I asked Evette White, Executive Director of Leadership Nashville, what disappointed her most about our response to this crisis. Her answer got me thinking about things that are not disappointing in the Time of Corona. I’m so glad she’s able to spend some time in the Bacon Neighborhood today….

Evette White has her finger on the pulse of the city. As background, here’s what she’s in charge of…

“The Leadership Nashville Foundation was founded as an independent, executive leadership program to give community leaders from all parts of Nashville a three-dimensional view of this city. Since Metropolitan Nashville is a union of satellite cities and neighborhoods, participants live and work in communities that are near and yet worlds apart. Leadership Nashville plays a vital role in bringing diverse leaders together for connections that move us forward as one city.

The goal of Leadership Nashville today is the same as it was in 1976:

    • To build channels of communication between established leaders.
    • To connect these leaders with community issues.
    • To equip participants with insights not solutions.

The men and women selected each year represent a diversity of races, religions, ages and political persuasions, as well as a geographical cross section of neighborhoods. The class includes native Nashvillians and people who have moved here in leadership positions. Participants are educators, doctors, bankers, artists, business people, rabbis, ministers, lawyers, and representatives of labor, public service, international communities and the volunteer sector.”

Hi Evette! It’s so nice to chat with you today! 

Let me start with Leadership Nashville. How has the program been affected by Covid-19? 

Tennessee’s first COVID-19 case was announced during our Quality of Life program day in early March… little did we know that would mean the end of regular program days for the wonderful Leadership Nashville Class of 2020. In keeping with CDC guidelines, we are honoring recommended social distancing criteria, so the April and May in-person program days have been cancelled. We remain connected via Zoom each week for discussions on leading through this health crisis. There is no doubt this class is tightly bonded over this remarkable time.

How will you know when it is safe for the current class – or a new class – of Leadership Nashville to meet? It seems to me that it is almost impossible to plan anything right now. How is the organization – and how are you – dealing with the uncertainty?

While we’ve had several strategy sessions to explore implementing the great work of program committee members, the fluid nature of the pandemic has so far inhibited rescheduling. Leading through such uncertain times has definitely challenged Leadership Nashville’s planning and decision-making culture… we all want answers but you’re absolutely right, it is almost impossible to be definitive.

The good news is that this is selection season, and we’re actively reviewing applications from the many amazing leaders nominated for the next class. The Selection Committee will meet electronically throughout May and the new class will be announced in June. July/August summer planning meetings will proceed as usual, hopefully in person. We are optimistically preparing so that we’re ready when it is safe to proceed.

How has your daily life changed?

My commute changed dramatically, haha. Seriously, not driving to the office or to in-person meetings has meant a more efficient work schedule. My screen time has definitely increased. One very positive change is that I am spoiled by having our shorty jack russells as office mates. : )

Do you leave your house? For what?

I am fortunate that my adult children live close by, and are all committed to quarantine guidelines, so it is easy to see them. In fact, our 6-month-old granddaughter lives across the street so that’s been wonderful.

With mask and gloves on, I have been to the office after hours when the building is pretty much empty, to the post office several times to get this year’s annual directory to various groups, and to Walgreens and Publix a time or two. Mostly we’re getting necessities delivered.

What has surprised you about yourself in the Time of Corona?

Removing the option to go out has actually been refreshing. Time at home is more settled. My husband Tim and I are planning and preparing meals together, more like we did before becoming empty nesters. I think the biggest thing that surprises me about myself during this time is the fact that I am not stir crazy.

What has surprised you about our city?

How responsive we’ve all been to shutting down. I mean, driving down Broadway is a stunning sight after the years of daily crowds. I’ve bought gift cards from favorite local restaurants, my heart hurts to think about what those business owners are experiencing.

What are some of the things that have made you proudest of our city at this time?

I am very proud of:
-how Nashville’s healthcare expertise has been called upon by national news media;
-our Mayor’s pragmatic approach to shutting down and his phased approach to reopening;
-how so many organizations are working to make sure people have what they need in the aftermath of the tornado and this virus;
-neighbors sharing groceries, scarce supplies, masks and leaving them safely on porches.

Is it fair for me to ask – what has disappointed you?

I’ve experienced many emotions over these weeks, but disappointment isn’t one of them. This is a very difficult time, and people react differently to challenges, have different factors that drive their responses, so as the weeks have gone on, I have had so much respect for the fact that we’re all just feeling our way through the best we can.

How do you think this experience will change you personally, if at all?

My family says I’m a germaphobe – that will definitely remain the same as before. I believe I will have a sharper awareness of being able to enjoy a meal in a restaurant, attend in-person meetings, social gatherings, etc.

How do you think it might change our city?

I think we will have more of an appreciation for the energy that our hospitality industry brings to Nashville… I’ll speak for myself in saying that it may have become taken for granted. I know there are travel cycles and it would have naturally experienced an ebb and flow like any industry, but this extreme halt is so startling. I look forward to its return.

Okay let’s turn to some speed dating questions to wrap things up…

Favorite guilty pleasure in the Time of Corona?
Watching TV.

Favorite beverage?
La Croix

Favorite snack?
WATERMELON. Can’t get enough.

Best way to stay sane?
Physically moving… I miss going to a yoga studio and the energy of practicing with a class, but I now have a better appreciation of the gym resources that we have at home for exercise and maintaining physical activity in order to stay positive during this scary time.

Best way to relax/de-stress?
Reading has always been my relaxation go-to. Sharing this pandemic experience through a group text and Zoom happy hours with lifelong friends. Some days that has meant diving deeper into virus information which doesn’t sound relaxing, but knowledge about what is happening relieves stress for me. And some days I have been able to laugh SO HARD because of some of the hilarious things people are sharing right now.

What are you reading/watching/listening to?
I’ve been reading more memoirs than usual: right now, I’m reading Educated by Tara Westover.

I read the New York Times and Washington Post for news. At first, I watched TV news, alternating between different viewpoint outlets to sift through the messages, but I’ve shifted TV time to series like “Ozark”, “Little Fires Everywhere”, “The Last Dance”, etc. and find that much more fun.

What are you dreaming of (metaphorically or otherwise)?
A world where it is safe for extended family to get together or my granddaughter can interact with other babies in the neighborhood. Dinner with friends. When travel is a positive option again. And, of course, getting Leadership Nashville class members and alums together again.

Thank you so much, Evette! Leadership Nashville is lucky to have you. 

*       *       *

“I’ve experienced many emotions over these weeks, but disappointment isn’t one of them,” Evette said.

That has stuck with me.

I was not disappointed when the first peony of the season opened up yesterday – the first in my yard, that is – having grown from a root I planted years ago…

I was not disappointed when Jim Sovine saved the last two lilac bushes for me…

You’ll note that he knows Pepper’s name, not mine

I was not disappointed in the utter deliciousness of a Pop-tart when I was feeling a little down Sunday afternoon. (It was so NOT disappointing that I went ahead and toasted a second.)

What things are not disappointing you, Bacon friends? Seasonal or prepackaged or otherwise?

Sending very warmest wishes from this corner of the Bacon Neighborhood. xoxo

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