Campground Background Helped Mayor
Phillip Craighead, mayor of Lebanon, Tenn., has strong roots in the family campground, as revealed in a profile published in the Lebanon Democrat.
“While dad served as pastor at the church, he partnered with another man and the built the KOA Campground in Lebanon. That supplied my first job while I was still in school.”
Craighead attended and graduated from Lebanon High School in 1972. He went to Middle Tennessee State University, graduating in 1976 with a degree in business administration.
In 1975, Craighead’s parents moved to Columbia. He was running the KOA by this time, so he moved to the campground to live. A bit later, his father and Raymond Tomlinson decided to build the skating rink. Craighead managed it and the campground for several years.
“When dad was transferred even further out of this area, I didn’t want to leave Lebanon, because I love this town and county,” Craighead said. “I wanted to stay here, so I did. We had some good years. Camping was a lot simpler back then. It was tents and such then. Today, it’s motor homes, which have 60 or larger amps with slide-outs, etc. We always tried to give personalized service to our campers back then. We would meet them when they pulled in, escort them to their site and so on. We met a lot of interesting people and made a lot of friends.”
Craighead said a successful businessman was one who could make a decision on the spot with it being the right decision. He feels he has that capability and elaborated on the fastest and best decision he ever made.
“While I was running the campground, we had the swimming pool there and would give out season passes to people to come and use the facility,” said Craighead. “One year, this beautiful young lady with this beautiful daughter came to pick up a pass. Someone told me she was spoken for, so I didn’t approach her. A year later, I found I had been given wrong information, and she was available. So, I told her she could have her pass if she’d have dinner with me.
“On the Fourth of July in 1981, we had an outing with some of her friends. A bit later, she had to go to Atlanta for a gift show. She called back the next night to say she was on her way home. When she passed the campground, I had a flashing sign that read, ‘Will you marry me Darlene?’ We were married six weeks from the time we had our first date. We went to Nashville on our honeymoon and suddenly realized we hadn’t even decided where we were going to live. We cut our honeymoon short, decided to move into the blue house at the campground, so that was where we started our married life."
Craighead went on to manage or own and operate Nashville East KOA Sightseeing Tours, Inc., among other jobs before he was elected mayor of Lebanon.
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