Lay Puts Experience to Work as Nolensville’s First Town Manager

When Nolensville residents voted to change the town’s governance to a professional town manager/commissioner system, they must have had someone like Victor Lay in mind. 

The 57-year-old recently celebrated his second year in the position after more than two decades in town management elsewhere in Tennessee. A civil engineer by trade, he started his career as a traffic engineer in Chicago for five years.

As town manager, Lay oversees the daily activities of the town staff including the hiring and firing authority previously held by the mayor. Today, the mayor is an appointed position from among the five elected at-large commissioners. The mayor’s primary responsibility is chairing commission meetings. 

“I really enjoy it here. It’s a great commission to work for,” Lay said. “They really put a lot of value in staff. 

“From a manager’s perspective, it’s not about me. It’s about the staff and what their capabilities are. My real goal and my real job are to try to assemble a team that can get the job done and maybe have a little fun while doing it and then do it well.”

Lay currently directs about 50 overall full-time personnel. He previously managed 35 in 15 years as town manager in his hometown Waynesboro then 240 during 11 years as city administrator in Spring Hill. City/town managers’ powers are dictated by the state while administrators come through the local entity. 

Lay typically starts his week with a Monday morning staff meeting with department heads previewing their week ahead and how what they do interacts with each other. The remainder of the week is spent in regular standing meetings, periodic gatherings where he represents Nolensville, and talking to citizens. 

“I have a very welcoming policy. If somebody wants to talk to me they are welcome to do so,” he said. “That can be John Q. Citizen, an employee, a consultant, or someone else. It’s very much of an open-door policy. I very much want to be accessible to anyone who needs me.”

He leads a town with an estimated 15,487 residents as of 2021. After having only 5,861 in 2010, it grew 235 percent to 11,097 in 2017 and to 13,829 residents in 2020. 

With little industry or major employers, Nolensville is more of a commuter town than anything. Lay said the school system is the largest employer. 

“Our population commutes one of three directions – north to Nashville, west to Franklin or Brentwood, and east to Murphysboro or Smyrna,” said Lay, whose wife Bethany is a vice president of Colombia Community College. They have three grown children together. 

Lay said planning is underway to make the historic district more pedestrian friendly within the next two years. Other public road renovations are either started or on the drawing board. This is on top of creating the town’s first paid fire department, purchasing new public works equipment, and adding staff and other innovations that contributed to winning two awards – Smalltown Progress from the Tennessee Municipal League and Distinguished Budget Presentation from the Government Finance Officers Association for its 2021-2022 budget. 

“We’re trying to be proactive. The group that was elected in 2021 these were some of the projects they wanted to move on,” Lay said. “They had a list of some of the things to get done. That’s one of the reasons we won the Smalltown Progress Award. We completed like 19 of their 20 edicts in a year and a half.”

What, in Lay’s opinion, makes the town such a great place to live?

“Our town really has the air about it that even though it’s 15,000 population that’s it a small town,” Lay said. “Part of that is there’s only one high school that serves the town. It is amazing how the town rallies around that one unifying component.

“In other cities that I’ve managed, there were homecoming parades. The homecoming parade for Nolensville is unlike any other I’ve ever experienced. The town turns out for it and it’s just a really big deal. I’ve never seen a town do tailgate parties for a parade but they do for the homecoming parade.”

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