et ready for the rare opportunity to really get inside the workings of your local government.
NEWLY APPOINTED CITY MANAGER, SAMMY RICH,
has fallen in love with our beautiful city, and he is excited about all the new things we will be able to enjoy in our own backyard. With plans to expand our city’s revenue reach, it’s easy to see why he is preparing to brighten up Broad Street and keep our cash registers full of dollars, courtesy of the good folks who don’t call Rome home. Lucky for us, he says that the locals will get to play in the sandbox too. V3: So give me a brief history on the man, the myth the legend, Sammy R ich. Where did you grow up, go to school?
SR: I’m originally from Chatsworth and I grew up in Murray County. I had a great American childhood up in the mountains before I moved off to go to West Georgia College in Carrollton, where I received a bachelor’s degree in geography and planning. I decided to stick around and go to graduate school. I took a year off from college before I went back to West Georgia to get my MPA. After that, I worked for the Georgia Department of Transportation. From there, I became the county planner for Carroll County. I moved to Rome back in 2002 to be the assistant county manager. I spent some time as the county manager and moved over here in 2006 to be the assistant city manager after my predecessor, Jim Dixon, retired. Seven years later John Bennett retired. Since July 1, 2014, I have had the privilege of being the city manager. That’s it in a nutshell. What did you aspire to do when you first started college and when did it become apparent that your current career path was indeed your calling?
SR: It’s funny that you should ask that because in high school my superlative was “most artistic,” so what are you going to do and how are you going to make a living? Originally, I thought maybe landscape architecture. Didn’t know if I would stay at West Georgia because I kind of grew up a Bulldog and always thought I would end up in Athens, but just as luck would have it I wound up in the planning program and really fell in love 22 v3 magazine
with that. My first job, which really finished my degree because it was an internship/job, was working in the planning department for Coweta County in Newnan, and I fell in love with local government. That was the first exposure to what it’s all about. It really becomes a calling because, you know, I tell folks this is where the rubber meets the road. It’s one thing for you to be mad at your congressman, mad at your president but it is easy to get down to city hall. You can physically come down here. If you have a problem, you can come tell us; you can pick up the phone and talk. It’s really that first line of defense. The beauty of this business is you never know what the day will hold. Day by day, you are always going to do something new, a challenge when people walk in the door or pick up the telephone.
Was there a specific moment at that first position where you said to yourself, “This is what I’m going to do for the rest of my life?”
SR: I don’t think it was that divine. I will tell you it was sort of the evolution. As I was finishing my degree and driving to Newnan, I got that exposure to local government, going to commission meetings and just dealing with the day-to-day interactions. I think the big thing is you are like, “Wow, I get to help people.” In the government business, you are looking for a reason to say no, and some of these communities want to regulate. You can regulate your community into obscurity. I take the position that we’re here to make the community thrive. I see my role as figuring out what else we can do to build a cool place so that entrepreneurs can come here and be successful. So you look at Broad Street and to me it’s a great incubator. You put a little public money, public investment and you let the private investment follow it. I think that’s exactly what we have here. So we try to balance that. Of course, we are going to do all the things, we are going to keep you safe, we are going to have to put fires out when things are burning, we are going to arrest the bad guys. But what else do you do? What about those quality of life things like the Town Green or the Urban River Walk-type things that make a difference in just an okay community and a real community you want to be a part of? One that you want to move your business to and you want to raise your family in? I’m all about let’s build a real community; let’s build the real stuff. Tell our readers about the road to Rome, Ga., and your first impressions of our fine city.
Never really being a Roman, other than just driving through, you definitely get a different
impression. I have told people in Atlanta that say, “I took my daughter to Berry” that you have to come downtown to really get the essence of what our community is about. You really have to feel the downtown experience. So, Rome is kind of a different story. It’s sort of two worlds, the urbanized area and then you have the outlying areas. So it really is two worlds because if I’m up at The Pocket I may as well be in Bozeman, Mont., or somewhere remote because it kind of feels like you’re in another world. And so, it’s unique. The thing that strikes me about Rome is we feel like a bigger city than we really are, and we are a small town. But we are not constrained, if you will, by thoughts of, “Oh, we are just a small town.” We are ambitious in developing our urban areas, but Rome wouldn’t have the same charm without all Floyd County has to offer.
In your time here, what have been the greatest advancements in our community?
When I got here, State Mutual Stadium was under construction. So it was a county SPLOST-funded project at the time. For the new guy, that was a really cool project and it was on the downhill side of completion. We were just starting to dream up the Armuchee connector at that time, and then the Tennis Center of Georgia became a focal point shortly after that. You know, a lot of folks think the time of government just moves so slowly and that’s true in the sense that to go from the conceptual process to having boots on the ground does take a while. The whole idea of the Town Green, bridge to West 3rd, parking deck, all that stuff were just sketches at the time I arrived in Rome. Just in my time of being here, now there is a 380-space deck, there is a Town Green, and there is the John Ross Pedestrian Bridge. And so, those things are coming to fruition. The whole idea of growing toward West 3rd was really the essence of that plan. Broad Street is doing ok. How do you get over there? How do you go to the front door of Floyd Medical Center? So, these are just a few of the pieces we must work to put together.
What can you share with us about West 3rd development and what do you believe that area will provide to the downtown area?
SR: Good question. From my perspective, you end up with something that is similar to what we have on Broad Street, but yet its own unique identity. So point being as it is now, what’s over there? You’ve got the first anchor, which was the old Rome Seed and Feed store that is now River City Bank. So huge investment on the corner. We reinvested in Barron Stadium. Then you start