I get that. We always think we could do it better to somebody else, like I ran because when my when my predecessor, got elected to another seat and the seat was open, I ran because I wanted to make sure that we were paying employees and I wanted these neighborhood investments. And I felt like if someone was going to make a decision, why not me? I have a good moral compass. As you’ve already said, a couple of times, I’m very vocal about issues that I’m passionate about. So I just decided to run because I wanted to make a difference. And I think sometimes like people see this job is like, you know, lifelong career politicians like with these agendas. But in most cases, we’re just regular working people that

want to make our communities better. And I have a 16-year-old daughter and I want the city to be a place that’s like worthy of her. And if she wants to have children someday or grandchildren, I want my legacy my children, my grandchildren, my great grandchildren to be able to afford to live in this city to be able, to invest in the city and I want them to know that Nashville’s home. So I think the the biggest thing I would want people to know is that I’m just I’m a regular person. I’m super passionate. I’m always gonna fight. I joke and say like the air, I’m everywhere because you’ll see me passing legislation at the courthouse. You’ll see me up on the Hill, testifying to protect the voters in Nashville. You’ll see me at protests, demanding common sense gun reform. You’ll see me out at community meetings. You’ll see me at church on Sunday, you’ll see me at the grocery store. I’m a regular mom that just wants to make our city better.

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