Tony Tenpenny, who served on Nashville’s Metro Council 2011-2015, died of COVID-19 early Sunday morning.
Vice-Mayor Jim Shulman confirmed Tenpenny’s death in a statement to WKRN Channel 2.
Tenpenny was first hospitalized in early August and according to Facebook posts, had been on a ventilator for most of September. Shulman said Tenpenny had underlying medical conditions but did not specify what they were.
Tenpenny first ran for Metro Council’s 16th District in 2007, losing to incumbent Anna Page, who had won a special election in November 2006. When Tenpenny ran again in 2011, he defeated Page.
He subsequently lost his 2015 race to Mike Freeman and lost another attempt to take the seat back in 2019 to Ginny Welsch.
On her Facebook page, Welsch responded to Tenpenny’s death: “Tony loved and served his community well. While I didn’t really know Tony, only having crossed paths on the campaign trail over the last years, I know that he had an impact on the 16th that will be unmatched.”
Tenpenny generated controversy throughout his political career. During his first race, a local media outlet reported he had a history of arrests extending from the late 1980s to 2002 and including assaults and DUIs. During his most recent campaign, a postcard sent to his apparent benefit was headlined “Progressive Socialism” and tied Welsch and former Mayor David Briley to the destruction of the Nashville Fairgrounds, a shortage of police officers and to New York Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio Cortez.
As recently as August 2, Tenpenny posted content on his Facebook page indicating his belief COVID-19 was not a serious threat. A meme he posted on that date said “We actually shut down a 22 trillion economy for a 0.1% death rate, why?”
Tenpenny is survived by his wife, Robbie, and one child. The couple operate Lee House Recovery Residences in Nashville, a group of facilities for men and women in recovery from drug and alcohol addiction. Tenpenny was a regular volunteer at Cumberland Heights, a local addiction treatment facility. He was a native of Nashville and a graduate of Glencliff High School.