Mayor John Cooper announced Monday the nomination of Kelly Flannery as permanent Metro Finance Director less than two weeks after getting approval from Metro Council of his pick for interim finance director.
Flannery most recently directed day-to-day financial operations for the city of Charlotte, N.C. as its chief financial officer for two years, supervising all accounting for funds totaling $11.5 billion and managing a $4 billion debt portfolio. Prior to that, she served the city of Chicago as deputy CFO for three years and is credited for having generated millions of dollars in cost savings and reforms.
“Kelly joins our team at a pivotal moment,” Mayor Cooper said. “In two years, we moved from a crisis budget to an investment budget. We turned Nashville’s finances around and have begun building for our future.”
Flannery brings relevant qualifications, but she leaves behind a conspicuous resignation in Charlotte, which came unannounced on Friday, July 9 and was anonymously leaked to press. The sudden resignation also followed a bizarre, interdepartmental disagreement with the officials of a Charlotte department that necessitated a city spokesperson retrospectively explaining Flannery was not attempting to keep financial information from the public but from other officials due to the need for more data.
After the private disagreement turned public, her absence at a council meeting a week and a half before resigning — leaving only her staff to present new financial information about the same issue over which she and officials squabbled — left citizens of Charlotte nonplussed.
Flannery climbed her way to Chicago’s deputy CFO office by starting her career as a public servant working as a senior fiscal policy analyst in the Windy City from 2008 to 2012 and then acting as the city’s assistant budget director until 2016. Her work in the private sector precipitated it all from her nine years as a senior municipal bond analyst with South Carolina-based Mergent, Inc., a global financial information services company.
“I am grateful to Mayor Cooper for this opportunity to serve the residents of Nashville,” Flannery said. “I am eager to begin working with the team to ensure Nashville’s long-term financial stability.”
Flannery’s background ostensibly comes in direct response to Metro Councilmembers’ sonorous concerns about former Metro Law Director Saul Solomon when begrudgingly confirming his nomination as interim finance director. The choice drew significant criticism of the Cooper Administration from the likes of Councilmembers Bob Mendes, Delishia Porterfield and Zach Young due to Solomon’s relative lack of finance-related experience.
In a press release, Cooper’s announcement of the Flannery nomination emphasized the importance of the finance director role right now as Nashville still navigates some of the effects of the pandemic economy and pours into education and affordable housing with a massive remodeling of the entire Cumberland East Bank.
“Now, as a city on the rise, Nashville must also be a city that works for everyone,” Cooper said. “Kelly’s financial expertise will be central to that work.”
But calling this “a key moment for a new finance director” echoes the very reasons expressed by Metro Councilmembers for their concerns about now outbound Interim Finance Director Solomon. Solomon’s legal defense of city contractor Collier Engineering against repaying hundreds of thousands of tax dollars made him Cooper’s second controversial incumbent for the office, the first being Kevin Crumbo, most known for pro bono, off-record consultation with Mayor Megan Barry in which he advised her to shutter inpatient care at Nashville General Hospital. Crumbo departed in late June to return to his family investment firm.