Hardy sworn in as city manager

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May 16—VALDOSTA — Valdosta officially has a new city manager: Richard Hardy, former director of public works.

Hardy is succeeding former city manager Mark Barber, who retired from his post Jan.31 after serving the city in various roles for 35 years.

While serving as interim city manager, Hardy beat out 34 applicants reviewed to be named the sole finalist for the position last month.

Mayor Scott James Matheson said Hardy was his first choice from the start of the city's search for a permanent city manager.

"He was my guy from the very beginning. So I was thrilled to see the process play out. There were 34 applicants, we took it down to five finalists. We did four in-person interviews after eliminating one, and after the in-person interviews, it was clear to us that Richard Hardy was the guy we wanted to lead. What made him stand out was his 33 years in the Air Force as chief master sergeant and then nine years running our public works, and then for the three months as interim manager, he was incredibly responsive to all the council and I think they all felt that," the mayor said.

Hardy will be responsible for overseeing the city's 10 departments, 600-plus employees and the city budget. He said he is up for the challenge.

"I'm very excited. I'm thrilled to be in this position and to make and have an impact ... Our infrastructure needs some work. and so that's one of my primary goals to move forward. Make sure that we get a hold of it, and then we can go from there. But that's one of the biggest key things that we need to do is work on our infrastructure and build those relationships with the community," he said.