Tennessee’s first Rural Mayors’ Day to honor leadership on the local level

TML Communication Specialists

On Monday, Oct. 2, Tennesseans will celebrate the state’s first-ever observance of Tennessee Rural Mayors’ Day.
Signed into law by Gov. Bill Haslam in May as Public Chapter No. 176, the measure was introduced by House Transportation Chairman Barry Doss, R-Leoma. Doss said the idea for the observance came from a young constituent who wanted to honor his own city mayor, Pulaski’s Mayor Pat Ford.

“There was an eight-year-old young man named Landon Bracey who just idolizes his mayor, Pat Ford,” Doss said. “He came to me and said ‘We have a Mother’s Day, a Father’s Day, a Children’s Day – and he listed off several others – so why can’t we have a Mayor’s Day?’ And I told him we can. I thought there was a lot of wisdom in this young man.”
Sen. Joey Hensley, R-Hohenwald, sponsored the senate version of the bill and said many mayors in smaller communities aren’t always recognized for their hard work.
“Representative Doss and I felt it was a good thing to have a special day dedicated to these rural mayors, especially since we represent a lot of rural cities,” he said. “Mayors can be recognized anytime, but having the governor proclaim that day as officially as Rural Mayors’ Day adds some support to it.”
Doss said there are nine rural mayors in his district governing towns ranging from populations of 14,000 to 300.

“I work with all of these mayors on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis,” he said. “They do a lot of work for their respective communities, and it’s not for the money. I think that the public doesn’t realize how much work mayors put into running their city. Most of the time they get more complaints than they do pats on the back. We have 345 cities in this state, and if you take out the top 20 or so mayors, that is a lot of rural mayors. They rarely hear someone say ‘thank you for what you’re doing.’”
Hensley said local mayors are often an important resource for state lawmakers.

“We work with our local mayors a lot, and they work so hard to do what is best for their cities,” he said. “We depend on them at the state level to know what is best for their cities and their local area.”

Both lawmakers emphasized that most of the time mayors do not get credit for the day-to-day operations that keep their cities running smoothly.
“The mayors hear from their constituents about water issues or sewer issues on a day-to-day basis,” said Hensley. “I know our mayors in our smaller cities and towns can’t go to a store without someone bending their ear about something. A lot of the time they are not even compensated for the time they spend on the job.”

Doss said that even if working as their municipality’s mayor is a full-time job, most mayors are on the job more than just from nine to five.
“I have mayors in my district who spend many, many hours working for their city, and they don’t get paid for about one month of what they do,” he said. “It’s a huge sacrifice for someone to want to serve their city or to put their head on the chopping block. I think of Elkton Mayor Carolyn Thompson who has been to Nashville to visit the legislature I think 10 times at least since I was elected working for her city. She gets paid $3,000 a year, and she is constantly working on things in her city. They don’t do these things for recognition. They do it because they love their cities and they want a better quality of life for their residents.”

Hensley said he hopes local residents will take time out to give their local mayor a pat on the back and recognize their efforts as part of the day.
“We hope people on the local level will do something to recognize their mayors, to give them some recognition of their hard work,” he said. “We want people to just take a moment to honor and recognize their local mayor for everything they do.”

Doss said he especially wanted the mayors in his district to know how much he appreciates the work they do for their communities.
“All of my city mayors are rural city mayors, and I want all of them to know, directly from me, how much I appreciate all of the work that they do,” Doss said.