Tom Bain: His Vision Set the Stage For Today’s Brentwood

Although Tom Bain was originally from Birmingham, Alabama, his love for Brentwood and the people here was deep. Having grown up in Birmingham, he had seen what happened when there was unplanned growth, and he wanted to make sure that Brentwood had a strong foundation upon which to build in the future.

Bain moved his family to Brentwood in 1972, and within five years he was elected to the City Commission. In 1979, he was elected mayor.

“He knew several people on the Commission [before he was elected],” said his son Preston, “and knew what Brentwood would face in the future in terms of growth and development. He had seen his suburb of Birmingham become engulfed by the growing city and knew Brentwood would eventually see that as well. He wanted to establish an identity for Brentwood and begin laying the groundwork for the growth he knew would eventually come our way.”

During his time as Brentwood City Commissioner and Mayor, the city purchased the water works company from Eddy Arnold, secured and built Brentwood High School for the city after a long and spirited fight with the county, and widened Franklin Road from two lanes to its current four lanes with a turning lane.

“In 1979, he was quoted as saying that he would love to see Franklin Road eventually widened all the way to Moore’s Lane,” said Bain, “something that is just now coming to fruition some 40 years later. He had great vision, and knew the city would be faced with growth throughout the coming decades. He worked to position the city in the late 70’s and early 80’s to be able to handle that growth.”

One of his other visions was seeing a need for a high school in Brentwood.

“The decision to fight for and bring to fruition Brentwood High School was huge,” said Bain. “At that time, there was not a high school at the north end of the county. Kids from Brentwood were being bused 30 minutes or more to Franklin High School. This was the first time the arguments for and against a city school system were explored. After a year or more of tough negotiations, the county agreed to build Brentwood High School, which had a huge impact on the city and the families here with school-age children.”

When asked what he thought was his father’s biggest accomplishment, Preston Bain found it hard to choose because some of the instrumental decisions made in the early years of his time in office continue to benefit the city today. One of the most impactful was the purchase of the water company from Eddy Arnold. That purchase set the city on a path to providing their own water service to the citizens of Brentwood for the first time.

“[While serving on the County Commission], he helped in getting the Agricultural Center built just south of Franklin and bringing the fair back to Williamson County for the first time in decades, added Bain. “He had a lot of passion for the fair and spent many hours there over the years volunteering when it was in town.”

When not serving the citizens of Brentwood or Williamson County, Tom Bain spent his career working in Human Resources, first for HCA, and then for Vanderbilt University and Medical Center. Ultimately, he opened his is own personnel staffing agency in 1987, Tom Bain Personnel.

He used his human resources background while creating public policy, and he was instrumental in closing the loop on the new GASB rule about lifetime benefits, and new hire benefits for government employees, which was put into effect in 2009.

“Over the years, he chaired the budget committee several times,” said Bain, “working to create a balanced budget while adequately funding all the areas of a rapidly growing county, especially education as he knew that a key component that drew people to the county.”

Tom Bain was also a family man who loved history, and sports. Playing under the legendary coach Bear Bryant at the University of Alabama, he passed on his love of football and sports in general by being a coach for 22 years.

“He coached baseball for 22 years, and coached his football teams to an unprecedented nine undefeated seasons, said his son. “He always coached 11- and 12-year-old boys because he knew that at that age they could do anything and just needed the confidence to do it. Instilling that confidence was his passion.

His dad loved history of all kinds, but especially Civil War history.

“As kids, we learned early on about all the rich history here in middle Tennessee, from Native American settlements to the Civil War and beyond. He spent many afternoons talking with Mary Sneed Jones and Vance Little over the years, who were themselves a virtual treasure trove of history right here in Brentwood. I went along for many of those visits and sat enthralled at their stories of the early days of Brentwood.”

Brentwood grew during his tenure, and he saw the building of River Park, the city’s first park, establishing a city park system. He also saw the original H.G. Hills complex built, the Brentwood Mall (where Steinmart sits today) was originally envisioned, the police department grew, and City Hall moved from a small building on Harpeth Drive to the building that today houses the Mazatlan restaurant.

“Brentwood was just beginning its growth spurt and many of the decisions made at that time had a large and lasting impact on the city,” said Bain.

Over the years, Preston Bain saw his father struggle with a few tough decisions that faced the city, but he knew his father always tried to do what he truly thought best for all the citizens, both then and in the future.

Sometimes he had to handle more “subtle tasks” with humor when his public service and family time collided.

“We had some interesting phone calls over the years while he was in public service, but the one I remember most is when someone who lived in Fountainhead called him one night around midnight to make a noise complaint,” said Bain. “He was sound asleep and the phone call woke him up. The caller addressed him as Mayor Bain, and proceeded to explain to him about a loud party going on next door that was keeping them awake. He demanded my dad call the police and have it taken care of. My dad was polite, but frustrated that the caller couldn’t just call the police himself. [Dad did call] the police, and had the situation resolved… I found out years later that he stayed up [the next night], and when the clock struck midnight, he picked up the phone and called the gentleman back, who was himself asleep. My dad said, ‘I just wanted to make sure everything was quiet over at your house tonight.’ Needless to say, we never received another call like that from the caller.”

“[In the end, I hope that Dad is remembered for his] … true passion for this community, and [that he] continually strived to make it a better place not only for those of us who lived here at the time, but for the countless others he knew would also flock to this special place in the future to live and raise their families.

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