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A brief history of Metro Nashville’s consolidation

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The Metro Courthouse houses the mayor’s office and Metro Council chambers. | Photo by NASHtoday

To merge or not to merge? That was the question 60 years ago today. On June 28, 1962, residents from Nashville and Davidson County voted to create one of the first fully unified governments in the US with the passage of the Metro Charter.

In other words, the city and county consolidated to become a completely new form of government known as the Metropolitan Government of Nashville‐Davidson County (“Metro” for short).

A government decades in the making

The idea to consolidate Nashville and Davidson County was a decades-long debate, dating back to as early as 1915. However, it became closer to a reality when Tennessee amended the state constitution in 1953 to allow for local government consolidation — but only with a majority vote in both areas affected by the consolidation.

On June 17, 1958, the first attempt at consolidation was rejected by voters, some fearful of tax increases, according to local historians. In March 1961, city leaders went back to the drawing board and created a new charter favorable among voters. The charter increased the size of Metro Council, combined the two school districts + created two tax districts to provide different levels of city services.

Since 1962, the Metro Charter has been amended for various housekeeping measures, but there has never been a major revision.

Fast facts

  • 56% voted in favor of the consolidated government.
  • Beverly Briley was elected the first mayor in November 1962 and the Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County was implemented on April 1, 1963.
  • Six “satellite cities” — Berry Hill, Belle Meade, Oak Hill, Forest Hills, Goodlettsville, and Lakewood — retained charters. Lakewood had its charter dissolved after a referendum in 2011.
  • The new charter created two tax rate districts — the Urban Services District and the General Services District. Residents of the USD have a full range of city services (think: trash collection + street light maintenance), while satellite cities in the GSD pay a lower tax rate with fewer Metro-provided services.
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