Columbia County has a couple of new faces, and the search is on for a third.
The recent hiring of Zack Daffin as the countys new executive director of economic development is the latest news, coming just as Barry Smith takes over as director of the countys Community and Leisure Services Division.
Smith is best known for the 13 years he spent as Augustas director of trees and parks. For the past two years, hes been in Savannah as director of that citys Park and Tree Department.
What an opportunity lies ahead in Columbia County: While the task in Savannah consists primarily of preserving the citys ancient trees and landscapes, Columbia County is a ground-floor opportunity - virtually a blank canvas.
Smith comes on board not long after the county has expanded its groundbreaking Evans town center tree protections countywide. And the new Blanchard Woods Park will soon be developed, adding more to the portfolio of parks and recreation services that Smith will manage.
A boost for Smith: The interim director prior to his hiring was Recreation Director Charlie Beale, whose rock-solid experience helps Smith hit the ground running.
The county wont miss a step, either, in economic development as Zack Daffin takes over.
The locals who interviewed and hired Daffin are effusive in their praise. We had a lot of people interested in the job, said Bill Coleman, chairman of the countys Develop-ment Authority. Daffin was No. 1 with everybody.
Its easy to see why. Daffin has a strong background in economic development. His most recent experience is with the Economic Development Partnership of Alabama in Birmingham. He joined the statewide public-private partnership just over two years ago, after a 15-year stint as an economic developer with Alabama Power and the Southern Co.
Daffin has a proven record of helping bring new investment to his former state, while building on important existing industries. Those assets will be a plus for Columbia County as it seeks new industry to help relieve homeowners of property tax burdens, while making sure current industries feel appreciated.
Daffins post was previously held by Bryan Quinsey, who left earlier this year for a Greeneville, Tenn. job. Its important to note the changes Columbia County Chamber officials made upon Quinseys departure: In addition to the economic development role, Quinsey had also carried the title of executive director of the countys Chamber of Commerce.
Those two roles are now split, with Daffin focusing on industrial recruitment and retention, and an as-yet unnamed Chamber director tending to more-traditional Chamber business.
Currently, Andy Kingery is serving in the interim role as Chamber director, and members of the committee searching for a permanent director promise to hire the newly incorporated Chambers first director soon.
After a Chamber director is hired, the last link in this chain is the community. These new players cant win all by themselves; theyll need citizens cheering for them if Columbia County is to move forward.
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