He said at the end of the day when they had to close the playground, “We had 350 crying kids. They didn’t want to go home.”
He said he told one of the people working that day, “We’ve made more kids laugh at one time and more kids cry at one time than has ever happened in Lebanon before.”
He said the second best event had to be the day City Councilors Kathy Warmath and Jim Mills agreed to fly to Austin, Texas with him and City Liaison Sue Siens to recruit Dell Computer.
He said he woke up that morning and read in the newspaper that Rutherford County and Nashville were fighting on where Dell would locate a Tennessee plant.
“I came into the office and called the JCEB and the director told me Dell had just driven through Lebanon. They weren’t interested.”
The director gave Fox the name of Kip Thompson who was vice president in charge of the relocation at Dell.
Fox called Thompson and he agreed to meet with the city if they came right away, so he called the two councilors and they agreed to fly to Texas.
“By the time we left Austin, he (Thompson) agreed to come for a visit, and I just knew we had them,” Fox said.
Fox, the second longest serving mayor in Lebanon history, said he will really miss the camaraderie of working with the city employees and the intensity of negotiating with industrial and retail representatives to recruit new businesses. (Fox has served 15 years and the late Willis H. “Tex” Maddox served 16 years.)
But he added he has made lots of friends during his term.
“My wife Joyce and I agree the nicest thing about serving has been meeting so many people, people we never would have met,” he said. “We’ve made a lot of friends. It’s a joy just to see them on the street.”
He does wish he could have convinced Cabella’s, a sporting goods company, to come to Lebanon, and it may happen yet, he’s quick to add.
He thinks the sporting goods giant could take Lebanon to another level, both in terms of retail sales and by attracting tourists who would come just to go through the store.
Fox still sees Lebanon as a special place.
“Lebanon is a unique city, a complete city,” he said. “We are an industrial center. We have retail which will mushroom in the next few years. We have a very good mix of every kind of residential. And we have about as many jobs as we have people.”
Now as the crowning achievement of his tenure in office he said CoreTech has chosen Lebanon.
“CoreTech is the exclamation point of office parks,” he said. “The only way it could have been better is if we could have finished Beckwith. But I did what I ran to do – to create family oriented facilities and activities that made this a place were people would want to live.”
He also said he met one other goal.
“Relating back to my childhood – to make a living we had to move away,” he said. “I wanted to leave behind a Lebanon where kids don’t have to leave to make a living, and where they don’t want to leave because of the quality of living here.”
Roughly 10,000 jobs in the county means young people won’t have to leave.
For the next couple of years Fox plans to fish, golf, garden and work on his family history.
“I’m not going to miss any more of my grandchildren’s ball games,” he said. “And I’m going to trace my family history even if I have to go to London or Norway to do it.”
And then in 2010 he said he’s coming back to Wilson County to run for County Mayor.
A reception in Fox’s honor will be held from 4 until 6 p.m., Thursday, Dec. 4 at the City of Lebanon Administration Building at Castle Heights. The public is invited.
Staff Writer Connie Esh may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.