After establishing a name for himself in the construction industry and being elected road superintendent in Polk County, Roy Thomason, Jr. decided to go back to college to earn his degree and inspire his sons to get their education. The Advance Business Program at Cleveland State Community College allowed Thomason the flexibility to work full-time and earn his associate degree in 18 months. 

Thomason enrolled at Cleveland State after graduating high school, but he didn’t finish. He joined the family construction business working on state and local projects that eventually grew into Thomason Construction, LLC.

As a child, he remembers his uncles saying that one day someone in the family should run for the road superintendent office. In 2012, Thomason was elected Chief Administrative Officer of Highways, also referred to as the road man, in Polk County. He has served three terms in this office.

“It came from a little seed planted when I was really young. Sometimes you don’t realize exactly the path that God places in front of you,” said Thomason. “My path eventually led to the point that I was qualified to be the Road Man. I decided that I was going to do something and make a difference in my county. It’s been a great adventure.” 

Thomason’s wife, Le-An, had a career in banking then decided to earn her teaching degree while their three sons were young. With a masters and an education specialist degree (Ed.S.), she now teaches business classes at Polk County High School including dual credit classes for Cleveland State.

In 2013, Le-An had completed her degree, and Thomason had a successful career in the road department, but he made the decision to return to college. He originally thought he would study engineering, but discovered the Advance Business Program at a Cleveland State open house. 

“I looked at the literature and realized that the (Advance Business) program was actually more of my path now with budgeting, accounting and management,” said Thomason. “The program has a detailed path, but it works great. I learned a lot doing the group activities. That really helped me with my job, working with people from different backgrounds and different personalities.”

Donna Brogdon, Associate Professor and Business Department Chair, said, “Roy is an awesome example of how to have determination, perseverance, and work/school/life balance. He was an exemplary student and has demonstrated how he has used what he learned in his work life.” 

“The program gave me a confidence that I didn’t realize that it would give me,” Thomason said. “I really cherish the moment that I finished my degree; I felt empowered.”

“Roy worked 40+ hours per week when he came back to get his degree in the Advance program, but once he started nothing got in his way to finish,” said Candice Patterson, Associate Professor and Director of the Advance Business Program. “I am not surprised at all at his success – great work ethic and amazing leader!”

All three of Thomason’s sons have attended or are attending Cleveland State. Derrick, worked on his HVAC certificate and works for Honda of Cleveland now. Jesse earned his associate degree in mechatronics and works in the maintenance department for Peyton’s Southeast. His youngest son, Cooper, just graduated from Polk County High School with a Mechatronics Level 1 certificate from Cleveland State. Cooper is already taking a summer math class and will start the electrical engineering program at Cleveland State in the fall.

“I wanted to finish my degree to say that I did it; you can too. The drive to finish was to inspire my kids to keep moving on,” said Thomason. “That is where my heart is as road superintendent too, to train the younger ones to keep the county moving. I’ve taken it as a personal goal to try to train replacements in my department because if I can train them now, then I know that the job is going to get done when I’m not there. That is our life story; we train our kids to be our replacements, and when we move on, we make room for them to grow.”

Thomason now serves as second vice president of the Tennessee County Highway Officials Association State Board of Directors. This year, he is running for his fourth term as the road superintendent in Polk County.

The next Advance Business group begins in August. For more information on the program, visit mycs.cc/advance or email advance_business@clevelandstatecc.edu.