When you walked into a meeting with former Murfreesboro City Manager Roger Haley in the room, you knew things were getting done. A powerful, yet grounding force, his self-deprecating humor was disarming, and camouflaged an iron will. He was the driving force that created the base upon which Murfreesboro is growing today, especially the Gateway project.
Haley, who retired in 2009, after 22 years as City Manager, was a robust man who was taken too early from the side of his beloved wife, Holly, from complications of COVID-19 and heart ailments. He was 75.
Born in the Florence community, Haley once told John Hood in an interview for Hood’s Middle Tennessee State University sponsored YouTube program that he had to move away from Rutherford County in 1960 to find work, but returned in 1970 and never turned back. Perhaps that is why he was so focused on job growth and community development.
It is thanks to Haley that Murfreesboro has a great parks system, a strong fire department, and a movement toward more white-collar jobs, said then-City Planning Director Joseph Aydelott in a msn.com interview.
His greatest accomplishment, however, was the creation of the Gateway development on what was formerly farm land as a new interchange into the city.
“In 1991,” Haley said in the Hood interview, “the city was hamstrung between the 96 and 231 interchanges. It needed additional interchanges in able to grow.”
Working with Aydelott, former city attorney Tom Reed, and developer Tommy Smith, Haley worked with the community to get additional interchanges, and a much-wanted conference center. Initially discussions were for the hotel and conference center to be near Old Fort Park, the Greenway, and Old Fort Golf Course. But then the idea came about to use the conference center as the focal point of a whole new gateway into the city with Class-A office space, new retail, and a new medical center, since Rutherford Hospital was land locked and had no space for much needed expansion with the growing population.
During his 75 years, Haley watched a lot of changes take place in Murfreesboro, and Rutherford County. Many of them were his doing. The forest and farm land he explored as a boy with old friend Butch Campbell, who is Chair of the Murfreesboro City School Board, is gone. But the right kind of change, bringing higher paying jobs and a better quality of life was Haley’s vision. He did not want to see the young college graduates of the future having to do what he did, move away to find good jobs.
While is legacy will live on for generations to come, his friends and family will miss him greatly.