After graduating from Georgia Tech and working as a traveling consultant, Steve Szablewski decided to apply as the county's first ever administrator. (WRDW-TV / Aug. 31, 2011)
News 12 at 6 o'clock / Wednesday, Aug. 21, 2011
EVANS, Ga. -- After 21 years on the job, Columbia County's administrator is retiring.
Steve Szablewski says he's stepping down to spend more time with his family.
He's seen the county grow and transform in the past two decades and News 12 sat down with Szablewski to talk about his next move.
He's calling it a mix of emotions. Thursday is Szablewski's last day with Columbia County, but he's ready for what life's about to bring him.
Szablewski, 66, is packing the last 21 years into a few boxes.
"You realize that life has its phases like the year has its seasons and now I'm in the autumn of my life," he said.
As he packs away the years, Szablewski reflects on how it all started.
After graduating from Georgia Tech and working as a traveling consultant, he decided to apply as the county's first ever administrator.
"At first I wasn't even going to apply and then my father came down with cancer. I thought, you know, it might be good if I don't travel so much, that's why I applied for the job," Szablewski said.
And you can bet he's seen a lot of change in such a growing county.
"They had like 60,000 people in Columbia County, now it's 124,000. I see things, I know it's coming, I see the plans for it, but when you drive down the road and all of a sudden there's a shopping center there that pops out of the ground, or a new subdivision," Szablewski said.
The former county administrator considers the new Evans Judicial Center one of his biggest accomplishments.
"I remember people were saying, 'How are you going to sell this?' and I said, 'Well the courthouse we have now is 150 years old, so I think every 150 years you have to build a new courthouse,' and that was the theme of it," Szablewski said.
But projects like those aren't what he's going to miss the most.
"I think I'll miss the people, not the buildings, but the people," he said. "It makes you feel great that these people are going beyond and above the call of duty every day. That's what I'm most proud of is their attitude and their energy to get the job done."
An avid fisher, boater, and wood worker, Szablewski is looking forward to slowing things down.
"I need to change gears a little bit and do some things that I've been putting off, spend more time with my granddaughter," he said.
But before he goes, he has one last thing to say to the taxpayers.
"I really want to thank the citizens of Columbia County, they don't get enough thanks and that's what makes Columbia County great," Szablewski said.
Szablewski is moving to his coastal Georgia home. He jokes that his wife has a list of projects for him to start on.
Scott Johnson, a Harlem native, is stepping into the county administrator job after Szablewski. He's been the deputy administrator for more than three years and officially took over Aug. 1.