At-Large Metro City Councilwoman, Sharon Hurt, 58, came to Nashville for college in the mid-1970s.
Originally from Memphis, she fell in love with the city and after graduating in from Tennessee State University in 1979, decided to make Nashville her new home.
Sharon began to settle down raise a family. She began working at Meharry Medical College, starting as an assistant to the dean of graduate students and eventually progressing through the ranks to become the director of admissions and records.
In 2010, Sharon graduated from Belmont University with her Master’s degree in nonprofit leadership.
“I tried to go back to school twice before to get my Master’s degree but the demands of life and family prevented me from being able to finish. The third time was the charm,” she said smiling.
Now, Sharon is the president and C.E.O. of J.U.M.P. or Jefferson Street United Merchant Partnership, a nonprofit organization, who according to their website has a mission to develop, foster and promote cooperative economic development through revitalization, acquisition, education and public safety programs in North Nashville.
LETTING GO to MOVE ON
“It’s so interesting because if it were up to me I would have stayed at Meharry and would have been there now. I would have been Miss Meharry 2050 had they allowed me to because I thought I had a great job,” she said with a reminiscing smile. “I thought it was the job of a lifetime, but there was an administration switch and they thought differently.”
Sharon said losing her job after seventeen years at Meharry was devastating, but said success and failures are imposters.
“What I thought was the best thing that happened to me really wasn’t and then I thought it ended up being the worst thing to happen to me, but it wasn’t,” she said.
Seventeen years later at J.U.M.P., Sharon said she’s been able to learn so much about serving the community and, in turn, it put her in contact with so many Metro departments.
“There was a natural progression for me to move into politics and become a council person at-large,” she said. “I’m a public servant at heart. I care about people and the city, and I love people and I love this city. It’s a perfect match.”
Sharon said there were a series of events that lead her to ultimately making the run for public office. She was first asked to be a treasurer in a judicial race and after her impact on the race, she felt encouraged. Then not long after, she watched the movie, Selma, about the 1965 Alabama voting rights marches.
“To see the courage of the woman and the people in the movie that everyone had, the signs just told me this is something I needed to do,” she said. “I prayed, and prayed and prayed.”
Last year, as president of her Delta Sigma Theta sorority chapter she attended a national gathering of called Delta Days on the Hill in Washington D.C.
“There was a 98-year-old soror there who walked to the podium and emphatically said, ‘Sorors, we’ve got work to do. I know that your plates are full but you can add one more thing.’ And I’m just looking at this amazing woman who was challenging us to do more, and that’s when I knew.”
Sharon said she had prayed about running for city council years before because of her involvement in things Leadership Nashville, the Rotary Club of Nashville, and Association of Nonprofit Executives.
“All of these things, with all of these different people, I was wondering how this would come together in order to help me in some way,” she said. “How could I leverage the connections and the friendships I built and how could I turn it into something tangible? After meditating and praying, I believe that God gave me the answer to run.”
She said when she looks at things in retrospect, everything played out beautifully and was able to attend her daughters, basketball, soccer and cheerleading games.
“I know it’s God because it has all unfolded perfectly for me.”
Starting in April of 2015, Sharon got into the race for at-large city council member late.
“I didn’t have the money that a lot of the other people had. I was not an incumbent, and there were several who were running for council at-large,” she said. “But I ran and won. It was amazing and I believe it was divinely ordered.”
Sharon was inaugurated in September of last year.
She said so far, it’s been very busy.
“One of our council members resigned from District 1 and our Vice Mayor wanted me to serve over that district until an election is held in August,” she said.
Sharon explained that the term at-large means that she along with four other members have jurisdiction over the entire city.
“We have councilmatic courtesy where we don’t go into someone’s districts and try to take over but if there is something that is needed, then I or any other at-large council member would be able to go to particular districts and help serve,” she said.
GROWTH and CONCERNS of the CITY
Sharon said she loves the way Nashville has grown in the last few years.
Calling it “amazing” and “mind-blowing” she knew the city would eventually grow like it has but had no idea it would come this quickly.
“It’s a good thing and maybe a bad thing,” she said.
She said she would have liked to see North Nashville grow right along with downtown, Green Hills, and East Nashville.
“I would have liked to see growth particularly when it comes to people of color, and those people who were involved in making things happen here, the equality of jobs and opportunities, and the opportunity of contracts for those small businesses,” she said.
Sharon said the city should give more support to small businesses in a more realistic manner. She said businesses with 25 employees and a budget of $750K to one million dollars aren’t a true small business.
“Most of the small businesses on Jefferson St. have less than 10 employees and are struggling from week to week to stay open,” she said. “And they’ve been there for 50 plus years. If they had the capital flow they needed to market and grow their business then they would be ten times as great as they are.”
Sharon said she’d also like to see more opportunity for individuals and more intentional inclusion. She said she doesn’t see enough diversity in Metro departments and in management and up positions in larger nonprofits around town.
She said companies like architectural firms should reach out to students at TSU or Fisk and recruit them for internships and jobs.
“I value diversity because I’ve been discriminated against. I’ve had disadvantages because of the color of my skin and because of my gender,” she said.
Nashville deserves better, she said.
“It was Nashville that brought blacks and whites originally together in the Civil Rights Movement and also making music,” she said. “Nashville has four historically black colleges: Fisk, TSU, Meharry, and American Baptist College. Where else do you see that? Because of that, it is perfect to let the know the world know how it’s done and how we can do this together.”
Along with a lack of diversity in some parts of the city, Sharon shared the same concerns as her constituents.
“Of course, traffic is a concern,” she said. “We didn’t plan ahead like we should have.We planned to build up our tourism but we didn’t plan to accommodate them in a way that we needed to.”
She said along said of planning for the Music City Center, the city should have been planning for mass transportation and affordable housing for the amount of growth.
“When I say affordable housing, I’m not talking about low-income housing. I’m talking about housing for someone who makes $35K to $40K being able to live in nice community with amenities just like they were years ago. These people have sustained the city. They built Nashville and made it the ‘it’ city, and now we’re pushing them out.”
“There are people who made good, hard, honest livings that deserve to benefit from all of the wonderful joys that Nashville has received.”
Sharon said the city is working hard on its issues. She serves on the Transportation Innovation Academy, where she along with others, visited other cities to see how they handle their traffic. She said Nashville has committees, experts, and activity around transportation and affordable housing.
“It’s just a little too late as far as doing the things that we needed to do,” she said. “As my mother said, ‘a day late and a dollar short.’ But I’m hopeful that we catch up.”
a COMMUNITY and a FUTURE
“Nashville is a place where a lot of people are transplants, but they’re welcome and embraced anyway. If you show love for Nashville and get involved then things can happen for you here.”
“The mayor is not a native Nashvillian and neither was the one before her and the one before him,” she said. “I can go on but most of the time the opportunities are there and available for you and that’s the one thing I love about Nashville.”
Sharon said she defines a community just as the word says, a commune of unity.
“Whether it’s local, state-wide, regional or worldly it’s about coming together and making it a better place for us all.”
Sharon said being a part of a community is priceless. She said she hopes to have a full life in her community like her late father, who helped her campaign and saw her get inaugurated at the age of 93.
“I hope I am able to share those types of activities with my three daughters and my grandchildren,” she said. “One thing that my dad always did was greet every day with a smile. He was happy to see another day and he never complained about anything. I’m trying to do the same and embrace every day.”
She said sometimes when she’s walking down Jefferson Street she could feel the power of the ancestors that were there when things were thriving. She said those moments invigorate her more to want to do more because they left a wonderful legacy.
“Unfortunately, we don’t have a lot to show for it,” she said. “One of the things I’d love to see, are things that treasure and celebrate our history in a tangible way so that anyone can see the wonderful things that people in Nashville did.”
Sharon said since the Nashville Sounds’ First Tennessee Park arrived just off Jefferson St., it’s created a stir for other developments like apartments, condos, and retail. She said along with the new developments she’d love to see a nightlife on the corridor because Jefferson St. was known for being a musical district and having a plethora of musical artist show their talents on the weekend.
Sharon is heavily involved in many factions of the city. She’s a graduate of Leadership Nashville and a member of its alumni association along with the Tennessee State University’s alumni association. She a member of Delta Sigma Theta public service sorority, Bellevue Exchange Club, Lee Chapel AME Church where she sings in the Voices of Deliverance Choir, along with many other things.
Thanks for reading Nashville!