"Nothing is more rewarding than seeing something happen that you helped with," says Mary Esther Reed, Smyrna's first female mayor, who's spearheading the town's Blue Angel memorial. JOHN BUTWELL
Smyrna's first female mayor, Mary Esther Reed, was only following a family tradition when she decided to run for office. Her father, Kenneth "Coon" Victory, served on Smyrna Town Council back when Sam Ridley was still the mayor and council members were also commissioners over the various town departments. Victory was commissioner of Parks and Recreation.
That's where Reed started, too. She first served on the Parks and Recreation Board, but in 2003 she decided to get more involved - running for and winning a seat on the seven-member town council.
By the time Tony Dover resigned as mayor in August 2013, Reed was vice mayor with 10 years of service on the council. She was appointed to fill the rest of Dover's term - and then was elected mayor on her own in November 2014.
"We're running this campaign like we run every campaign - grassroots," Reed commented at the time. It wasn't her first "grassroots" campaign in Smyrna.
Reed remembers campaigning with her dad when she was a little girl. "When Daddy was on the commission, there were only 4,500 people in Smyrna," she says. "We would go door-to-door. As I got older, I'd go knock on the door and they would tell me about an issue. I'd tell Daddy and he'd write it down."
She says she still campaigns door-to-door, but she can't see everyone that way like her dad did, so she also attends community meetings and gives speeches. "Almost every day, I do something connected to the city."
Reed's dad was also involved in starting the Lee Victory Recreation Park - named for her paternal grandfather, Lee Victory, who also served in public office as a county commissioner. "Nothing is more rewarding than seeing something happen that you helped with," she says.
Runs her own store
Reed also follows another family tradition. Her maternal grandfather Frank Crosslin - also a former county commissioner - and Joe Crosslin converted their produce and grocery store in Eagleville into a hardware and building supplies store. The family later opened more locations in Smyrna and elsewhere in Middle Tennessee.
Similarly, Reed now owns and operates her own store - a school supply shop in Murfreesboro called The Learning Circle which she purchased 15 years ago.
The store is the result of a career that placed education high on her list. Her mom Esther Victory was a physical education teacher.
"I always wanted to be a teacher," Reed says. "Growing up, I lived outside. Dad built us a playhouse (which served as the building for the playschool), and Mom brought home old school books, so I got to be the teacher."
Three degrees from MTSU
It wasn't long before Reed really got to be the teacher as well. The 1989 graduate of Smyrna High School went on to earn her bachelor's, master's and an Ed.S. degree from MTSU in early childhood education, and administration and supervision - then taught kindergarten at John Colemon Elementary and Smyrna Primary.
Next, deciding she needed a change, Reed turned down a job as assistant principal to worked for The Letter People doing teacher training for schools that bought their program to teach youngsters to read, a career path which led her to purchasing her store.
She traveled across the state and across country for the company until her son was about 4, then she bought the store in the 'Boro, which she points out is another way to help teachers be more effective.
"I enjoy helping teachers solve problems," Reed says, "because the most important thing a person can get is an education."
And for Reed, it all comes back to lessons she learned as a child - "Community is all about neighbor helping neighbor." When the town was flooded in 2010, she recalls, "everyone pitched in to help."
More recently, when the young Blue Angels pilot Capt. Jeff Kuss crashed practicing for last year's Great Tennessee Air Show in Smyrna, it was the same.
Spearheads Angel memorial
"I can't tell you how helpless I felt, being out of the country," Reed says. She and her family were on vacation at the time. "The town is like a family," she adds. "They wanted to get together, so they had a vigil at Lee Victory Park."
Now Reed's spearheading the effort to create a special memorial to the pilot. "The memorial is something the community has rallied around," she says. "We raised almost $1 million in the first 60 days."
Of course, other community members have helped, too. Ret. Admiral Jimmy Taylor was able to expedite the arrival of the retired Blue Angels plane, which will be the centerpiece of the memorial.
"He has been the head of the Naval Museum, and he helped us get the plane," Reed explains. "They told us there was a three- to four-year wait, but he got it confirmed in 30 days."
Met husband at fireworks
Family also has always been very important to Reed. "I like sitting in the kitchen at my mom's house with my sister Leigh Ann," she confides.
Leigh Ann is married to Tim Slate, who went to kindergarten with Reed - and the couple introduced Reed to her husband.
"I met his friend Britt Reed on July 3, when he came to the fireworks," she recalls. "From then until we married, we saw each other every day."
Britt is a captain with the Rutherford County Sheriff's Department, in the detective and narcotics division.
"I fear every day, I don't know if he will come home, but I'm proud of him," Reed says. "Sometimes public service is hard, but it's very rewarding."
Blue Raiders booster
Reed's service as mayor of the town of Smyrna amounts to more than it sounds like, of course, because the "town" is actually a sizeable city with more than 40,000 residents. Her public service has included terms as president of the Boys and Girls Clubs of Rutherford County, the MTSU National Alumni Association and the Blue Raiders Athletic Association.
Then there are the boards on which Reed has served. Those include United Way, Read to Succeed, StoneCrest Hospital, Linebaugh Library and MTSU Foundation, among others.
Sports are also an important part of her life. Her dad played baseball at MTSU and she's a huge fan, holding season tickets for basketball.
She adds her son, Parker Bell, is a big fan of pro baseball. "He and his dad have visited every major league ball park," she says. "They've watched a game in every stadium, and now they're going to Cooperstown to be named to the Hall of Fame. There will be a plaque there with their names for having seen them all."
Family and treating the people she works with like family are always important to this remarkable Rutherford woman. That's why she calls every Town Hall employee on their birthday.
"The first year they seemed to be surprised, but now they are waiting for my call," Reed says with a grin.