Tomlinson announced his intentions to retire in January earlier this year after 17 years as the center’s director.
“I’ve been very fortunate to have a good committee. The commission has been really good to us,” Tomlinson said. “I think the Ag Center is a place that may be like the county’s park. It’s a place where people can come and feel comfortable and safe.”
Tomlinson took over as center director in 2000 after he retired from the Ford Motor Co. at 52 years old after 33 years with the company.
“I knew that I didn’t just want to go home and sit down. I had served on the county commission, and during that time I was on the [Wilson County Ag Management Committee], which is the group that oversees the Ag Center,” Tomlinson said.
Former director Joe Perry asked Tomlinson to work part time at the center, and later announced his retirement and recommended Tomlinson for the position.
“I said, ‘Mr. Joe, if I wanted a full-time job, I’d would’ve stayed at Ford where I could make some money. That’s been 18 years ago, now. It’s been a fun ride. I’ve enjoyed it and met a lot of people. The Ag Center has come a long way, and it’s not necessarily because of Larry Tomlinson,” he said.
Tomlinson credited Wilson County leadership and Ag Center staff for its success.
Tomlinson continues to help with the transition for the new center director, Quintin Smith.
Smith has more than 40 years of experience maintaining pastures, managing employees – some bilingual – and working with every kind of farm animal. His experience also includes maintaining structures, including electrical and plumbing, and in creating and maintaining herd books, including all registration data.
Wilson County Ag Management Committee chairman Jeff Joines shared his thoughts on his time with Tomlinson earlier this year.
“I came into this thinking we could change the world. There’s nothing that we’ve done – the committee or anybody else – could’ve done without the leadership of Larry,” said Joines, who said Tomlinson has become one of his best friends. “It won’t be the same without him. I appreciate all the guidance and his ‘calm downs’ he’s given me over the years.”