Swaim Says Goodbye to City
After working for Powder Springs for more than seven years, the Public Works director looks to his retirement as an opportunity to travel with his wife.
After 7-plus years serving as Powder Springs Public Works director, Rodger Swaim will be saying goodbye to the city at the close of the workday and entering into retirement.
For Swaim, being a “public servant” was a big source of encouragement during his nearly 30-year Public Works career, getting calls from residents about problems like drainage and going to help them.
“I guess that’s probably the reason I stayed in it as long as I did,” he told Patch by phone Wednesday night. “They feel like they got a service with the money they’re spending (in taxes). And that’s what it’s all about.”
Swaim, 65, had his departure announced during the April 4 City Council meeting. His wife, Judy, influenced his decision to retire so the couple can travel and spend time with their daughter, who lives in Germany. Altogether, the couple has four children, all McEachern graduates, and two grandchildren.
Mayor Pat Vaughn said during Wednesday’s council meeting that Swaim “has done a very good job as our Public Works director.”
“It has been a true pleasure to work with Rodger. … We are going to miss him,” she said.
A Powder Springs resident from 1972 until moving to Dallas roughly seven years ago, Swaim first came to the city in 2004 after working as Public Works director for Floyd County for 11 years. “It was just a supreme opportunity to be able to find a job with the city.”
During his time in Floyd, he said the most eventful time in his career happened.
“Here in the South, you just don’t see snow like that and probably never will again,” he said of the 18 inches in 1995 that kept him confined to the county’s department for four days. Coming from Powder Springs, it took him three hours to get there, but leaving wasn’t an option.
“The snow got so deep that the roads were impassible, so I was stranded up there.”
Swaim spent four years in the Navy during the Vietnam War. He attended Southern Polytechnic Institute under the GI Bill and earned associate’s and bachelor’s degrees in civil engineering and an associate’s degree in architecture.
He started out in the private sector, working for Georgia Power and a consulting firm, before getting a job in Public Works in Douglas County. There he would work for 11 years until taking the job in Floyd.
When he started in Powder Springs, he said the city was “bombarded with development.”
“We were anticipating somewhere close to 800 or 900 new houses that were pretty much proposed to be built, so they developed the subdivisions but they didn’t build the houses” because of the economic downturn, he said.
But Swaim said there are still reasons to be hopeful, including the inquiries the city is getting about finishing the subdivisions. And while waiting for the housing market to bounce back, the 26-person staff that works under him has been “lean and mean and we’re trying to make due with what we are getting as far as revenues."
Last week, family, friends and Public Works employees threw a surprise going-away party for Swaim. They set things up at the department while one of the supervisors drove him around town.
“And it was legitimate things that we were looking at,” he said. “I was in shock to say the least.”
For his last day, Swaim said he will be finishing up paperwork, going over some things with Public Works employees, and heading to lunch with the mayor and other department heads.
The city is looking to bring in an interim director until a permanent one can be found. Today is the closing date for submitting applications for the position, which oversees the city’s water, sanitation, sewer and streets.
Swaim said he will have no problem with making special trips back to the department to assist the incoming director.
“I’d be more than glad to help that person get started and show them the ropes,” he said, noting that he left some guide sheets about his work. “I’ll make myself available at any time if they need help to get through some rough times.”