Middle Tennessee community leaders, including Benchmark’s Midtown Managing Broker Mike Nichols, will be meeting over the next two months to learn about regional transit needs and options as the Transit Alliance of Middle Tennessee and Lipscomb University’s Nelson and Sue Andrews Institute for Civic Leadership launch the fifth Transit Citizen Leadership Academy (TCLA).

Nichols said he’s honored to be a part of the process of addressing critical community issues.

“Participating in the Transit Citizen Leadership Academy provides a unique opportunity for diverse professionals to come together to weigh in on critical mass transportation issues in the Middle Tennessee area.  Additionally, it allows us an opportunity to educate and influence other middle Tennessee residents about the future needs of our region,” Nichols said.

Nashville Mayor Karl Dean opened the new session of the TCLA Feb. 5, stressing the importance of a regional discussion of transportation issues as well as the need for long-range planning due to projected population growth in Nashville in the next two decades.

“One of the key items that we need to discuss as a city and a region is transportation,” said Mayor Karl Dean. “It is a regional discussion and we are slowly moving forward. The population of Middle Tennessee is projected to grow by one million people in  the next 20 years. It is crucial that we prepare for this growth. We need real transit solutions now, and academy participants can help lead the way.”

Dean used Denver as an example  of a city that has grown rapidly, and has planned for that growth.

“In 20 years we will likely be the size of Denver,” said Dean, who has proposed a full-service 7.1-mile bus transit system that is being planned for one of Nashville’s major corridors. “It is a good example of a city that strategically planned for a population growth and proactively invested in transportation to prepare for that growth.”

The academy will help foster discussion of regional issues.

“An outstanding group of Middle Tennessee community and regional leaders have come together as the newest class of the Transit Citizen Leadership Academy,” said Ed Cole, Executive Director of the Transit Alliance of Middle Tennessee. “These leaders represent all sectors of our region and will be strong advocates in the future as we select and implement new transit options across Middle Tennessee.  The work of this class will be truly exciting.”

The class includes 24 government, business and nonprofit leaders and one student from Lipscomb University. Participants were nominated by local mayors, community leaders and former TCLA students.

Nichols said he is excited to be a part of the fifth class and honored Don Klein, retired CEO of Greater Nashville Association of Realtors®, and Benchmark Realty gave him the encouragement and support to purse my interest in mass transportation.

“We commend our new academy members for making this commitment to their communities,” said Lydia Lenker, Managing Director of the Nelson and Sue Andrews Institute and Director of the Transit Citizen Leadership Academy. “The discussion of transit – like any regional public policy – issue needs everyone at the table to find collaborative solutions.”

The Transit Citizen Leadership Academy is a seven-session program that features state and local speakers, as well as transit officials from across the nation, who share best practices and lessons learned.

The Transit Citizen Leadership Academy received a 2013 Regional Thinking and Action Award from Cumberland Region Tomorrow during the POWER OF TEN Regional Summit in Nashville.  The Andrews Institute, through its citizen leadership academies, develops citizens to address community issues and public policy. To date, more than 100 Middle Tennesseans have completed the TCLA.

Founded in 2006, Benchmark Realty LLC is one of the fastest growing real estate companies in Middle Tennessee and was voted one of the Nashville Business Journal’s  “Best Places To Work.” Based in Franklin, with offices in Murfreesboro, Midtown Nashville and Cool Springs, Benchmark currently has over 500 agents serving the Middle Tennessee. More information at www.BenchmarkRealtyTN.com.