After a month-long farewell tour, recreation director Tommy Hailey received his final send-off Friday in front of his family and dozens of close friends and supporters.
However, those friends and former colleagues set him up perfectly for retirement, as he was given a brand new set of Bridgestone golf clubs (complete with a personalized Georgia Bulldog-themed golf bag), a lifetime membership to The Oaks Course and a set of tickets to see the Atlanta Braves in September.
Hailey, who has served as head of the Newton County Recreation Commission for nearly 25 years, has said for a while he planned to spend a lot of his retirement on the links and now he’ll have no trouble making that plan come true.
Friends spoke warmly of Hailey, including assistant recreation director Anthony Avery and recreation board Chairman Danny Stone, who praised Hailey for his leadership and commitment to building up the youth of Newton County.
County Chairman Keith Ellis added some humor to the occasion by taking a lighthearted dig at the complaints Hailey has undoubtedly received over and over again during his career.
“My son was like 9 years old, he was playing on these fields over here; I know he was the best player on that team. I want to know why he was not starting,” Ellis said to a round of laughs.
“I’ve seen two sides of Tommy and I appreciate very much these years,” Ellis continued. “I saw it from a parent and from a coach, and now I’ve seen his leadership here with this group. And when you see this many people turn out, you know he’s accomplished a lot and touched the lives of young people, coaches, parents and folks like you.”
As for Hailey, he was clearly touched by the outpouring of appreciation and support.
“It might be the first time I’ve been lost for words,” he said. “I’m overwhelmed. So many friends and so many relationships I’ve had the opportunity to make throughout the years. And I thank each and every one of you for that. I couldn’t have done it alone.”
Hailey said he’s tried to build a good team and said his staff was the best in the state of Georgia.
“It’s bittersweet for me for several reasons. I wish my mentor B.C. Crowell was here. I know he’s looking down and smiling. He’s the reason I’m here. He was the one who convinced me to come back from the mountains of Cleveland to take this job,” Hailey said.
“It’s been a great run for me. I’ve said often when I came in that my role and the thing I wanted to do was leave it in a lot better shape than it was when I came in. And I’ve had the opportunity to do that.”