The Honorable Mayor Tom Rowland Interchange is now officially dedicated and anticipating the numerous vehicles which are anticipated to be using it as their major access to Spring Branch …
The Honorable Mayor Tom Rowland Interchange is now officially dedicated and anticipating the numerous vehicles which are anticipated to be using it as their major access to Spring Branch Industrial Park.
In a ceremony filled with laughs and sentimentality, more than 50 local, state and national officials lined the new bridge to honor the nation’s longest serving mayor.
“Mayor, tell them no jokes and nothing funny,” Tennessee Department of Transportation Commissioner John Schroer said with a grin. “This is a real serious thing because Mayor Rowland is always serious.”
Schroer said, being a former mayor of Franklin, the two have always had a great relationship.
“It is truly an honor to be here to do this today,” he said. “We have talked about this for a long time. You have an industrial park that goes for what seems like 100 miles in that direction. You needed a road to service it and there was no question about that.”
Schroer said creating industrial parks like Spring Branch “requires great leadership.”
“You have to build it before they will come and that’s how communities grow,” he said. “It’s how you bring jobs to communities. This was the final leg of the opening of that park and you have companies like Wacker that will need suppliers, and there are other large suppliers that will be here. This will be an interesting part of growth into this community. It’s an exciting thing.”
Schroer said the interchange had been planned in tandem with the recent improvements to Exit 20.
“We now have the ‘full monty’ to do what we need to do to get businesses into this community and, at the end of the day, that’s what this is all about,” he said.
U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais (R-Tennessee), who represents the 4th Congressional District, thanked TDOT and the local state legislators for their work to secure the new interchange.
“I think there had been mention that [former U.S. Rep.] Zach Wamp had put in some good words for this,” DesJarlais said. “That shows how long it takes for something like this to even happen.”
The congressman added, “I am really here today to pay my respects to the mayor, who has had such an incredible tenure of service and we hope there is a lot more to come. I know everyone here has the same kind of respect for you that I do and this is a very appropriate tribute.”
U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann (R-Tennessee), who represents the 3rd Congressional District, called it “a great day for Cleveland, Bradley County and the great state of Tennessee.”
“This shows the importance of transportation and transportation dollars,” Fleischmann said.
The congressman said he knew of no other mayor that “loves his city more than you do.”
“You are a gentleman. You are a leader. You love this great city,” he said. “And, isn’t this great city doing so well?”
Bradley County Mayor D. Gary Davis added his congratulations to his city counterpart.
“This is a great, great day in Bradley County,” Davis said. “I want to congratulate Mayor Rowland on the tribute given him today.”
“You think back 20 years and all of the trips we made with people to the former TDOT commissioner’s office and he had a sign behind him,” Davis recalled. “It said, ‘We ain’t cuttin’ no fences.’”
“I wish that commissioner was here today to look at this,” he said. “Twenty-two million dollars later, I don’t know if they cut a fence or not, but we have a new interchange and it’s wonderful.”
State Rep. Kevin Brooks (R-Cleveland), who affectionately calls Rowland “Dad,” presented the mayor with the state legislative resolution which named the interchange in his honor.
“It’s been said you are the longest serving mayor and, when you think about that legacy and things that you have accomplished during your tenure and things that are left behind to remember you by, could there be anything more fitting than this gateway to our community and to the new industrial area that, we think, will change the face of this region,” Brooks said, addressing Rowland.
Brooks noted the resolution was co-sponsored by state Rep. Dan Howell (R-Georgetown) and state Sens. Mike Bell (R-Riceville) and Todd Gardenhire (R-Chattanooga).
“It’s official, Dad,” Brooks said, “Congratulations!”
Rowland then spoke to the crowd, which included members of his family about this honor.
“What an awesome day this is,” the mayor said. “I can’t say thank you enough to TDOT, to Bradley County, to the partners we had with the Chamber of Commerce, and developer Larry Armour who has pushed this since day one.”
“This is a great day for me and my family,” Rowland said. “This is not about me. This is about the opportunities we have for jobs. I think the estimate is 4,000 jobs will come from this entire development. We look forward to great things happening with industrial and commercial development. I love all of you.”
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