Metro Nashville Council Member, Nancy VanReece, in conversation about life, love, and community in FiftyForward’s Squeeze the Day podcast
story by Elliot Burnette, FiftyForward
Nancy VanReece has been serving as a Metro Council Member since 2015. She was the first openly out lesbian elected to a legislative body in the state of Tennessee. This Pride month, we sat down with VanReece to interview her for our Squeeze the Day podcast to learn more about her experience running for office, her leadership roles in the larger Metro Nashville LGBTQ+ community, and to discover what she does in her free time.
In the podcast she clearly illuminates how at a young age she witnessed positive role models in her life who influenced her desire for community service. Now she builds bridges to connect communities. Here’s a snapshot of the podcast interview.
The year was 1968. A four-year-old Nancy heard the distinct sound of a rock crashing through the window of her family home. She remembers the sound of her mother running down the hallway “with a sense of urgency, not of fear.” VanReece was not frightened, but she remembers her father having to sit her and a sibling down the next day and explain to them what had happened. Her father had lowered the flag in front of their home to half-staff to pay respects to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who had just been assassinated. Someone had thrown the rock in retaliation.
From this incident, VanReece had two distinct takeaways: a sense of urgency about injustice; and the thoughtfulness her father displayed in taking the time to tell the true story to his small children about what had happened instead of ignoring it. She also admired his real determination to take action. She says, “I think that when I look back and I see what I learned, and who I learned it from, the way in which I’ve learned has always been story-based.” She says one of the most important lessons she’s taken to heart is that “people don’t remember what you said, they remember how you made them feel.” She tries to leave conversations motivating others to go forward.
Later in her life, when VanReece decided to run for Metro Council, she used this skill of storytelling and emotional connection with her constituents to win the vote in 2015. She poignantly shared that one of the driving statements that keeps her passionate about helping others is by doing a little self-reflection at the end of the day, being mindful of one of her late mother’s favorite sayings, “Do something today that will matter tomorrow, and then all of your tomorrow’s will matter.”
In the podcast, VanReece explains, “I really try to make sure that every week, I have designated time to do nothing. And that helps me fuel the rest of my week. And it’s really hard sometimes to really protect that time. I am particularly thrilled now that FiftyForward is opening up again because I’ll be able to go over and spend a little bit of ‘Nancy time’ over in the Janet Jernigan room and do a little workout, just kind of walk around and not be asked questions about potholes somewhere. I would love that, that kind of thing. I’m looking forward to that facility being part of my squeezing of every day.”
Check out VanReece’s entire Squeeze the Day interview for more inspiration, along with podcasts with other seniors making a difference in Middle Tennessee. Squeeze the Day is available on major podcast platforms. In addition, you can also ask your smart speaker system (including Siri, Alexa, or Google Home) to play Squeeze the Day podcast. The podcast is also available at: fiftyforward.org/podcast.