Nolensville Town Manager Victor Lay Discusses Challenges of Growth

Nolensville Town Manager Victor Lay Discusses Challenges of Growth


Live from Music Row Tuesday morning on The Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy – broadcast on Nashville’s Talk Radio 98.3 and 1510 WLAC weekdays from 5:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. –  host Leahy welcomed Town Manager of Nolensville, Tennessee Victor Lay to the newsmaker line to talk about his move from Spring Hill administrator to Nolensville and the experience he brings to the town.

Leahy: We are delighted to welcome to our newsmaker line Victor Lay, who is the Nolensville town manager. Good morning, Victor.

Lay: Good morning. Glad to be here.

Leahy: Victor, this will surprise you, but we know each other because our daughters went to high school together. When you were the Spring Hill city administrator, your daughter and my daughter were good friends. So there you go. How about that?

Lay: That’s pretty interesting. I did not know that.

Leahy: I think we went to your church one time, too, down in Spring Hill. And it was a great experience. And we’re delighted to have you on here. You have an extensive record in management and public administration.

You were the city administrator in Spring Hill for some time. You resigned to become the town manager of Nolensville. Tell us a little bit about why you made that move, when you made that move, and what’s happened since.

Lay: So in January of this year actually, I had received a call from a recruiter, if you will, from Nolensville, asking me to consider that work. And after a considerable amount of thought and process, I decided that I would do that. And so I left in January. I started there on January 19 after having been in Spring Hill for 11 years.

Leahy: That’s a long time. That’s a long time. And during that 11 years, because I live down there. I live in the city of Spring Hill. Our mailing address is Thompson Station. But I live down there. What a lot of change we’ve seen in Spring Hill in 11 years.

Lay: Absolutely. It went from a town that was just about roughly 25,000 to – we think this federal census to 2020 census was going to show Spring Hill somewhere north of 45,000.

Leahy: Yeah, I’ve seen that. And the growth just seems to continue and continue. That is huge growth, isn’t it?

Lay: It’s really incredible growth for as long as it has occurred. The growth process in Spring Hill started in 2005, really 2003. And it’s just been at a blistering pace is what I usually call it ever since.

Leahy: 11 years of a strong track record as city administrator in Spring Hill, which has seen this tremendous growth. What prompted you to take the job with Nolensville, which is not a city but a town?

Spring Hill is one-third in Williamson County, two-thirds in Maury County. Nolensville is entirely in Williamson County. It’s smaller but experiencing perhaps even more growth than Spring Hill, as hard as that is to imagine. Why did you make that particular kind of a move, Victor?

Lay: I looked at it from a standpoint of being able to use all of the skill sets that I have generated in city and town management over the past 26 years, and it fit right there in the town of Nolensville.

It’s a small town, a smaller community, but they’re about to go through very similar things that Spring Hill has already gone through. And I felt when I sat and looked at them that Nolensville was probably about 10 to 15 years behind where Spring Hill was today.

It would give them opportunities to put some things in motion that could help maybe alleviate some of those growing pains during that process.

Leahy: Physically, the town of Nolensville, how does it compare size-wise just in the physical area to Spring Hill?

Lay: The town of Nolensville is roughly 10 square miles. The city of Spring Hill is somewhere around 30 to 35 square miles. So relative size, it’s about a third. Population-wise, the town of Nolensville is probably – with the 2020 census we’re hoping that number is going to be – around 14,000.

The official population is just north of 11,000. So it’s roughly about a quarter of the size population-wise. Is that the information you were looking for?

Leahy: Yes. But on a per-square-mile basis, it’s pretty close to Spring Hill in terms of population per square mile.

Lay: Very close. The density is very close to Spring Hill.

Leahy: What’s the difference between being a city administrator, which is a form of a corporate organization, versus a town manager? A town is different than a city. Tell us about those differences.

Lay: In Tennessee, municipalities can actually have a choice in the way that they incorporate if they want to call themselves a town or a city. And there’s not a lot of distinction between the two other than just the vernacular.

And there are a lot of people who want their area, their municipality, to be called a town just because of the quaintness of it (i.e. the town of Thompson Station) and things like that. Spring Hill used to be called a town. But back in the 90s, they decided that they would change their vernacular to city.

And so they made all of the necessary corporate adjustments and changed everything to the city because they wanted that idea that they were going to grow beyond the connotations that a town might be.

Typically, you think of a town as being smaller, but that’s not necessarily the case because you have the town of Smyrna, which is also, as you know, one of the larger municipalities in the region.

Leahy: I should have known that, but I didn’t know that. I think I’ve always thought of Smyrna as a city, but it’s a town.

Lay: It is.

Leahy: That’s very interesting. We’ll get to the challenges for you in terms of what’s ahead for Nolensville a little bit in our next segment. But I want to talk about how your job might be different because it’s a little bit smaller, a little closer to Nashville.

And the other part of this is, in Spring Hill, I’m largely removed from any significant city decisions. I think I went to a city council meeting once, perhaps, and it’s very intense. Everybody that’s involved in development has a lot on the line.

But for the average person, it’s sort of like, we’ll let them do what they’re going to do, and I’ll pay my taxes and I’ll do my job. (Lay chuckles) Which is not necessarily in Spring Hill. You’re laughing. Isn’t that the case?

Lay: That is the case a lot of the time. The individuals or rank-and-file citizens, basically, they’re not interested in necessarily getting involved in watching all of the minutiae with regard to the weekly and monthly decisions of the council.

They might complain about one aspect or another, but in general, they’re just really not engaged in that depth.

Leahy: My sense is perhaps that the job of being a city administrator in Spring Hill, although most of the people are sort of not engaged, those who are engaged, developers and builders and the like, are very intensely engaged.

My sense was that it was a highly politicized position, even though most people really weren’t paying a lot of attention to it. And perhaps that scale and that pressure were very, very significantly different from Nolensville. Do I have that right or wrong?

Lay: I would say that it was quite a bit more intense than maybe what’s existing in Nolensville at the current time. There were so many things that were going on. And you’re correct that it had a lot of political nature to it.

As much as we try to make the position of city administrator or town manager non-political – and I really, really work hard to be a non-political individual – There’s politics in almost everything that occurs with pressure from one side or the other.

Spring Hill – it was quite intense because you had a lot of different things that were happening and a lot of different players pushing one direction or another.

Leahy: Well, let me tell you something, to do that job for 11 years and to exit on a high note is a tribute to your ability to manage people and the processes and all the political forces. I don’t see how anybody could do it for that long and leave on such a high note. So a tip of the hat to you for that capability.

Lay: Thank you. I appreciate that.

Leahy: Stick with us through the break. I want to come back to get what’s going on in Nolensville and what the challenges are ahead there. If you can stay through the break with us.

Lay: Absolutely glad to be here.

Listen to the full first hour here:

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Tune in weekdays from 5:00 – 8:00 a.m. to the Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy on Talk Radio 98.3 FM WLAC 1510. Listen online at iHeart Radio.
Photo “Victor Lay” by Victor Lay. Background Photo “Spring Hill City Hall” by Skye Marthaler. CC BY-SA 3.0.

















Nolensville’s Town Manager Victor Lay Talks Growth and Managing Expectations of Blue State Refugees

Nolensville’s Town Manager Victor Lay Talks Growth and Managing Expectations of Blue State Refugees


Live from Music Row Tuesday morning on The Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy – broadcast on Nashville’s Talk Radio 98.3 and 1510 WLAC weekdays from 5:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. –  host Leahy welcomed Nolensville, Tennessee Town Manager Victor Lay to the newsmaker line to discuss the consequences of growth and managing expectations of blue state transplants.

Leahy: Our guest on the newsmaker line, town manager Victor Lay. Victor, I know it’s good to do this via the phone, but I’m going to invite you to come in studio sometime. It’s not too far away from Nolensville.

Lay: I would love to take you up on that.

Leahy: We’ll get you in here at a better time (Lay laughs) because only the crazy people show up in person at 5:00 a.m. or thereafter. Let’s talk about all of the challenges facing Nolensville.

By the way, I love Nolensville. It’s a nice quaint little town that’s now in the process of experiencing explosive growth. What are the biggest challenges that you see there Victor Lay?

Lay: One of the biggest challenges, obviously, is the traffic that’s generated by the growth. Nolensville has one major north-south route. That’s Nolensville Road, 31A, 41 A, that’s running right through it.

It’s a two-lane road up until you get into the Metro Davidson area where they’re working on it now to become a four-lane road. That’s the primary challenge for that growth.

Leahy: How do you deal with that? Because it’s currently a two-lane road. And on either side of the road, right next to the road there are houses and there are businesses. That’s a challenge I think.

It’s a little bit like you had on Duplex Road in Spring Hill, right? Which was an old kind of two-lane farm road that’s been widened. But that’s been a lot of work on that one.

Lay: That’s correct. That process started in 2006 and took 14 years roughly to get it to where it was opened as a nice, safe, wide road with good transportation opportunities, multiple transportation opportunities with the sidewalks and bike pass, and things like that.

Nolensville has already started working with TDOT with regard to Nolensville Road. Actually, that process started back in the early 2000s. There are designs out there that TDOT has put together for a bypass around some of the historic areas of Nolensville that you physically cannot widen in.

And so one of the pieces that I’ll be doing over the next few years is really working with TDOT closely to determine the best route and what is a good, viable plan for that north-south traffic.

And it’s not just the north-south traffic, but we’re actually right at the beginning of the process of updating our major thoroughfare plan. And we’re looking at all of our connections – east-west connections, north-south connections – so that we can make sure that as the town grows we are incorporating that growth inside the roadway.

We’re requiring right-of-way dedication so that we have the opportunities to widen those roads and make those connections so that folks have alternative paths as well as the main route.

Leahy: I think you said today you expect that the 2020 census will show that the population of the town of Nolensville, about 10 square miles just south of Nashville, is about 14,000. If we look forward 10 years from today in the 2030 census, what do you think that number will be?

Lay: Good question. If we continue to go through the same type of growth that we’re experiencing today, you’re probably looking easily at another 5,000 people. 3,000 to 5,000, maybe.

And that may even be a very conservative number. It could be closer to seven. So it’s very likely that we’re going to be in that 20,000 range. Somewhere between 20 and 25, I can safely say.

Leahy: Let me ask you this, how many of those new people moving into Nolensville are coming from California?

Lay: There is a significant amount that is coming in from California. We see California, New York, and Illinois. Just a tremendous amount of influx into that area.

Leahy: People from California, New York, and Illinois, do they have trouble adjusting to the way things are done in Tennessee?

Lay: (Chuckles) In some cases, it’s just different. Most of the time what we have found is that they appreciate some of the ways that we do things in Tennessee. It’s not as arduous. It’s not as complex.

As long as we are straightforward and letting them know the process, they generally don’t have too difficult of a time transitioning. It’s when people don’t understand the processes and they feel like that they’re not getting the best answers that usually generate the problems.

Leahy: Have you had any of those experiences since you’ve joined the Nolensville town manager in January?

Lay: Not specifically in Nolensville. To date, I’ve not had anyone that has moved in and said, well, this is the way we did it in our particular state. I experienced that once or twice in Spring Hill.

Leahy: You did? (Laughs) Let me just roll play with you here, Victor. If somebody is coming from, I’m guessing I’ll just say it’s a blue state, right?

Somebody coming from a blue state, do they ever say now, Victor, that’s not the way we did it back in my blue state. Did you have that kind of a question?

Lay: I did have that kind of a question. I have not had it in Nolensville. I did have that statement made in Spring Hill a couple of times.

Leahy: You know what my response, Victor, to that would be? My response would be, well, that’s great. Why don’t you go back to that blue state and leave us alone? Of course, you can’t say that.

Lay: I can’t say that. I don’t say that.

Leahy: But you might think it. (Chuckles)

Lay: I usually try to drill down with them to understand what it is that they have difficulty with or that they think is an error in the way that we are doing business.

Leahy: This is why you are so well suited to that job because you’ve got an understanding of human behavior and you have patience. Victor, thanks so much for joining us today, and come in studio sometime.

Lay: I would love to do that.

Listen to the first hour here:

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Tune in weekdays from 5:00 – 8:00 a.m. to the Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy on Talk Radio 98.3 FM WLAC 1510. Listen online at iHeart Radio.
Photo “Nolensville Town Hall” by Skye Marthaler. CC BY-SA 3.0.