One of the things he enjoys the most about his job is seeing things move (even with government speed) from the drawing board to reality.
It is a little-known fact that Rome City Manager Sammy Rich was once voted Most Artistic among the senior superlatives at his native Murray County High School. So, it’s no surprise that today one of the things he enjoys the most about his job is seeing things move (even with
government speed) from the drawing board to reality.
“It hasn’t been that long ago that we had just The Forum with a paved parking lot with 86 spaces,” he says. “There was no Town Green, Third Avenue parking deck, or John Ross Pedestrian Bridge. What a difference these projects have made in our community. It has been fun to see projects such as these move from the conceptual level into reality.”
His road to Rome would begin after attending the University of West Georgia, where he considered becoming a landscape architect. “In taking classes, I ran into land-use planning and fell in love with that.” With an internship necessary to complete his undergraduate degree, Rich finished in Newnan. Taking a job with the Georgia Department of Transportation, he realized how much he enjoyed working at a local government level and with the public. It led him to locate in Carrollton as the county comprehensive planner. While there, he completed his Master of Public Administration degree.
His career path would lead him to northwest Georgia, and in 2002 he applied for the assistant manager position at Floyd County. “I always admired Rome with its shops and restaurants on an occasional visit, but I knew no one here. I interviewed with Kevin Poe, and darned if he didn’t hire me.” Four years later, he succeeded Jim Dixon as Rome’s assistant manager.
Upon the retirement of John Bennett in 2014, Rich was promoted to City Manager. “It feels like it was just last week,” he said. The city manager’s office maintains services, programs, and facilities that meet the needs of the community in a fiscally responsible manner.
While Rich enjoys the satisfaction of plans coming to completion, he is often challenged by the speed of government. “In private enterprise, shareholders are demanding a return on their investment and willing to accept a level of risk,” Rich said, “In contrast, the government is dealing with taxpayer money, and there is little tolerance for risk.” These vastly contrasting philosophical approaches often result in significant differences in delivery time.
“Inevitably, things that we deal with are complicated. When talking about real estate acquisition, you’re talking about environmental review; it takes time. However, I think some safeguards must be in place to make things right, fair, and just,” Rich said, “But on the other hand, I do get frustrated.”
Rome’s city manager believes the community is at a significant crossroads in time. The costly conversion to a reverse osmosis water filtration system to remove those “forever chemicals” can be transformative and a game changer for industrial recruitment. Likewise, the development of the River Arts District, the North Fifth Avenue, and West Third Street corridors offer unique opportunities for managed growth.
“There will be additional residential units and private investment opportunities. In addition, the streetscape will change how we think about that area and compliment the look and feel of Broad Street.” Rich is confident that the timing of new growth with planned improvements to Second Avenue will “sift itself out,” as he likes to say, at the end of the day. It will make that part of the community a destination for all of Rome and Floyd County.
Not one to be confined by geopolitical boundaries, Rich said the announcement of the Hyundai EV battery plant in neighboring Bartow County could impact Rome. The probability of attracting spin-off industrial jobs and fulfilling the need for housing for the thousands of workers at the plant between Rome and Cartersville could be in our future. “Since I’ve lived here, there’s always been an assumption that Atlanta grows to Bartow, and eventually, that metro keeps sprawling in our direction. So, it’s entirely possible it can affect our growth also.”
Fortunately, the city manager has over 18 years of executive-level experience and substantial experience in city management with a record of success in intergovernmental relationships, community and economic development, public-private partnerships, and a focus on building a team culture.