Ending weeks of public speculation, Alice Rolli, a former official with the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development and staff member for former U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, formally announced Friday she is running for Nashville Mayor.
“I see, and I hear, that while Nashville may be a party for our visitors — it isn’t a party for everyone who lives here,” Rolli said in a statement. “Our young families and our most vulnerable neighbors are struggling.”
“I hear that with this election we can choose to welcome visitors but insist — at every turn — that the needs of our people, our safety, our infrastructure, and our children’s education — comes first.”
Shortly after Mayor John Cooper announced on Jan. 31 he would not seek a second term, Rolli began publicly discussing running for office, reporting 2015 mayoral runner-up and former Metro Nashville Public Schools board chair David Fox would serve as her treasurer. She filed paperwork with the Davidson County Election Commission on Feb. 24, allowing her to begin fundraising.
Rolli joins a crowded mayoral field that is expected to grow. Candidates who have already announced include Metro Councilmembers Sharon Hurt and Freddie O’Connell, Democratic state Sen. Jeff Yarbro, former city economic development leader Matt Wiltshire and former Nashville school board member Fran Bush.
Like other mayor’s races in Tennessee, the Nashville one is nonpartisan, but Rolli’s Republican credentials separate her from the other candidates in the race.
The Tennessee legislature is considering a bill that would eliminate runoffs in Metro elections. The current system specifies that a candidate must win 50% plus one vote of the total cast in the general election to avoid a run-off. In a large field of candidates, as 2023’s is shaping up to be, a runoff is almost unavoidable.
Nashville voters have never elected a mayor who identified as Republican, but should the legislature vote to change the system to winner by plurality, a conservative candidate could have a better chance.
Rolli is a veteran of state government, serving as Assistant Commissioner of Strategy for the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development under Republican Gov. Bill Haslam. Her portfolio included the Research Division, the state’s international offices, Launch-TN and the Tennessee Entertainment Commission.
She also served in multiple roles with Alexander, including as manager of his 2014 reelection campaign.
Most recently, Rolli has worked with QuaverEd, a Nashville-based education technology company using interactive resources to develop curriculum to be used in elementary education. Earlier in her career, Rolli taught school in Los Angeles and was on the founding regional board of Teach for America.
She was an outspoken advocate for the preservation of Fort Negley, a Union fortification during the Civil War, and the surrounding area when a local development consortium announced plans in 2017 to build a mixed use project on the adjacent land at the old site of the Nashville Sounds ballpark.
Rolli is a Nashville native who graduated from Hume Fogg High School, before obtaining a bachelor’s degree from Stanford University and a master’s degree in business administration from the Darden School of Business at the University of Virginia.