Megan Barry stepped down as mayor after pleading guilty to felony theft over $10,000 in a case related to an affair she had with her former head of security, Rob Forrest Jr., who also pleaded guilty Tuesday of theft of property over $10,000.
Investigators said the money in question was linked to expenses and overtime pay Forrest collected on trips he attended with Barry for city business.
“It’s sad, but Nashville will survive and move forward,” Dean said Wednesday when asked about Barry’s resignation during a stop at the Johnson City Press.
Dean, who served as Nashville mayor for two four-year terms before Barry took office in 2015, said he has confidence in her successor. He said David Briley, who served as vice mayor before being sworn in as mayor, has the skills to see that “Nashville remains successful.”
Despite Barry being seen by many as a rising star in the state’s Democratic Party, Dean said he doesn’t believe her resignation will have a “huge effect” on the way voters view his party.
“I don’t see this as a setback for the Democratic Party,” said Dean, who faces state House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh in the Aug. 2 Democratic Primary for governor.
Dean said he is hoping to follow in the footsteps of two other former mayors who made it to the governor’s mansion. He said former Gov. Phil Bredesen (who also served as mayor of Nashville and is now a candidate of the U.S. Senate) and current Republican Gov. Bill Haslam (a former mayor of Knoxville) were not overly partisan chief executives while overseeing their duties.
“It’s all about being effective and addressing the issues,” Dean said. “People simply want a government that works.”
He said he is proud of his record of job creation, school improvements and economic development while serving as mayor of Nashville during such troubling times as the Great Recession and the 2010 downtown flood.
“I’m running as a pragmatic, moderate candidate with common sense who gets things done,” Dean said. “I’m not an ideologue.”
If elected governor, Dean said he would reach across the partisan aisle in the state General Assembly, where Republicans currently hold a supermajority, to work on expanding Medicaid, addressing the opioid problem in Tennessee and supplying broadband internet services to rural communities and underserved areas of the state.
“If one part of our state is lagging, it hurts us all,” he said.