Postal employees Suman Madkan (left) and Vivian Evans-Mays stand in front of the Evans Post Office. The postal boundaries determine the limits of Evans, which has been named the 32nd-best place in the nation to live by Money magazine.
Photo by Jim Blaylock
Anne Marie Harvey has a simple gauge for just how popular Evans is these days.
As the officer in charge of the Evans post office, she simply has to look at the number of new stops coming onboard for her office.
"Within the last year, we've had 725 more delivery points, and we've got several major subdivisions being built in Evans, which we will service out of this office," she said. "So, Evans is an excellent place to live.''
Money magazine thinks so, too. The national magazine announced Tuesday that Evans is No. 32 on Money's Top 100 list of Best Places to Live. The Money article will be featured in an August issue.
The high ranking came as no surprise to Suman Madkan, who works at the post office and lives in nearby Martinez.
"This is a very good community here,'' she said, looking out at several developments surrounding the post office. "I think one of the greatest things here is the school system.''
As news of the ranking spread through Columbia County on Tuesday, county officials began touting the city and its offerings.
"A lot of things have a role in it - the government, the board of education, the chamber,'' Columbia County Commission Chairman Ron Cross said. "But it's really, to me, a tribute to the people because you can't have this kind of thing without the people being pretty much unified in what they're trying to do and trying to improve the standard of living continually.''
Columbia County Board of Education Chairwoman Regina Buccafusco said she also is proud of the ranking.
"They said one of the criteria they looked at was the school systems,'' she said. "I'm really proud we could add to it."
Buccafusco has lived in the area for 26 years.
"Evans has changed a lot,'' she said. "You can drive by a street and two weeks later it looks different. That's amazing.
"I think it has kept up the quality of a small town, even though it has grown. The fact that people are moving here from all different places makes it an exciting place to live."
And when it comes to the city's residents, they have their own thoughts about why Evans is considered a best place to live.
"The school system obviously,'' said Earl Rodman, who now lives in Modoc, S.C., but lived in Evans from 1969 to 1985. "That's one of the reasons that got us out here ... and the government has always been good.''
Rodman said he remembers when Washington Road in Evans "was a two-lane road and all this was out in the country.''
Today, the area has a Wal-Mart Supercenter, an increasing offering of restaurants, a Kroger supermarket and a new courthouse complex all close to such reminders of Evans' past as the old pillars that line the front of Evans Middle School.
Evans Middle once served as Evans Consolidated School, which was dedicated on New Year's Eve in 1926. The archway and pillars lined the road that led to the school, which burned down in 1954 and was replaced with the Evans High building that now serves as Evans Middle.
Zack Daffin, the county's development authority director, said Money's ranking also will help Columbia County and Evans in an effort to market the area to new businesses.
"It's just another thing that we can certainly brag on to try and get the attention of someone that's taking a look at this area,'' Daffin said. "For example, we were working a project out of Orange County, Calif., and the vice president of marketing was familiar with Augusta but wasn't familiar with Columbia County and Evans. And just to be able to say Money magazine just named Evans as 32 out of 40,000 cities, you could see they got enthused and excited.''
Tara Kalwarski, a senior staff reporter for Money who worked on the Best Places story, said Evans was chosen based on several aspects, including low crime, good schools, good health care, arts resources and low unemployment.
With other major projects on board for the Evans area, including a new library, performing arts center and Blanchard Woods Park slated to be complete by next year, Barry Smith, the county's community and leisure services director, said things in Evans should only get better.
"The library and performing arts center are certainly going to add to the quality of life that already exists,'' he said.
Staff Writer Donnie Fetter contributed to this article.
Median household income per year: $76,380; Best Places average, $68,160
Air pollution index: 64; Best Places average, 90
Personal crime risk: 14; Best Places average, 69
Property crime risk: 27; Best Places average, 78
Average auto insurance premiums per year: $808; Best Places average, $855
Student-to-teacher ratio: 14.40:1; Best Places average, 15.37:1
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