by Steven Hale
My cover story in this week's Scene is a profile of Deputy Mayor Greg Hinote, perhaps the most powerful man in Metro we know so little about.
For years, close observers of Metro politics could probably tell you he was important, but might have struggled to tell you just what it is he does. To a certain extent, he has had a reputation as the guy in the Dean administration who makes the offer you can't refuse, and while that's not entirely wrong, it's persisted mostly because there has been nothing to replace it. With a few exceptions — of which this story was not one — he has avoided speaking on the record to reporters, a reflection of his behind-the-scenes operation and introverted personality.
All of that made the appearance of the video seen above an event of sorts in certain (very small) quarters. As he's never done before, Hinote appeared at the Nashville Kiwanis Club in May, ditched a prepared speech, and started freewheeling about what he does.
Throughout the 15 minute speech, and a Q+A session afterward (seen below), Hinote offers a candid and interesting look into what it means to be the city's Chief Operating Officer. This week's story is largely about what happens in between the lines of the job description, much of which tends to only blur them.
If Hinote's enforcer reputation is a myth, another story — less extreme than Wilson's, but more frequently cited by Metro insiders — helped make it.
The anecdote has taken on almost comically legendary status, perhaps because it didn't happen behind closed doors. Like so many things involving Hinote, even when it's fact, it is relayed like rumor in the form of a question:
"Have you heard about the time he berated Megan Barry in Noshville?"
The level of cursing and pointing involved in the incident depends on who's telling the story. Interestingly enough, the Scene did not initially hear it from anyone present. But the story is essentially true.
Barry, an at-large council member serving her second term, describes it as "a passionate disagreement in a public place that people saw" early in their first terms after the 2007 elections. It was such a "blip," she says, that she can't recall what the spat was even about. She insists the two have a great relationship now, and indeed Barry — the only candidate so far in the 2015 mayoral race — is a consistent Dean administration ally.
"Greg is smart, thoughtful, dedicated and approachable," she says. "He has a constituency of one — the mayor — and I think he serves him well."