ALBANY, Ga. — The city of Albany had a rare opportunity when it came to filling the Planning and Development Services director’s position that’s been vacant since Howard Brown left more than two years ago: A chance to hire a qualified candidate who’s not only familiar with the area but wants to be here.
City Manager James Taylor pulled the trigger on bringing Paul Forgey on board, and Forgey’s used the 10 days since Oct. 29 to acclimate himself to his third-floor office in the Central Square Annex building and to familiarize himself with the issues that await him.
“Some will say it’s just goofy optimism, but I see the challenges here as opportunities,” Forgey said Thursday afternoon. “When you consider the city of Albany and all of Dougherty County, I think this is a great place to work. I’m one of those people who likes challenges, and I look forward to being one of the people — because no one gets anything done working alone — to collaborate, cooperate and work together to solve some of our issues.”
Forgey comes to Albany after working the last year as planning manager in Glynn County, under the leadership of former Lee County Administrator Alan Ours. But he’s familiar with Southwest Georgia, having worked 16 years with the Camilla-based Rural Development Commission, now Regional Commission.
“Part of the reason I left (the Southwest Georgia Regional Commission) was because this job in Albany was available,” the new Planning and Development Services director said. “But when they didn’t fill it immediately and Mr. Ours called to tell me about the position in Glynn County, well, I needed to work.
“I stayed in touch with staff here, and when they reopened this position, I applied right away. It took a while for things to finally work out, but I’m excited about the opportunity.”
A native of Tucson, Ariz., Forgey elected to accept a scholarship to the Savannah College of Art and Design over plans to attend the military academy at West Point. He earned dual degrees in historic preservation and architecture and accepted a position as a historic preservationist at Jekyll Island after graduating in 1990.
Forgey stayed at his position on the Georgia coast for five years before moving to Thomasville. He completed work toward a master’s degree in public administration at Valdosta State University before accepting the position with the Rural Development Center.
There, he worked closely with the various governments in the region, mostly on long-range planning projects.
“Each community in Southwest Georgia has its own quirky personality, and their leaders have opportunities to look for community-based solutions to their unique problems,” Forgey said. “With the RDC/Regional Commission, we worked with those communities on mostly long-range planning.
“One of the benefits of working in Glynn County was having an opportunity to work on more immediate issues. In long-range planning, it may take 10 to 20 years to see an issue resolved. Working in Albany, we will still focus on long-range planning, but I expect some of those plans to get bumped by more immediate needs.”
Forgey said he’s already started looking at such issues as updating Albany/Dougherty County’s zoning ordinances, many of which are outdated, and a city charter issue that allows large commercial vehicles to remain in residential neighborhoods for a period of eight hours a day. That issue surfaced at the Albany City Commission’s work session Tuesday.
“Over the last 15 years, I believe Albany has made immense strides,” he said. “I believe it has the potential to be a major secondary metropolitan area. I believe we have an obligation to not only make changes that will benefit the city over the long run, but to educate business owners and the general public why they should care about the community’s greater good and not just their own bottom line.
“I think I have the ability to help make some positive changes here. But I’m well aware that it can’t be — it won’t be — just me. There are some talented people in place here who have been here a long time, and they’re here because they want to be. Together I think we can make some positive changes that will impact the people of this community.”