Tag Archives: Power of Ten

The Power of Dean

4 May

This week, I attended the “Power of 10” conference, an event where leaders from the ten counties that make up the Greater Nashville area get together and talk about the future.Power of Ten

It is a way to get people working together when they make decisions about where their communities are headed. It is a noble enterprise, but we cannot get towns in the same county to work together. Getting different counties to work together is almost impossible.

The room was filled with mayors, planners, members of city councils and assorted other pillars of their respective communities. I was there because I needed some training hours as a member of the planning commission. Unfortunately, I was not there on time because of work. That meant that I walked into the back of a packed house with a program that had already begun.

As I stood at the top of the stairs and scanned for an empty seat, an usher eased up to me and said that I could not stand there. No kidding. I explained that I did not intend to stand for the next four hours and was merely looking for a place to go. She brought to mind the ushers at the Ryman Auditorium. It is one of the great music halls of the world, but the ushers take their jobs way too seriously. Give someone a vest and a flashlight and they think they can rule the world. It is a power trip. I lovingly call them “Seat Nazis.”

I got away from the transfer from the Ryman and made my way to the other entrance. I did not want to crawl over anyone and was looking for an end seat. There was one left on the second row. I grew up in the Baptist church. Baptists do not sit on the second row. We hang around in the back.

I made the long trek to the bottom of the auditorium and immediately got a text saying, “It’s about time you showed up.” A friend was sitting six rows behind me. We texted for a while, but I learned a few things, too.

I missed much of the presentation that I walked in on, but the commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Transportation gave an informative presentation. He also told a few jokes.

We took a break and made our way to the concourse. There were a lot of people glad-handing and networking. I knew a few, but, for the most part, it seemed like a boring crowd. I backed up against a wall and just watched them. Finally, I decided to make my way inside and faced a tough decision. Should I go back to the seat that I hated, or should I steal someone else’s seat? I decided to be nice and go back to the second row.

This time, an elderly man sat in front of me, and he must have bathed in Brut. The smell was overwhelming. Now, I was packed into the front and lost in a fog on cologne. As people from different departments made their presentations, I was slowly dying. I looked around for any escape and immediately saw it.

The balcony had been opened. When I arrived, it was roped off. Now, there were about eight people sitting there. They were spread out with their feet propped up. The air was clean. I had to get there. Karl Dean, the mayor of Nashville, was going to speak, but I knew I could hear him just as good from the last row as I could from the second row.

Up the stairs I went with the hope that I would not get stopped by the recently transferred “Seat Nazi.” Maybe the people had snuck through, and I would be caught. I made it up the stairs and turned into the balcony. An usher was guarding the door but had his back to me. This was the moment of truth. He turned to me, and…

It was Dean, an old friend of mine. He used to work with Larry, the same guy who ordered the cheese sticks and spent a weekend with me in Cleveland, Ohio. Dean is a University of Tennessee fanatic like the rest of us, and I had not seen him in years.

Now, I had another choice. Do I listen to Karl Dean, or do I stand outside and talk with Usher Dean? It was an easy decision. I knew that I would learn a lot more from Usher Dean than some politician trying to spin his agenda. While the mayor of Nashville spoke to hundreds of people, Usher Dean and I had a great conversation in the hallway. In my mind, he knew a lot more than anyone who took the stage.

What is the Power of Dean? Well, that depends on which Dean you are talking about.