When Stan Brown arrived as city manager in Oakwood 16 years ago, the South Hall city had Mundy Mill Road, Interstate 985, and some retail and industrial growth.
And “there were some areas in decline,” he said. “We had a challenge of having enough sewer capacity to grow like we needed to grow.”
Much has changed in the years since, particularly with roads. Improvements were made at I-985, including a new Exit 17, and Thurmon Tanner Parkway was built.
“It’s been a good ride,” Brown said, not referring to the bustling traffic that now fills the city’s roadways, but his tenure as city manager.
“I’ve enjoyed being here. I just felt like it was time to close this chapter and go to the next,” he said in an interview in his office last week.
Brown, who retires from his post Friday, Feb. 28, said in an interview in January announcing his retirement that when he became eligible to retire in the fall, “my wife and I gave it a lot of thought, consideration and prayer over the holidays, and decided it was the time to go ahead and do this.”
“It’s been the longest job I’ve had in local government,” he said. “You put your heart and soul into it, and I feel like I’ve done that. It’s been a great experience — and good people to work with. I think, as a team, we’ve made a big difference here in our community.”
Overseeing vast growth has been a huge task — and source of pride — for Brown.
“There have a lot of development demands on us, and a lot was happening before the (2007-09 economic) downturn took place,” he said. “The Braselton agreement (over sewer) helped us, and we were able to get more capacity from Gainesville … and Flowery Branch.”
Brown sees those early years of this tenure as a “transition time” for Oakwood.
“We were trying to grow up as a city,” he said.
One challenge has been the city’s Oakwood 2030, a land-use plan the city rolled out in 2008, just as the economy began faltering.
“We had acquired land (for the effort) … so we had tied up our cash in land, and that was not a good thing (during the recession),” he said. “We were land-rich and cash-poor.”
He still expects a “good plan to come forth” from Oakwood 2030.
“It won’t be exactly like the (original) vision — but something that will be a big attraction for us in Oakwood and to spur on more things,” Brown said.
An Air Force veteran, his work over the years hasn’t been all about Oakwood.
He was deployed to Iraq for six months, returning in 2009 earning the Bronze Star medal for his service. He commanded 1,500 U.S. troops as the senior U.S. official in Basra, assisting with the transition of the Iraqi province from the British military.
He also served as the master planner in that area of Iraq, overseeing an engineering team conducting key construction projects.
Looking into the future, the 59-year-old Brown won’t be quitting work entirely.
He has accepted a job as a member service consultant for the Georgia Municipal Association, an advocacy group for Georgia cities.
Brown’s focus will be on North Georgia cities, including Oakwood, which he managed for 16 years. “It will be building on relationships I already have,” he said.
The new job will mean the end of living in Oakwood. For the past 11 years, he has split time between a rental home in Oakwood and his main home in Greensboro, N.C., where wife Cynthia lives.
B.R. White, the city planner, will take over as city manager March 1.
Brown’s departure will affect others, as well.
“I have learned a great deal from him and have always enjoyed our time working for the future,”
Flowery Branch City Manager Bill Andrew said. “In that we share a border, we have shared a common goal for quality growth in South Hall County, with everything from business growth to bike/pedestrian trails.”
Brown also has served as chairman and executive board member for the Lake Lanier Convention & Visitors Bureau.
“We are going to miss his thoughtful leadership,” CVB president Stacey Dickson said. “His calm and quiet nature brought a terrific balance to the often boisterous vibe of the tourism table.”