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Massey marks one year as Lee administrator

LEESBURG, Ga. -- As Tony Massey answers a visitor's question about accomplishments during his first year in office as Lee County administrator, a recurring theme emerges, one that comes with dollar signs attached.

There were some $130,000 in savings on a desperately needed communications system upgrade, $55,000 in savings on averted change orders at the library/conference center currently under construction, more than $50,000 in costs on ongoing road paving projects, new revenue and savings on garbage billing that will add up to around $143,000, and some $10,000 in savings on a badly needed website update.

For those keeping score at home, that's almost $400,000.

"I've been in this business for more than 25 years, and I've always felt it's a government manager's responsibility and duty to look for ways to save taxpayers' money," Massey said as he acknowledged today's one-year anniversary of his tenure with the Lee County government. "In that respect, it's been a good year.

"I knew we were doing some things that impacted the bottom line in the county, but until you sit down and add them up, you don't realize the significance. I think (the savings) are things this commission and this government can take pride in."

Massey followed interim Lee County Manager Al Crace in the position vacated by Alan Ours, who took a similar job in Glynn County, and the members of the County Commission he answers to give him generally high marks for his first year on the job.

"Tony started contributing from Day 1," commission Vice Chairman Rick Muggridge said. "He's taken the lead on several things we've accomplished, but since he came to us with a lot of experience, that's what we expected him to do."

Added Commissioner Dennis Roland, "As far as I'm concerned, Tony's doing what we hired him to do."

Lee Commission Chairman Ed Duffy, who works closest with Massey, said he's been impressed with the administrator's ability to work with county staff.

"It was a good day for Lee County when the board of commissioners hired Tony Massey," Duffy said. "We knew he had big shoes to fill when Alan Ours accepted a job in Glynn County, but Tony has handled himself well during the transition period by acclimating himself with the board, with department heads and with all the employees of the county.

"He works particularly well in keeping everyone informed with any decision that will move the county forward."

Massey came to Lee County after stepping down from his position as city manager of Frankfort, Ky. He worked at that position from 2004 until last year. Before that, he served as city manager of Bristol, Tenn., from 1996 to 2004.

Massey is all too happy to discuss the money-saving projects that have marked his first year in office, but he said it's always been his philosophy to look beyond the present.

"What we're doing today is important, but I think it's more important to take a look at what's going to be happening five, 10, 15, 20 years down the road," he said. "I call that 'thinking downstream,' and it's vital to this county's future."

Muggridge agrees.

"The easy part of being a commissioner or an administrator is handling the day-to-day operations," the District 4 (Century) commissioner said. "But if that's all you do, you've already failed. The hard part is looking at future issues and how they'll impact the community and addressing them now.

"That's the key difference between great communities and mediocre ones."

Commissioner Bill Williams notes that Massey's innovative plan to use in-house services, particularly by the county's Public Works department, has had a huge impact on the county's bottom line.

"What I like about the job Tony's done so far is the initiative he's taken to involve our staff in areas like the road projects and the library/conference center, coming up with ways to save the taxpayers money," Williams said. "In that respect, he's done a real good job."

Commissioner Betty Johnson was unavailable for comment.

Massey and his family -- wife Connie and high school-aged daughters Lindy and Bethany -- have had little trouble settling into life away from the government center. Both daughters are members of the Lee County High School marching band, and Connie Massey will be a member of the next Leadership Lee County class.

"The community here has opened its arms and helped us with the transition," Massey said. "It's always hard on a family to make a move like this, but it makes it easier when you're in such a family-oriented community.

"It's good to be back among folks who have good old-fashioned common sense."