WHAT’S IN A NAME: Tom Hall Parkway
Published 1:00 pm Sunday, February 26, 2023
Great Wolf Lodge is a name known well beyond LaGrange. One of the men who helped bring the indoor waterpark to LaGrange might not be as famous — at least out of town — but he’s just as important to the history and future of the city. The road where the resort sits bears his name and is a reminder of why LaGrange should never forget Tom Hall.
Hall served the city of LaGrange from 1985 to 1991 and again from 1994 until his unexpected death on Feb. 16, 2016. During his first stint in LaGrange, Hall was promoted to assistant city manager, but he left to take a city manager position in Morrow, Georgia in 1991.
Hall was later rehired by LaGrange as city manager in 1994.
Current LaGrange City Manager Meg Kelsey said one of Hall’s final projects was working to recruit the lodge and the tourism dollars it brings with it to LaGrange.
“That project didn’t happen overnight. He worked probably a year on it before his death, trying to recruit them here and going through the contract negotiation,” Kelsey said. “Right before he died, that was the last thing he finished up was ensuring that the Great Wolf contract was finished and for them to be ready to proceed to the next steps of purchasing the property and starting to build the actual facility.”
Kelsey said after Hall died, his wife, Gina, asked her to make sure that Great Wolf happened, and Tom’s work wasn’t in vain.
“That was one of the things I held dear to my heart is that she wanted to make sure that it happened because of all the great work he did to bring that great tourism destination to LaGrange,” Kelsey said. “It was a huge project that he was hugely instrumental to but didn’t get to see the final outcome of it.”
Hall was also instrumental in bringing the Marriott hotel and the then-Carmike theater to downtown LaGrange. The combination of the hotel, Great Wolf and Sweetland Amphitheatre have completely changed the tourism trajectory of LaGrange.
Kelsey noted that after the previous theater moved out of the location on LaFayette Parkway, LaGrange went years without a movie theater.
“If you lived in LaGrange and wanted to go to the movies, you had to drive to Newnan or Columbus,” Kelsey said. “He thought that was hugely important.”
Possibly Tom Hall’s greatest contribution to LaGrange may have come from the time between his two stints in the city manager’s office.
While in Morrow, Hall met recently retired police chief Lou Dekmar, who was serving as their police chief at the time. When Tom returned to LaGrange from Morrow, Hall brought Dekmar back with him, hiring him as LaGrange Police Chief the following year.
Since then, Dekmar provided 27 years of exemplary service to the LaGrange Police Department, earning the department accreditation and international recognition.
Hall was also a huge influence on Kelsey, who has proven herself to be a strong leader after taking over for Tom in 2016.
Kelsey said Tom originally hired her as a planner for the city, but after a couple of years, the assistant city manager position opened up and he selected her for that role.
Once she was hired as assistant manager, Kelsey said she began to work day-to-day with Hall and learned from him.
“He basically, over time, gave me more and more responsibility,” Kelsey said, saying she started with human resources and moved into city finances.
“I could always go to him anytime and ask him questions. He was just a huge mentor and resource for me. I’ve been here for getting close to 27 years now, and he mentored me through my whole career,” she said.
“I just feel very blessed to have had him and that support that he gave me and the trust that he gave me,” Kelsey said. “I don’t know what he saw in me, but I feel very blessed to have had that in my life.”