Just two years ago, Evans Towne Center Park was an open, rutted field where people hit golf balls.
Now, on any day without rain, the popular park is packed with kids playing on the playgrounds, people strolling on the sidewalks or picnicking in the grass and pet owners watching their dogs romp in the dog park.
The man largely responsible for the site’s transition from simple to spectacular is Paul Scarbary, facilities services manager for Columbia County Construction and Maintenance. For overseeing the park’s creation, along with other county construction projects, Scarbary was named Columbia County’s Employee of the Year for 2012.
“I have a whole lot of people around me making me look good,” said Scarbary, who left his job as a commercial contractor to come work for the county six years ago.
Changing from private life to public had a steep learning curve, he said.
“You go from making all the decisions yourself, going from looking at it with the contractor’s eyes to looking at it from the owner’s aspect,” Scarbary said. “It was quite a big jump.”
Also making that “jump” was Chip Mobley, who 10 years ago closed a commercial contracting business and now works under Scarbary.
“I think Paul and I agree the transition from private to public was eye-opening,” Mobley said. “Things don’t move as quickly in government. There’s just too many checks and balances, too many regulations in the public sector to move things as quickly as private.”
Even so, Scarbary manages to navigate those detailed projects thanks to his private-sector experience, Mobley said.
“He’s very knowledgeable, he’s fair, he’ll stand up for his employees and their decisions,” Mobley said. “He’s a man of his word.”
In addition to Towne Center Park, Scarbary also was responsible for the start-to-finish work on several other county projects, including the construction of Building C at the Government Complex, construction of the new Animal Services office and the completion of master plans for the county’s campuses in Appling and Evans. He also oversaw installation of the county’s broadband utility.
“Paul has put his heart and soul into these projects,” said Columbia County Commission Vice Chairman Ron Thigpen.
That especially includes Towne Center Park, whose success has been a great source of pride for Scarbary.
“I think we really did hit a home run with the park,” he said. “Seeing the use of the park, to take that from an open field and seeing the number of people who use the park and are so pleased with it, that makes you very proud.
“I’d like to say that I could take credit for it, but there are very many people behind the scenes who made it happen.”