Larry Sparks already had a long career when he arrived at the city of Oakwood — 32 years in various roles at the Georgia Mountains Regional Development Commission.
But he wasn't spent on energy, working the past six years on many initiatives as Oakwood's city planner, including the ambitious long-range plan, Oakwood 2030.
Sparks, 59, announced Wednesday he is retiring for good from public service effective the end of May.
"He leaves a void that will be difficult to replace. Larry has been a friend to me personally, and he has been a great friend to the entire city of Oakwood," City Manager Stan Brown said.
Sparks served as planning, regional and community director at the Gainesville-based development commission — now known as the Georgia Mountains Regional Commission — from 1973 to 2005.
"Through his (work there), Larry had a positive impact on Oakwood long before he joined our staff," Brown said. "Oakwood, as well as this entire region, has benefited from his knowledge and expertise."
During his tenure in the South Hall city, Sparks was involved in comprehensive planning efforts, such as Oakwood 2030, and a downtown "streetscape" project that he helped bring about through a state transportation grant.
Sparks "provided so much of the insight and vision behind Oakwood 2030. His hard work and dedication have truly set the table for a bright and promising future in our community," Mayor Lamar Scroggs said.
He also developed a full-time code enforcement division.
On behalf of Oakwood, Sparks served as part of the Gainesville-Hall Metropolitan Planning Organization.
He is chairman of that agency's technical coordinating committee, a position he has been re-elected to annually since 2007. The group comprises key state and Hall County area transportation and planning officials.
"That speaks volumes about his leadership skills," said Srikanth Yamala, transportation planning manager at the MPO. "He was a great asset to the MPO, and I will miss him both as a professional planner and a good friend. I wish him the very best in his future endeavors."
Sparks said he is looking forward to spending more time with his family, friends and church.
"I would like to say that my six years here in Oakwood have been the most satisfying of my career. I will cherish my memories of Oakwood," he said.