9/11 memorial Brentwood 2020 3

Brentwood Mayor Rhea Little speaks at Brentwood's 19th anniversary memorial of the 9/11 attacks. 

Brentwood Mayor Rhea Little, who has served on the City Commission for more than 10 years, considers Brentwood to be "the greatest city in the world."

Now running for re-election, Little believes his experience, coupled with his love for the Brentwood community, would make him best equipped to help lead the city going forward.

Rhea Little

First elected to the City Commission in 2009, Little's family has lived in or around Brentwood since at least the 1790's. Little was voted by the City Commission to serve as mayor in 2019, and has served on a number of city boards and commissions throughout the years including the city Planning Commission and the Tree and Park Boards.

Little graduated from Franklin High School, earned a bachelor's degree from Belmont University, and is married with two children who attend Williamson County Schools.

Motivation to run for re-election

When asked what the key motivator was in running for a third four-year term as a City Commissioner, Little put it simply: It is his love for the Brentwood community and the drive to see the city prosper for years to come.

"I feel it's an honor to serve, but also due to the fact that we've gone through so much the last year, I feel it's important to have good, consistent [and] stable leadership," Little said.

"I feel that there's things like the new police headquarters, we're getting ready to get Fire Station 5, the extension of McEwen Drive, Windy Hill Park... those types of things I would like to stay on because I've worked [on] them for a number of years and [would] just [like to] see them come to fruition."

Regarding what Little thought made him the right choice to help continue to lead the city, Little was quick to point to his history of upholding a certain level of fiscal responsibility from a city leadership standpoint.

"I feel that it takes commissioners with true servant hearts who also work hard as they lead, and specifically work hard on fiscal matter; we take the budgeting process very seriously," Little said.

"Even with all the ramifications of COVID, we still — because we budget so well — are going to end up with probably $5 million extra in the 2020-2021 fiscal year. I think that's due to very good diligent stewardship. We're constantly looking five to seven years out on what the needs of the city are, but with the flexibility to handle things that sometimes arise that you're not anticipating. I just think it's very important to watch the finances, especially in a city the size of Brentwood."

"High quality of life"

Perhaps one of Brentwood's most defining features when compared to other cities in Williamson County is its generous building density. Under most circumstances, housing development in Brentwood is required to not exceed one home per acre, with news developments often having even more space between homes.

Little responded with a resounding "yes" when asked if this was something he would be committed to preserving during a third term.

"I've always been committed to a minimum of one-acre density, [and] I'm also for very methodical slow growth with very high expectations of developers," Little said.

"It has allowed us to have high home values but also a very high quality of life. The citizens who live in Brentwood want that; they want yards, they want lots of greenspace. Brentwood's not growing fast anymore, it hasn't for years only averaging about 150- 170 [new] houses the last eight to ten years, but with the communities around us growing so fast and all of their passthrough traffic, it's even more important for us to keep our density as low as possible."

Infrastructure and economic development

While development in Brentwood has been outpaced by its neighbors such as Spring Hill and Nashville, keeping vital infrastructure projects on track was still just as vital to Brentwood as anywhere else, according to Little.

"Just as I have in the past, [I will] work diligently through our briefings [and] budgeting process," Little said.

"On the McEwin project, since it's in cooperation with Franklin, [I will just] continue the great relationships with the communities around us that we have now. I feel that I've been an important part of helping keep those relations very good, I always feel the best outcomes for everyone come through great cooperation."

Given that well over half of Brentwood's annual revenue comes commercial development, continued commercial investments into the city are vital. And while different cities have different approaches to encouraging economic development, Little argued that maintaining Brentwood's high quality of life was perhaps the best tool to encourage continued economic investments into the city.

"As a commissioner, we have two commercial areas — the southern and northern commercial areas — the commercial areas are already delineated and anything that's done needs to stay in those areas," Little said.

"Brentwood is 90 percent residential, about 5 percent service institutional [and] about 5 percent commercial. The commercial is important because it provides about 55 percent to 65 percent of our revenues, but it needs to stay in those areas. I'm always willing to look at projects, but they have to fit Brentwood and our high development standards. By doing this, I don't feel that we as commissioners need to go out and seek business — the business seeks us."

Little expanded further on his view of encouraging economic development, saying that generally, he would not consider tax abatements as an incentive to encourage business development in the city.

Little's pitch to voters

Little has a long history with the city of Brentwood.

"I've lived and worked in and around Brentwood all my life, I went to school in Brentwood, I have a servant's heart, I've served in many leadership roles besides being commissioner," Little said.

"I own and operate a business that I've met payroll every Friday for decades. I've served in many capacities through church, rotary, foundations, Chamber of Commerce, Park Board, Tree Board, Environmental Advisory Board, Planning Commission, vice mayor, mayor... I feel I have wide a broad experience in many realms that I feel make me a very good servant, a good leader for the city of Brentwood, and very responsive to citizens and [their] needs."

"I'm a real hard worker, a very diligent studier — I take my duties very seriously. Because of my experience, I feel that I have the wisdom and the insight necessary to keep Brentwood the greatest city in the world."

Election

Little is one of four candidates vying for three seats on the City Commission; running against incumbents Mark Gorman and Regina Smithson, as well as political newcomer Gina Gunn. The three candidates who receive the most votes will go on to become acting city commissioners.

The voter registration deadline was April 5; click here to check if you're already registered to vote. Early voting will take place between April 14-29, with election day landing on Tuesday, May 4.

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