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Oakwood in no rush to replace city planner
30-day evaluation of position is planned
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Larry Sparks, planning director for the city of Oakwood, has worked for the city for the past six years. Sparks will retire from his post May 27. - photo by SARA GUEVARA

The city of Oakwood doesn’t plan on rushing to replace retiring planner Larry Sparks.

City Manager Stan Brown said he plans to assume some of Sparks’ duties after he leaves May 27, with Assistant City Manager Patti Doss-Luna picking up other tasks.

“We’re going to evaluate (the job) over a 30-day period and based on that, we’ll determine if we need to make any kind of modification to the position before we put it out for advertising,” Brown said.

He said he plans to fill the crucial position, but “if I spend some time in that area, I can have a better sense of what (Sparks) was working on and what the priorities are, which I think will help guide us in selecting the right candidate.”

A plus for the South Hall city is that it has a clerk handling permits and a building inspector in the planning department, which has seen a spike in activity over the past few months, Brown said.

“They do a good job of handling the day-to-day development processes,” he added. “And I’m doing engineering review on plans, so I’m plugged into the process as well.”

The steps the city plans to take “doesn’t diminish any of (Sparks’) work to our organization,” he said. “I just think you don’t always try to fill a hole by restocking.

“I think it’s important for me as a manager to help fill that gap for the short term and we’ll go from there..”
Sparks, 59, has worked as Oakwood city’s planner for six years.

He served as planning, regional and community director at the Gainesville-based Georgia Mountains Regional Development Commission — now known as the Georgia Mountains Regional Commission — from 1973 to 2005.

During his tenure in Oakwood, 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. He also developed a full-time code enforcement division.

Sparks listed Oakwood 2030, an effort involving many people, as among his proudest accomplishments.

Also, “up until I came here, the city had never applied for any kind of grants,” he said. “I was able to be somewhat successful in getting some grant money coming into the city for several different projects.”

Also, on behalf of the city, Sparks served as part of the Gainesville-Hall Metropolitan Planning Organization, including chairman of that agency’s technical coordinating committee since 2007.

“He definitely will be missed,” Brown said. “Over the last six years, there are things that would have been tough to do without Larry.”

Sparks said he is looking forward to spending more time with his family, friends and church.

“I’ve got mixed emotions. I hate to leave the position here and the many friends and contacts I’ve made. And the City Council and staff here is great,” he said. “... I almost wish I had the longer part of my career here.”

Oakwood now has a second key position that will be vacant soon.

Doss-Luna announced Friday she is retiring effective June 30. Initially hired as the city clerk, she has served the city for 25 years.

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