NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — When the ballots were counted Thursday night, Olivia Hill was elected to the last remaining At Large seat on the Metro Council, making her the first trans elected official in the state of Tennessee.
However, that’s not why she ran, she said.
“I don’t want to diminish the historic part of this race—I really don’t. As the first trans-elected official in the state of Tennessee, it’s a huge boost to the trans community, but people elected me because of who I am and because of my skill, not because I am trans,” Hill told News 2’s Adam Mintzer outside the Metro Courthouse building on Friday, Sept. 15. “I have tried very hard to run this race on my ability to sit at the table and my ability to get work done. The fact that I am trans is just a part of who I really am and not why I ran.”
The engineer and Navy veteran doesn’t come a political background, so she leaned on a small team throughout the campaign. Hill said she put her full faith and trust in her campaign manager, Spencer Bowers, looking only at what was right in front of her rather than imagining long-term scenarios for her campaign.
“I told him in the beginning, ‘If you need somebody to change your water heater, I’m your girl. If you need somebody to repair your engine, I’m your girl. When it comes to campaigns and running them, that’s you,'” she said.
It’s those skills that Hill plans to lean on in office, focusing on the parts of Nashville we don’t always see.
“I just want to take my skills and put it back to continue working,” she said. “Running for At Large is the best place for me to use my skill and my talent to fix the broken parts of Nashville. I really want to help Nashville’s underground grow at the same rate that we are growing above ground: utilities, power, water, storm drains, sewers, internet, phone service, electrical — I want it to all grow at the same rate we’re growing everything else.”
However, Hill knows she can’t ignore the statewide political climate. This year alone, Tennessee legislators passed laws restricting minors’ access to gender-affirming care, preventing trans people from changing their driver’s license, and limiting where drag shows can take place in the state.
Hill said she and her campaign did their best to “ignore all that” from the state.
“We’ve kind of turned a blind eye to the hate that we’ve received and some of the bad comments,” she said, adding that she “had some fun” with some of the negative comments, as well as thanking people for stopping by her campaign events and doing their research while staying positive.
“I’m trying to get a seat at the table and fix the broken parts of Nashville,” Hill added. “That’s the only reason why I’m here.”
However, she is still representing the perseverance of her community, bringing their shared fight to the Metro Council. Hill can’t leave her trans identity at home, so when she walks through those doors and makes history, she hopes to walk out having made Music City a better place to live.
“Trans folks are some of the most resilient, strong, amazing people I have ever met, and I’m just ready to get to work,” she said, adding that most of the hate she’s received on the campaign trail stems from a lack of knowledge. “I don’t have horns and a tail, and I’m just walking around like a normal human being like every other person. And once they’ve had an opportunity to sit and talk with me, they usually have a different opinion. It’s really hard to hate somebody that you know.”
Now, Hill continues to look forward, focusing on the work she wants to get done for Nashville’s infrastructure.
“I’m just excited. I’m ready to get to work,” she said.
Hill received 37,409 votes on Thursday, Sept. 14, which was 12.87% of the vote. She joins four other women in the At Large Council seats: Zulfat Suara, Delishia Porterfield, Quin Evans-Segall, and Burkley Allen.