A Mayor Who Remains True To His Roots
Mayor Robert Dedman is not what you expect. He is Mayor of one of the fasted growing counties in Tennessee, overseeing county government affairs that affect over one hundred thousand citizens…
Mayor Robert Dedman is not what you expect. He is Mayor of one of the fasted growing counties in Tennessee, overseeing county government affairs that affect over one hundred thousand citizens. He is a three-term County Mayor that has worked in city, county and state government for decades. He is a seasoned veteran of old world politics but with one difference. He is affable and as down to earth as they come.
His office located in the County Courthouse in Lebanon is filled with photos of his family and friends but inside his desk he keeps a photo of the home he was raised in. It’s a photo that reminds him of his roots and he is definitely a man who is proud of where he came from.
The photo is of the old Woolen Mills Factory located in Lebanon and surrounding the factory are small identical row houses that the factory provided it’s employees. Mayor Robert Dedman was raised in one of these homes. “My parents slept up front and I slept in the kitchen. The house had ‘outdoor privileges’ if you know what I mean,” he chuckles. Mayor Dedman’s grandfather and later both his mother and father worked in the Woolen Mills factory and the Mayor fondly remembers that time. “The factory built the children a playground and I spent some great times out there.”
Later, the factory sold these houses to their employees. Mayor Dedman pulls out a copy of a check from his desk dated September 25, 1947. His parents bought the home from the factory for $125.00 and had it moved for another $300.00 to Fairview Avenue. “Times were simpler and cheaper then,” he grins.
Mayor Dedman has certainly seen the county change right before his eyes over the last seventy years. He attended Highland Heights (a school that used to be located where the county jail is now) and then went on to graduate from Lebanon High School. He played high school football from 1949-1953 and was the first player from Lebanon to make All-State.
“My father didn’t have any schooling at all so you can imagine how proud my entire family was in 1953 when I was awarded a full football college scholarship to University of Kentucky. Lebanon High School Football Coach Joe Gwin Atkinson was friends with Coach Paul “Bear” Bryant and helped me get the scholarship to play with Coach Bryant at Kentucky. But one year after I got there, Coach Bryant decided to move to Texas A&M. I told him ‘you are the only reason I came up here. I’m going back to Lebanon if you leave.’ So, I picked up my stuff and hitch hiked back to Lebanon.”
Obviously, everyone was astonished when he returned. But not long after returning to his hometown, he joined the army. He was ordered to Korea and spent several years in Japan during the Korean War. In 1956, he was honorably discharged from the army and returned to Lebanon.
He did what many men did during those years upon returning from the war, he came home, married his sweetheart and started a working for a local company.
During that time, he and his wife Faye Tribble Dedman raised two children, Robbie and Karen. The Mayor and Mrs. Dedman recently celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary and by their side with their children and their families which now include granddaughters Lindsay and Lacey.
In the 1960’s, the Mayor went to work for the City of Lebanon. He was the first purchasing agent for all the city departments for over six years. Thereafter, he spent another six years working with the former Secretary of State, Gentry Crowell, at the State Capital.
In the late 70’s, encouraged by friends and family, he ran and won his first elected office with the Lebanon City Council. “At the time there were only four city councilmen and they ran citywide. We received $25.00 a month.” During that period he encouraged the council to divide the city into districts so that minorities in the area could have representation on the council. “It was important to me that minorities be represented on the city council and I am proud I had a part in that.”
After establishing himself as a respected city councilman, he decided to run for the Assessor of Property and served the citizens for three terms in that position. In 1996, after retiring from that position, he returned to the State Senate as the Sergeant of Arms. “I loved being at the State Capitol and seeing the General Assembly represent the citizens.”
In 1998 though, he started getting calls again from friends and family that it was time to return to his county and take part in local government. He was again encouraged to run but this time, he was asked to run for County Mayor. “Running for office is hard work. Every day, every weekend you are out there meeting the voters and it can’t be done without support. I’ve been real fortunate to have enormous support during each of my seven elections.” Each time the Mayor has run, he has had opposition, but each time thanks to the support of his friends and family, he has been victorious.
“Running this county has become much more complicated as we have grown. But the people are the same and no matter how big we get, the same things remain important to our citizens. They want their children to be raised in a safe environment. They want their children to receive a good education and they want their families to have certain amenities – roads, parks, industry and jobs. My job is to do everything I can possibly do to make these things happen. And my job is to also try to make all this happen as efficiently and as economically as possible.”
The County budget is expected to be balanced this year and the County does not expect any layoffs in order to accomplish their budget plans.
“We have quite a bit on our plate right now but what we really need to work on is a new Lebanon High School. We have the lowest wheel tax than any of our surrounding counties and I’m proposing that we raise the wheel tax from $25.00 to $50.00. This will help us raise 2.5 million dollars a year and help us fund a new school. I would much rather increase this wheel tax than raise property taxes. I want to keep our taxes as low as we possibly can but we also need to support our school system because our kids are our future.”
The Mayor notes that “I am all for schools. I often say it’s cheaper to build ball fields than jails. It’s important that we provide for our children so that they stay busy and active in their community.”
In 2010, Mayor Dedman’s term will be up and the Mayor does not plan to run for a fourth term. “It’s time for someone else to come in here and take over this job. I’m ready to sit back, enjoy my family, play golf, do some traveling and watch from the sidelines.”
The Mayor is not yet supporting any of the candidates who have announced they are running for County Mayor. “I’m going to wait and see who is in the race before I decide who I am going to support. But whoever is lucky enough to get this job, needs to remember that it’s an honor to be voted into this office. They need to keep their door open to every single citizen. I can’t thank the public enough for the positions they have elected me. I’ve always tried to remain true to my roots and I believe that is why they’ve elected me to.”
County Mayor Dedman’s Office is located at the County Courthouse, 228 E. Main Street, Lebanon. He can be reached at 444-1383 or at