When Charlie Beale thinks about Columbia County these days, what he pictures is much different than the county he remembers in 1976.
That's when he accepted a job as manager of the Columbia County Recreation Department, becoming only the second person to hold that role.
It's a job he has held ever since.
"There were 26,000 people in the county at that time," Beale said. "Since that time, (the recreation department) has just grown and the county has grown."
In August, Beale, 62, announced his retirement from the post. Today, a retirement ceremony will be held from 5-7 p.m. at Patriots Park. In addition, a presentation will be made at 6:30 p.m.
"Charlie has really been an icon for Columbia County recreation and will continue to be," said Scott Johnson, deputy county administrator for Columbia County. "He started when the program was very small -- one park. Since that time, he's brought in numerous parks and numerous programs. Our teams have won world series and state championships, all under his leadership.
"It will be tough to replace Charlie Beale."
Johnson said county Community Events Manager Stacie Adkins will be named the interim recreation and community events manager. Johnson added that Adkins has a background in recreation.
"We plan on advertising the position after the first of the year and seeking applicants from all over," Johnson said.
Beale has overseen a number of projects, from construction of Blanchard Park in 1976 to the opening of Blanchard Woods Park in 2007.
When he started, Beale said, the department had Roberts Field in Martinez, two fields in Harlem, and one in Appling.
Patriots Park opened in 1992 and was built in phases. It has housed the Columbia County Recreation Department offices since 1994.
In addition, the department built a second field in Appling, then two more fields in Harlem. Later, Riverside Park was developed and Reed Creek Park was planned.
Beale also oversaw the relocation of the Professional Disc Golf Association headquarters from Toronto to Appling and construction of the Association's International Disc Golf Center.
Beale, a Georgia Southern University graduate, served as director of the Georgia Recreation and Parks Association in 2000-01.
He earned the prestigious GRPA Professional of the Year award in 2005.
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