Nurturing the Next Generation of Maury County Leaders
Programs like Leadership Maury ensure the county has a bright future ahead.
Strong, visionary leadership is the foundation of thriving communities like Columbia, Spring Hill and Mount Pleasant – the cities that keep Maury County growing and flourishing.
“Good leaders understand that it is about service,” says Dr. Christa Martin, Columbia’s first African American vice mayor and assistant to the president for access and diversity at Columbia State Community College.
Martin was recently honored with the Legacy Award, the first ever presented by the Columbia Peace & Justice Initiative.
Bringing People Together
“When making decisions for the community, those decisions must serve the best interests of the people, the small-business owners, large corporations and that single family working and living in our community.”
She praises the forward thinking of Maury County leaders who, decades ago, made the decisions to invest in infrastructure throughout the region to facilitate residential and commercial growth. She says the leaders who envisioned and supported the Nashville Highway corridor opened new opportunities for the county and its cities, and paved the way for the impressive growth the region experienced.
“For me, leaders are made; they are not born. I have a long list of people who mentored me. “
Dr. Christa Martin, Columbia’s first African American vice mayor
Martin says Maury County leaders – past and present – bring ideas and people together to make good things happen.
“It’s so important to make sure there are conversations with different and diverse organizations as decisions are made,” she says. “That’s happening here. Leaders from the hospital, college, Tennessee Farm Bureau, city councils, county commission, and the banking and business sectors get involved. People come together to share and learn. That’s how good decisions are made, decisions that serve the people.”
In addition to her role in local government, Martin has served on various state and local boards and organizations. She has worked with political, community, civic and business leaders.
“For me, leaders are made; they are not born,” she says. “I have a long list of people who mentored me. The opportunity to sit at the foot of wisdom and learn helps create a leader. I learned from leaders like William English and Walter Boyd Holland, both county commissioners; Barbara McIntyre, former mayor of Columbia; and Dr. Janet Smith at Columbia State. Those people and others like them give opportunities to take on assignments and provide the tools so you can do the job. That’s so important in building leaders.”
Fostering Maury County Leadership
Maury County is home to generations of leaders, and Leadership Maury’s 35th anniversary is proof of the region’s success. Chris Coyne says the county’s ability to balance intentional growth with the influx of people is a sign of strong leadership.
“This is a lively community as new people bring in new mindsets, but it is also a community with very strong values,” Coyne says. “People don’t always agree, but when they disagree, there tends to be a healthy dialogue about the next steps, whether the issue is approving a new residential development or inviting a new manufacturing business to town.”
Coyne moved to Maury County in 2015 to be near his wife’s parents. Retired from the Air Force, Coyne is an executive leadership coach and a partner in Muletown Coffee Roasters. He is a 2016-17 graduate of Leadership Maury, served as chairman and still serves on the board of directors.
“The Leadership Maury program is a game changer,” he says. “We have twice as many applicants as the program can handle. More and more young leaders are going through programs allowing them to find their interests and get involved. Graduates want to get involved to help the community grow. That’s what leadership is all about.
“Columbia has grown leaps and bounds in the three years that I’ve been a formal business owner downtown and in the seven years that we’ve lived here,” Coyne says. “We’ve had an influx of young leaders. I credit the Maury County Chamber & Economic Alliance with so much of that.”
Leadership Maury motivates participants to develop and enhance the quality of their leadership in addressing pertinent community needs. Class members meet with local decision-makers in several sectors of the community, such as business, government, health, public services and agriculture.
The program provides participants with a practical and sophisticated understanding of major problems and opportunities facing Maury County.
Education, Careers & Opportunity
Workforce Effort Boosts Skilled Talent in Maury County
Newly launched initiative focuses on the future of employees in Maury County.
Spotlight: Columbia Peace & Justice Initiative
Launched in 2021, the Columbia Peace & Justice Initiative celebrates the legacy of African Americans in Maury County by exploring history, promoting justice, expanding understanding and inspiring conversation for a better community.
Efforts are underway to recognize the contributions made by Columbia’s African American community to the Civil Rights Movement by establishing a permanent park or memorial that recognizes the events of February 1946.
That’s when Columbia was the scene of events that helped fuel the U.S. Civil Rights Movement. James Stephenson, an African American World War II Navy veteran, accompanied his mother, Gladys, to a local department store. A disagreement about a radio repair occurred, and the white male store clerk became aggressive. The incident escalated and resulted in the arrest of the Stephensons, with serious charges filed against the young veteran.
“Local African Americans took a stand and fought for justice. That’s a story that needs to be preserved and told for future generations. It’s time to recognize and celebrate the legacy of African Americans in Maury County and this piece of history.”
Russ Adcox, Maury Hills Church pastor
The Black community rallied around the Stephensons and was met with a state police raid on the predominantly Black business district. Businesses were damaged and merchandise confiscated without warrants, cash was stolen, homes were searched, people were beaten and more than 100 were arrested and denied legal representation.
Future Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall flew to Nashville to help organize a defense as the events drew state and national attention and helped set the stage for the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s.
Russ Adcox, Maury Hills Church pastor and the first vice president of the initiative, says despite the painful aspects of those days for African Americans, the events of 1946 are also inspiring.
“Local African Americans took a stand and fought for justice,” Adcox says. “That’s a story that needs to be preserved and told for future generations. It’s time to recognize and celebrate the legacy of African Americans in Maury County and this piece of history.”
Get to Know Maury County
Want to learn more about living and working in Maury County, Tennessee? Check out the latest edition of Livability Maury County Business.