Sharon Subadan leaves behind long list of accomplishments

Carlton Fletcher, The Albany Herald, Ga.
·5 min read

Apr. 17—ALBANY — It's no secret that Sharon Subadan left behind an "enemies list" when she pulled out of Albany Friday after spending her final day as city manager of southwest Georgia's largest city.

You don't do the job she did for almost six years here and expect everyone's undying support. You make mistakes, ruffle feathers when you make tough decisions, run into people with jealousies. And it would be naive to think there weren't others who opposed her when she signed on as the city's top administrator because of her gender and the color of her skin.

But even Subadan's most ardent detractors cannot deny the life-altering impact she's had on a primarily Tier 1 community that's withstood the devastation of four presidentially-declared natural disasters that came on her watch, each having tested the mettle of a population whose standard of living is well below that of most of the nation.

"There have been so many little things in the time I've been here," Subadan said before her final day in office. "But there are some really big things as well: the fiscal standing of the city, the infrastructure improvements in place and plans to continue those improvements, the continued growth of our inner-city district, our standing in the state where we now have a place at the table; people listen to us.

"But for me, the team that we built here is the legacy that I'll leave behind. Working with other professionals, grooming them as they developed into leaders. They have already had a significant impact on this community, and now they're ready to continue to do so."

Subadan, who now takes over as county manager in north Georgia's Douglas County, said she had to overcome an initial culture shock when she took the reins of the Albany city government.

"Remember, you and I sat at the Hilton Garden Inn downtown and did that first interview the day before I signed an agreement with the city," she said. "I got an idea the next day — talk about culture shock — when my picture was on the front page of the paper, above the fold. That was a really big a-ha moment. I soon learned that what goes on with the local government is a big deal here.

"But in my time here I have truly made Albany my home. And it's not just the job. My mom got plugged in with the church, as my husband did with the school system, and we all made friends here who will remain our friends. I'd never really lived in a smaller place, but I loved the people here, loved the culture. I didn't know what to expect here, but I didn't come looking for a cushy job. I wanted to serve in a community with a large African-American population, to help people who looked like me advance their lives."

While Subadan pointed to the 60% growth of the city's net financial worth (from a fund balance of $21.5 million to a balance of $34.3 million), the ongoing improvements made to the city's aging — and, in places failing — sewer system, and the "fiscal prudence" of leveraging city taxes with state and federal grants to improve the quality of life in the city, she noted that a glance at the "Closeout Report" she prepared for Albany leaders as evidence of accomplishments under her tenure.

And while the list is indeed an impressive one, a Readers Digest condensed version underscores the outgoing city manager's impact:

— A total of $236 million in projects undertaken, including an advanced metering system ($20.8 million), combined sewer overflow separation ($105 million), ongoing asphalt resurfacing ($11.8 million), development of a downtown boutique hotel/fine-dining establishment ($13.6 million), improvements to the Southwest Georgia Regional Airport ($14.2 million);

— A balanced budget without using most of the almost $90 million in credits returned to the city by the Municipal Electric Authority of Georgia;

— No tax increases during her tenure;

— An average 20% pay increases for city employees;

— Redevelopment in the downtown district, including the Flats at 249 residential development, The Flint restaurant, Pretoria Fields Brewery and other new retailers;

— Plans to complete a long-delayed (almost 20 years) transportation center ($11.6 million);

— Creation of the Albany-Dougherty Land Bank,

— Replacing short-life-span lighting with energy efficient LED technology.

(For a complete, detailed listing of improvements, read the 56-page report.)

Subadan is, obviously, pleased with the accomplishments under her watch, but now it's time to move on, to focus on the issues awaiting her in north Georgia. Still, she said, she is not washing her hands of the city she called home for six years.

"It's really too soon to tell what the issues are that I'll face there," she said of the new job. "It'll be interesting to see what post-COVID Douglas County is going to look like. I guess the first duty will be to put together a 30-day, a 60-day and a 90-day plan. I know I'm going to a different world, but I'm looking forward to it.

"I will not, though, shake the dust of Albany off my feet. I will take calls and I will stay in contact with my friends. But I am a forward-leaning person, and I feel that my time in Albany is done. God brought me here for a purpose, and now it's time to see what my purpose will be as I move forward."