BY A.J. DUGGER III
Friday, April 28, will be Mary Pearce’s last day as the executive director for the Heritage Foundation of Franklin and Williamson County.
With her departure will go her title: Bari Watson Beasley will step into the leadership position with the title CEO.
Pearce has been a big part of preserving the history and historic resources in Williamson County. And although she will not be officially working anymore, she says Franklin can still expect a lot more from her.
“I will continue to refocus my skills and experience to save the places that matter, that tell our stories and build community,” she told The Franklin Home Page. “It’s been a great journey over a long period of time to work with amazing people from the city, the county, citizens to see if we can save the places that matter.”
Pearce was born in Somerset, Ky., not quite 200 miles from Franklin. She has always had an appreciation for historic buildings and properties. In fact, that was one of the reasons why she attended Transylvania University in Lexington, Ky.
“Transylvania was founded in 1780. It was the first university in Kentucky, and it’s among the oldest universities in the United States,” she said.
After college, she moved from Lexington to Charleston, South Carolina. “It was in Charleston that I really got more involved in historic preservation. I lived in an old building downtown.”
After having two children, she moved to Franklin in 1978. She wanted to be closer to where she grew up, but found that Franklin was better than she anticipated.
“I came to Franklin thinking it was a small sleepy town. There was so much history and historic structure here, and so much beautiful farm land.”
Pearce has watched the city blossom tremendously over the years.
“What really brought on the most rapid growth was when General Motors announced that they were building a plant in Spring Hill. Everything after that is B.S. (before Saturn). The plant put Franklin on the national radar.”
The history of the town also makes it a historic landmark for many reasons. “I really think the fact that we have preserved historic buildings gets to the heart of what people love about Franklin,” said Pearce. “But Franklin also has an excellent education system, a great location and a natural beauty.”
Pearce became the executive director for the Heritage Foundation in 1986. Around this time, she worked closely with Rudy Jordan to bring business back to Downtown Franklin because a lot of the buildings were empty. It did not take too long for Pearce to help change that through community organizing and interaction with government. Over the years she has been instrumental in securing grant money and donations, fending off development considered inappropriate for the area, and turning even longtime skeptics into supporters as the efforts of the Heritage Foundation paid off.
Although Friday is her last day, Pearce does not use the word “retire.” Instead, she says she is merely “stepping away for a bit.”
She will not stay at home each day and watch life pass her by. In fact, she will be honored with the Distinguished Achievement Award from Transylvania University on Saturday morning, and is scheduled to receive the Woman Of The Year Award from The Brentwood Woman’s Club later this year.