Making the Grade: Candidates Report Card

voteRather than simply endorsing candidates this election, we are doing things a little bit differently. A question that is often asked is about the education of candidates. Because having an education really is important to those of us on the editorial board of This is LaVergne, we chose to “grade” candidates in the following areas:

  • Professional Appearance
  • Communication Skills
  • Meeting Attendance
  • City Background
  • Voting Record
  • Campaign Promises

We will list the candidates and their grades in alphabetical order.

Running for Alderman

Professional Appearance:  A
Dresses appropriately when we see her at meetings or city events. If our city was judged solely on the professional appearance of its council members, then we approve.
City Background:  F
Melisa has no experience whatsoever in city operations. She has not volunteered for any city boards or committees, nor does she help out at city events. She talks about being fiscally conservative, but she supports spending $45,000+ a year to fund the Rescue Squad when we have a Fire Department already at the scene of accidents fully trained to do extrication. How is throwing away at least $45,000 every year on a duplicate service being fiscally conservative?  It is vote pandering, short and simple.
Meeting Attendance:  D
Melisa might show up for Board of Mayor and Aldermen meetings about two to three times during an election year (if she’s running). Her supporters have stated that she can’t attend meetings because of her very busy schedule. If she can’t attend meetings now, how will she attend meetings if elected?
Communication Skills:  C-
Staying on topic is a problem area for Melisa. During the FOP forum, candidates were asked to talk about their thoughts and plans for emergency services. She did not contact the fire chief or police chief in advance to ask questions.  Rather than focusing her attention on the topic at hand, she talked about water bills and taxes.  In addition, she promises to be available and to “listen” to residents, but she has blocked people from her election site, never having met some people or having had any interaction with them.
Voting Record:  Not Applicable
Melisa is exempt from this category.
Campaign Promises:  D
Melisa does not get an outright F because she is making lots of promises that people want to hear. The problem with her promises to lower water bills and taxes, however, is that the city is still on state probation on the water/sewer bill so lowering these rates simply cannot be done without state approval. The problem with her lowering the tax bill is that if it happens something must be cut. With the city already at the bare-bones in operations and management, this cut would mean either closing “non-essential” services like cutting library hours or closing parks OR residents would lose services such as the chipper service, paving roads, fewer codes inspectors.

Running for Alderman

Professional Appearance:  A
Dresses appropriately when we see him at meetings or city events. If our city was judged solely on the professional appearance of its council members, then we approve.
City Background:  B+
While Jason does not have day-to-day experience in city operations, he serves as a member of the Parks & Recreation Advisory Committee. Jason is a strong supporter of city events, often bringing his wife and children to these family-friendly activities. On the Parks & Rec committee, he has done extensive research on bringing a farmers market to the city, including contacting other cities to see how they operate and talking with farmers and vendors about their interest. He has addressed city officials on numerous occasions at the citizens’ forum, a rarely-used avenue to publicly discuss concerns about the city. Jason asks questions, does research, and offers ideas – something well worth noting.
Meeting Attendance:  A
You will frequently see Jason at Board of Mayor and Aldermen meetings, and he has been attending regularly for the last four years.
Communication Skills:  A
Jason is very knowledgeable not just using social media, but also talking face-to-face with people. He has knocked on many doors getting to know residents. He articulates his message well.
Voting Record:  Not Applicable
Jason is exempt from this category.
Campaign Promises:  A-
Jason has promised to thoroughly research issues before voting.  He promises to make financial decisions conservatively, but has not ruled out spending money when it is needed. Our ONLY concern is his close alignment with one political party when – at the local level – party affiliation should have no role. Decisions should be made on behalf of city growth and needs, not what one or the other political party dictates.

Running for Alderman

Professional Appearance:  C
The only time we’ve seen David in person was at the FOP Election Forum. He wore a collared shirt, which is acceptable.
City Background:  F
We believe David probably has a lot of background and history with the Police Department and possibly the Codes Department. Pretty sure that’s not the kind of background we want in an alderman.
Meeting Attendance:  F
We have never seen David at any city meeting or event.
Communication Skills:  D-
David seemed fairly articulate at the FOP Forum, but his message was not reassuring. He has said that long time residents were not being treated like they should be – that they should be able to just do what they want to do regardless of city ordinances or codes. Where is his website? Where is he on social media? What is his email address?
Voting Record:  Not Applicable
David is exempt from this category.
Campaign Promises:  F
We have seen no campaign promises whatsoever other than allowing people do run amok without regard to local law. Especially long time residents.

Running for Alderman

Professional Appearance: B
Chris’s attire is not at all problematic. He generally dresses for meetings in a nice shirt and a nice pair of pants. However, Chris’s posture during meetings is that of a slouchy teenager. Because of that, we took off some points.
City Background: A+
Chris has a strong background of volunteerism in addition to having been an alderman these past 4 years. Chris is also a longtime paramedic, which means that he understands completely the needs of emergency personnel. Chris has been active and involved even before he was elected alderman, which gives him a solid A+.
Meeting Attendance: A-
Chris attends all the meetings he is able to attend. Occasionally due to his work schedule as a paramedic, he is unable to attend a meeting.
Communication Skills: A-
There is one thing that is for certain about Mr. Farmer and this is that you always know where you stand with him. He never minces words, and is always a straight shooter. He’ll tell you the good, the bad, and the ugly. We knocked off a little because he is no diplomat. It’s admirable, to a point.
Voting Record: A
Chris has consistently voted in the best interests of strengthening emergency personnel and making our infrastructure sound. He asks lots of questions to ensure the city is doing the right thing and votes accordingly. His voting record is solidly in favor of moving this city forward.
Campaign Promises: A
Chris has run on the premise of strengthening our emergency personnel and making La Vergne a better, safer place to live. He has worked diligently to ensure this. Some of the campaign promises he made but failed to deliver, such as tornado sirens, were voted down by the board, through no fault of his own. He put his plans forward and we applaud him for that.

Running for Alderman

Professional Appearance:  A
Dresses appropriately when we see her at meetings or city events. If our city was judged solely on the professional appearance of its council members, then we approve.
City Background:  A
Having served numerous terms as an Alderman and one and a half terms as mayor, Sherry has extensive city background. According to city employees, she stops by city hall frequently to research issues and concerns.
Meeting Attendance:  A-
Sherry attends nearly every Board of Mayor and Aldermen meeting, as well as chairs the Senior Citizen Advisory Committee. She attends only about two out of three public hearings, so that’s why her score is not perfect. We are very appreciative of the fact that she also attends all city events – including the playground grant opening, Old Timers Festival, National Night Out Against Crime, and all others.
Communication Skills:  B+
Sherry is a master of sweetness. However, when it comes to having a strong opinion on issues, she wavers and falls back on what she knows –how much she loves people and wants to always be there for them.
Voting Record:  A
Sherry has been a tie-breaking vote on the Board of Mayor and Aldermen more than once. She voted against funding the Rescue Squad because of how gentlemanly the chief of the squad was when he urged city officials to make their decision on what was best for the city. Yet during the debate she seemed to struggle with that decision.  For the last four years, some of her votes have been difficult and it’s clear she has struggled with them. Yet she has voted in a way that keeps the city moving forward, protecting police and fire with proper equipment, and in a way that kept the city from a state takeover of water and sewer.
Campaign Promises:  A
Sherry’s campaign promise is that she’ll always be there for citizens, serving a city she loves. No one can argue with that.

Running for Alderman

Professional Appearance:  A
Dresses appropriately when we see him at meetings or city events. If our city was judged solely on the professional appearance of its council members, then we approve.
City Background:  C
Calvin does have a very strong background when it comes to the Planning Commission, as he serves as chairman. However, a major concern came up during the League of Women Voters Election Forum where the candidate kept stressing that the city would develop an ethics policy (a very strong one already exists) and that department directors would be held accountable. At one point he even said the ethics policies would be “enforced” insinuating that city employees are not doing their job. It almost appears that he is already laying the groundwork for a hostile work environment.
Meeting Attendance:  C
Calvin attends every Planning Commission meeting, as evidenced by videos posted by the city on YouTube. However, he does not attend Board of Mayor and Aldermen meetings and that is worrisome.
Communication Skills:  D
While we appreciated that Calvin was present at the Old Timers Festival, by sitting behind his table he did not feel approachable. He has also aligned himself – whether deliberately or unwittingly – with the population of the city that does little more than sow the seeds of hatred and ill-will. He seems to let others speak for him and their message is not one for city growth and progress, therefore his message is also not one of a bright future.
Voting Record:  A
Calvin consistently holds builders and developers to the same standards as Chairman of the Planning Commission.
Campaign Promises:  F
Again, he seems to dwell on developing an ethics policy for the city where a strong one already exists and he seems intent on attacking city workers with his rigid promise of enforcement. This is not good. While city employees do sometimes make mistakes (who doesn’t?), why would you want them on pins and needles every time you walk into a room because you are clearly out to catch them doing something wrong?  Employees and department directors don’t deserve that kind of bullying. He also said he wants police to walk around neighborhoods more and shake hands with residents. That is possibly the single most ridiculous thing we’ve heard in a long time. Take police off their patrols so they can shake hands with people?  Further, there is already an existing community liaison officer who does an outstanding job of outreach in schools, with local organizations, and at city events. She plans the National Night Out Against Crime attended by the majority of police. And again, police are at all other city events – walking or on bike patrol – and they are ready, willing and able to talk to residents there.

Running for Mayor

Professional Appearance:  A
Dresses appropriately when we see her at meetings or city events. If our city was judged solely on the professional appearance of its council members, then we approve.
City Background:  A+
Not only has Senna saved the city from bankruptcy and state takeover of the water and sewer department, she has grown La Vergne into a great place to live. There are her detractors who constantly barrage social media sites with ugliness and spiteful comments about her term in office, but her track record in accomplishments far outweighs the results of the tough decisions that she had to make the day she was sworn in as mayor. Her accomplishments are numerous and include:

  • 11th safest city in state
  • 8th highest income growth
  • Balanced budget
  • Fiscally sound
  • Credit rating upgraded (this is huge and a direct result of the balanced budget and being fiscally sound!)
  • eBooks at library
  • Tax freeze for seniors
  • Father/Daughter dance
  • More police protection
  • Three minute fire response time
  • Home values up
  • Miss LaVergne pageants
  • Volunteer fire division
  • 360 tours of library and fire station
  • Streets paved
  • Lowest crime rate in decade
  • City owned fire department (saving MILLIONS over term of previous contract)
  • Lake Forest playground
  • Walmart coming
  • More major retail coming
  • Sewer lines repaired
  • 2” water lines replaced and streets repaved
  • Installation of new fire hydrants
  • 4th of July program (also hats off to Alderman Broeker on this one)
  • Growing seniors program
  • Sidewalks to schools (grant money yes, but the city had to pay its share as well)
  • Three years in a row of water quality awards
  • Christmas parade
  • First responders program
  • New greenway (with plans to extend in other areas)
  • Top police chief
  • Top fire chief

Further, Senna has years of experience on the Planning Commission, as an Alderman before being Mayor, as a citizen involved in the city years before she was elected. She has met with state officials, federal officials, local organizations, and county officials specifically addressing how to improve the city for its residents and to build a bright place for future generations.
Meeting Attendance:  A+
The only meeting we ever recall Senna missing was one in which she was very sick.
Communication Skills:  A+
Senna is at city hall virtually every day. She answers all phone calls, all emails, and accepts walk-in appointments when available. Sometimes people don’t like her answers, but she is never afraid to speak the truth. Her detractors have a hard time dealing with the truth and are hell-bent on twisting facts seemingly out of hatred. They will attack her on a personal level and have no qualms about attacking her family. The courage Senna has shown in the face of this type of disgusting behavior is truly amazing.
Voting Record:  A
Senna  has faced several difficult votes, most recently to continue funding the Rescue Squad this year because she had given them her word she would.  However, it was a duplicate service in that the fire department was already fully trained and able to provide extrication. That vote certainly would have been a tough decision – do you save the city money or do you keep your word? Funding for Rescue ended this year in a 3-2 vote. It was perhaps the mayor’s most difficult vote, and we have to respect her for keeping her word.
Campaign Promises:  A
We go back to a post from October of 2010 when she ran for her current term as mayor. She talked at length about economic development, quality of life, and running the city with integrity and honesty. She has done this, and instructed all employees to do their jobs and do them legally, morally and ethically. We would challenge anyone to inspect the reasons employees were discharged over the last four years through open records. You’ll find they were discharged for various reasons including high on the job (by alcohol or other means), theft, sexual relations on city property, lying, promoting a hostile work environment, refusal to do their jobs, and the list goes on and on in an astonishing way. These are the people that her opponent has promised their jobs back. This is exactly what we do not need and one of the biggest reasons to maintain Senna as mayor. This and the fact that the city is finally making major progress in retail, reduced crime, and cleaning up the city overall.

Running for Mayor

Professional Appearance: C-
If ever there was an award for the most all-over-the-place dresser, Dennis would certainly win. Sometimes he wears very nicely tailored suits with lovely ties, and he looks quite professional. Other times, he wears shirts that are slightly too small so that if he turns a certain way, you can see the bottom of his abdomen hanging out.
City Background: C-
Dennis has been an alderman for a long time, but has only learned in the last year that he can “abstain” from voting. Additionally, he has never shown proof that he has obtained any of the MTAS certifications that his website claims he has.
Meeting Attendance: C
Dennis attends board meetings fairly regularly, but he has attended very, very few of his own historical preservation board meetings.
Communication Skills: C-
Dennis has never, to our knowledge, answered an email. He does have a website which was still showing 2012 information until we pointed out that it was outdated. It then got updated. His answers at the FOP forum and the League of Women’s Voters (Not, “women and leaguea voters”) forum were not only hard to follow due to his stringing together a bunch of cliches, but his mumbling, rambly way of speaking was nigh unintelligible. He does answer phone calls. Listening to him read anything is like nails on a chalkboard.
Voting Record: D-
Dennis votes for buying fire trucks, and then against funding them. He votes against budget amendments that save the city money. The meeting in which he learned he could abstain, he abstained all over the place, and then never abstained again. He has not, in the last four years, made a motion or seconded anything. How can he expect to be the Mayor if he doesn’t do any work as an alderman?
Campaign Promises: F
We have already posted about some of his promises here. He denied this at the League of Women Voters Forum, however, one does wonder why there are several former employees who do not even live in La Vergne who are campaigning for him? If they don’t live or work here, they don’t have a dog in this fight. Additionally, he is very, very wishy washy. He says he will not lower taxes and then he implies that he will. He says he will have every department head lower their budget by 5%. If we use the numbers provided by the city on a monthly tax payment, that only saves the average taxpayer $1.30 per month. What would have to be cut out of already stressed budgets in order to save the taxpayers $1.30 a month?

Early voting begins Wednesday, October 15 and lasts through October 30.  Hours are Monday-Friday from 10:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.  Early voting will also be open on Saturdays during this time from 8:00 a.m. – 12:00 noon. You may early vote at the Civic Auditorium on Old Nashville Highway, or any other early voting location in Rutherford County if you are a registered voter. Thank you for reading the thoughts of the editorial board at This is LaVergne!

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