Aiken County administrator Killian announces plans to retire in July

·4 min read

May 10—For Aiken County government, it will be the end of an era.

County Administrator Clay Killian announced Tuesday night that he would be retiring July 20.

An emotional Killian described his decision as "bittersweet" in a letter he read to Aiken County Council at the start of a work session to prepare a budget for the county's 2023-2024 fiscal year.

There were tears in Killian's eyes and his voice shook and broke as he addressed the panel at the Aiken County Government Center.

"I am extremely proud of the work that has been done and the organization that we have built," Killian said. "Public service is a high calling, one that was embedded in me by my grandfather, who served on my hometown's county council for 29 years. Because of him, local government is where I always wanted to serve, and I have been blessed beyond measure to have been able to serve four communities in our state."

Killian also stated in the letter that "for the last 21 years, it has been the highest honor of my nearly 40-year career in local government to serve as the county administrator for Aiken County."

Killian, 64, became the county's administrator in November 2001.

"I just feel like it is probably the right time," said Killian of his decision to leave the position. "There is no good time, because we're so busy, but it seems like it's the right time for me to make the change. I love this place. It has been a great job. Not a tribute to me, but this organization is in great shape. We've got good people in good places. We've got a great team. I'm confident that it will continue to go very well here."

After Killian retires from the county, he will continue to work.

"I've been talking to a company for two years — I can't tell you who it is yet — and they indicated to me that when I felt like the time was right, they would like to talk to me about coming to work for them," he said. "We worked out an arrangement for me to do that. It's not a local firm, but I'm not moving because I will be working from home a good bit."

The deal was finalized Monday evening and Killian, who lives in the Montmorenci area, signed an agreement Tuesday morning.

"It's an opportunity to do a lot of what I'm doing now, just in a different way," he said. "I'll be assisting other counties with the challenges and the issues that they're having."

County Council Chairman Gary Bunker praised Killian for his efforts as a leader.

"I think he is a brilliant, hard-working, dedicated man who has devoted over 20 years to Aiken County," Bunker said. "It's hard to calculate how much he is going to be missed when he leaves.

"He is simply an outstanding administrator and someone who truly understands the ins and outs of county government in South Carolina," Bunker continued. "He's been a real asset to our county and a real asset to our citizens. I just can't say enough good things about him."

Aiken County Sheriff Michael Hunt, who was at the work session, told Killian: "You and I have a relationship that most sheriffs and administrators don't have. It just doesn't happen. And I think that's within the county as a whole, we have good relationships. I'm proud to call you my administrator, and I'm proud to call you my friend."

Asked how the county would go about finding a new administrator, Bunker said: "My intention is that we will have a replacement in place by the time Clay leaves. It is my desire that we do it through internal promotion.

"I don't see much sense in doing a search committee when it's most likely that we're going to pick somebody who is experienced and knows the procedures and processes and budgets," he added. "It just makes a whole lot more sense to do it internally. Of course, I'm only one vote out of nine (the number of County Council members), but that's my gut feeling."