Barry Smith can't wait to trade the moss-covered oaks of Savannah for the pine trees, red clay and rapid growth of Columbia County.
Smith is the top candidate for the Community and Leisure Services director position left unoccupied after Frank Neal left Jan. 8. He will be officially voted into the position at the Columbia County Board of Commissioners meeting Tuesday.
"I was just very pleased that I was selected as the top candidate," Smith said. "I think I will do my best to earn my keep and maybe my contributions will be helpful to the development and quality of life in Columbia County. I am very excited."
Smith is an Augusta native who spent 13 years heading up Augusta's Trees and Parks division and, after the consolidation, the Department of Trees and Landscaping. He accepted a position as director of Savannah's Park and Tree Department in April 2000.
"Savannah is a beautiful city," Smith said. "I have certainly enjoyed every bit of my tenure here, but then, when I found out about the Columbia County opportunity, my ears perked up."
He was vital in the inception of Riverwalk Augusta, and was heavily involved in the planning and enforcement of the city's tree ordinance as well as the planning of Savannah's ordinance, which he just helped strengthen and make more enticing for developers.
Greenspace conservation is important to Smith, who took the position in Savannah partly because of the city's renowned urban forests. Through his experience with Augusta and Savannah, Smith has compared ordinances in cities all over Georgia and South Carolina, examining their successes and failures. He is ready to bring all his experience to Columbia County.
"I think greenspace is important and certainly contributes directly to the quality of life in any city," Smith said. "I think in Columbia County that mode or that direction or that concept needs to be emphasized. That is one of the things that was exciting about the job was to see the county growing rapidly and being involved with urban planning.
"Being on the ground floor of tree-ordinance development I think is one of the things that really perked my ears up with Columbia County."
Proposed changes for the Greenspace Committee, which would fall under his department, will be one issue waiting for Smith's approval when he starts April 21, said Board of CommissionersChairman Ron Cross. Commissioners have come up with some changes, but will not finalize anything until Smith has a chance to review and approve the plans.
"We will have (the committee) a definite program of pretty much by the numbers what we want to so as soon as he has got time to look it over and make sure we are going in the right direction," Cross said.
Smith and his wife, DeRee, also a native Augustan, are excited about returning to the place they both call home, though Smith must wait for his wife to join him in Columbia County after she finished up the school year as a teacher in Savannah.
Smith refused to tease himself by looking for a county home before the final decision Tuesday. If approved, he plans to submit his letter of resignation Wednesday morning.
"I am very excited to be a part of the growth of Columbia County - the Greenway development, the tree ordinance and leisure services," Smith said. "The position sounds like a very exciting position. There are a lot of things going on in Columbia County that I would like to be a part of."
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