Hard to imagine Pelham without Hayes

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Good leaders must first become good servants.

&8212;Robert Greenleaf

News that Pelham&8217;s Mayor Bobby Hayes would retire from office when his current term ends in November struck many of us by surprise; not that Mayor Hayes has not more than earned the right to retire in his 24 years of service to Pelham. No, it was more that it is hard for many of us to imagine the city of Pelham without Hayes as its mayor.

Like imagining General MacArthur not leading an army or Bear Bryant not coaching a football team, it&8217;s just difficult to get your arms around the idea of Mayor Hayes not being mayor.

I met Mayor Hayes nearly six years ago, shortly after coming to work at the Reporter.

Donna Tresler, Hayes&8217; longtime right-hand at city hall, phoned letting me know the mayor wanted to meet with me. At the time, I had been a resident of Shelby County for less than a month, but I was smart enough to know two things:

First, anytime Mayor Hayes asks for a meeting, the only acceptable response is to say &8220;Yes,&8221; and then clear your schedule.

Second, anyone asked to such a meeting that is not frightened by the idea is either dumb or has an overly inflated opinion of him or herself.

Tresler did not share what the purpose of the meeting nor did I ask, but I felt it was safe to assume there would be more to the meeting than simply welcoming the new guy at the paper to town.

Mayor Hayes, with his trademark cowboy boots and intimidating presence, welcomed me into his office later that week. Hayes had not called the meeting to complain to me about something we had written about him or the city or to go through the laundry list of ways he and I both knew the newspaper needed to improve at that time. No, Mayor Hayes had one topic on the agenda for our meeting: the children in Pelham deserved better coverage of their achievements, both on and off the field. And, he was right.

Hayes&8217; interest in meeting with me that day had nothing to do with him and everything to do with the people he served. That&8217;s leadership and that&8217;s the sort of man you can&8217;t help but respect. It is the way public servants create legacies of selflessness, and it is certainly part of what has made Mayor Hayes one of our county&8217;s most beloved public servants.