A longstanding advocate for the viability and growth of towns and cities across the Volunteer State — known to most as the Tennessee Municipal League — recently honored one of its own.And it was …
A longstanding advocate for the viability and growth of towns and cities across the Volunteer State — known to most as the Tennessee Municipal League — recently honored one of its own.
And it was a much-deserved tribute.
We speak of Cleveland Mayor Tom Rowland, who is rapidly approaching the climax of a distinguished career of leading this community. As most know, the veteran administrator is stepping down after an historic 27-year tenure in City Hall, and is now entering his final two months at the Municipal Building helm.
In recent weeks, the otherwise positive relationship between the Cleveland mayor and this newspaper has been strained by differences of opinion regarding the current political race to determine Rowland’s successor.
But that’s all it is … a difference of opinion. Such disagreement has nothing to do with the appropriateness of TML’s recognition of the Cleveland mayor’s positive impact on local government and his dedication to the cause of progressive leadership in City Hall’s highest office.
In truth, this city visionary — who had a long and respected career in radio news at WCLE before tossing his hat into the political arena — is deserving of the TML honor.
His hands-on style of leadership has brought growth to Cleveland and prosperity to much of its citizenry. Yet, he would be the first to declare there is still work to be done, and in time we believe it will be done with the oversight of either of two mayoral candidates: state Rep. Kevin Brooks, a 12-year veteran of state government, or Duane Schriver, a 40-plus year educator who spent most of his years with Cleveland City Schools.
At its 79th Annual Conference last month in Knoxville, TML honored Rowland with a proclamation whose wording provided a sampling of the Cleveland leader’s local work, as well as his commitment to the statewide collaborative of Tennessee cities and towns.
Such evidence of Rowland’s impact on Cleveland during his tenure came with these listings in the proclamation:
• During his tenure, Cleveland’s population increased from 28,000 to 45,000.
• As a member of the Cleveland Board of Public Utilities, his stewardship in representing city government has been integral in keeping Cleveland Utilities on the right path for keeping up with the city’s tremendous growth.
• As a member of the Cleveland/Bradley Chamber of Commerce board of directors, he has provided personal and professional insight on business and commerce, and how local government and community can foster strong relations and continued success.
• As a standing member of the Economic Development Council and the Industrial Development Board, he has given open ears, sound reason and a strong voice for future success while remembering the needs of the present.
• Even as a mayor, he has never forsaken his civic side, giving of his time, talent and energy as a board member for organizations like Cleveland/Bradley County Keep America Beautiful, Cleveland Emergency Shelter, Bradley County Emergency 911, United Way of the Ocoee Region, the Cleveland/Bradley County Greenway, the Southeast Tennessee Veterans Home Council and the Volkswagen Task Force, among many others.
• As a co-founder — and this one is a Rowland favorite — of Cleveland 100, the mayor took a leading hand in assuring the well-being of surviving family members of police officers, firefighters and emergency personnel who have died in the line of duty.
With good reason, Rowland was named TML’s “Mayor of the Year” in 2004, an honor that goes to municipal leaders who understand the need for continuing growth in a city, but doing it while dedicating countless hours and genuine initiatives to the needs of its citizens.
And yes, even before his years as a newsman and his almost three decades in city government, Rowland served in the U.S. Air Force and as a retired colonel in the Tennessee State National Guard.
How do others feel about him? Perhaps the perspective of Bradley County Mayor D. Gary Davis says it best:
“It has been my honor to have served alongside Cleveland Mayor Tom Rowland as Bradley County’s mayor during the majority of his [years in office],” Davis told our newspaper. “This unique perspective has given me an ability to witness his devotion, determination and dependability in numerous situations that were instrumental in helping Cleveland, Bradley County and our region” as a whole.
Davis closed, “Thank you Mayor Tom Rowland for all that you do for so many!”
In one way, a simple “thank you” might not sound like much. But in another, it means everything.
We join the Bradley County mayor in his salute.
Thank you, Mayor Tom Rowland. Your leadership has been exemplary. Your dedication to task has been relentless. Your love of people has been inspiring.
You’ll be missed, and you’ll always be remembered.
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