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Nashville’s Dual Officeholders: Maybe Four More in the Future

Four members of Nashville’s Metro Council are running for seats in the state Legislature. Michael Cass’ report on them raises the question of whether they thought through the consequences of winning.
As a practical, not terribly glamorous matter, that could mean starting the day with a 5 a.m. call from a constituent whose trash didn’t get picked up and ending it with a midnight floor vote on a controversial piece of state legislation — all while trying to make a living and be a good family man.
Robert Duvall, Darren Jernigan, Bo Mitchell and Jason Potts are running for seats in the state House of Representatives this year after winning their council positions just nine months ago. If elected, each would face the choice of serving at least two years in both roles or giving up his council seat before the four-year term is halfway over.
Potts, the youngest and least politically experienced of the four, said he would tackle both jobs head-on. He said he would set his day job as a contractor aside for most of each year if elected to the House.
“I have a passion for public service,” said Potts, 33, a first-term councilman from a district anchored by Haywood Lane and Interstate 24 in southeast Davidson County. “I can do both.”
Duvall said he would do the same because he believes his part of Antioch would benefit from having the same representative at the state and local levels. Mitchell said he hasn’t made a decision, though he acknowledged that resigning from the council would essentially leave his Bellevue district unrepresented, which “a lot of people in my area would not want.”
Jernigan, who is from Old Hickory, said he might step down and focus on the state.
“My council district deserves a person that will devote their energies to District 11, and that may be someone besides myself after the November 6th election,” he wrote in an email. “I will weigh my options at that time.”
Duvall, Jernigan and Mitchell are serving their second council terms.
Pulling legislative double duty isn’t unheard of. Tim Garrett served on the council from 1983 to 1999 and in the General Assembly from 1985 through 2004, when he lost a re-election bid.
…State Sen. Thelma Harper and the late Rep. Harold Love each spent about three years on the council at the start of long careers in the General Assembly.
The more common scenario has been for council members to run for the House during the final year of their council term, then wrap up their service at the Metro Courthouse while learning the ropes in the House. Four members of Davidson County’s legislative delegation — Sherry Jones, Janis Sontany, Brenda Gilmore and, most recently, Jim Gotto — served out their final nine months or so on the council after joining Odom and Harper on Capitol Hill.
Pat Nolan, a political analyst who served in former Mayor Richard Fulton’s administration, said that probably will become more common as council term limits press in on ambitious Nashville politicos.
“You used to be able to make the council your career,” Nolan said.