Institutional knowledge leaving both counties

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Institutional knowledge leaving both counties

Earlier this month, Richard Harmon, the long-time director of Columbia County’s Development Services Division, suddenly resigned to the shock of many throughout the county.

Since joining Columbia County’s government in 1999, Harmon has been a leader in maintaining the construction standards and code enforcement in a county that has exploded with growth over the past few years.

Several months ago, during the county’s reorganization, Harmon was clearly stripped of some of his duties. But county leaders insisted that the reason for the restructuring was simply because Harmon had had too much on his plate.

The county would run more efficiently if the workload was divvied up, they claimed.

However, since Harmon’s abrupt resignation, some insiders believe there might have been more to the county’s reorganization than meets the eye.

Meanwhile, Columbia County Administrator Scott Johnson now has his hands full with mounting stormwater problems, deteriorating roads and significant drainage concerns that all need to be addressed and repaired.

Harmon was knowledgeable in all of these areas, but now that he has packed his bags and moved on, it will be up to Johnson to figure out how best to juggle these issues and get them addressed.

It may be a rocky road ahead for Columbia County because it won’t be easy to fill Harmon’s shoes.

But an even bigger challenge is facing Columbia County’s neighbors.

Last month, Augusta-Richmond County’s longtime planning and development director, Georgia Patty, retired.

After more than 40 years serving this local government, Patty was probably the most knowledgeable person on staff with the county.

Whether he was talking about comprehensive planning, transportation planning, zoning, environmental regulations or code enforcement, Patty was thorough and accurate.

And to say that he was well-liked is an understatement.

Developers loved him. Commissioners loved him. Employees loved him. And the public loved him.

He didn’t sweat under pressure and he always had an answer when commissioners asked a question.

Not many department heads can say that.

Augusta has already hired a new planning and development director: Melanie Wilson. With a master’s degree in planning from the University of Virginia and as the former planning director of Wake County, N.C., Wilson seems extremely knowledgeable.

But it’s hard to complete with 40 years of experience.

Good luck to both counties. There might be some growing pains for the next few months, if not years.