City Planner Keri Stevens was recognized as the city’s Employee of the Year in 2018. She is shown here with former Finance Director and Interim City Manager Ken Turner. Stevens, the first and only city planner in Avondale history, is leaving for a job in Gwinnett County. Courtesy City of Avondale Estates

Avondale’s first and only city planner leaving for job in Gwinnett

Avondale Estates’ only city planner in its 95-year history announced her resignation this week to take a job in Gwinnett County. Keri Stevens, who joined the city in July 2010, works her final day on August 23 before becoming Gwinnett’s Division Director of Real Estate and Records.

“It’s an advancement in my career but with a different focus,” Stevens told the AJC this week. “I’m excited to explore a new position. It takes an interesting skill set. [In Gwinnett] I’ll be involved with buying and selling real estate, whereas here I was more project focused.”

She leaves in the middle of her most ambitious and enduring project during her Avondale tenure. The city is still awaiting approval by the Georgia Department of Transportation of its concept report for reconfiguring U.S. 278, the city’s primary thoroughfare. Since 2013 Stevens and city officials have explored various design combinations, with the predominant goal of slicing 278 from five to three lanes.

Stevens also cites among her highlights as helping update the city’s downtown master plan and comprehensive plan, securing grant money for numerous projects, and historic preservation undertakings like the stabilizing of Carl’s Corner several years ago.

Stevens now becomes the last of the city’s top three staffers to leave in the past 18 months.

Clai Brown, city manager for 10 years, resigned suddenly in February 2018, and his replacement Patrick Bryant came on board the following September. In November 2018, Bryant created new staff positions by promoting Stevens to Assistant City Manager/City Planner and Ken Turner to Deputy City Manager/Finance Director. Turner, who like Stevens had been hired by Brown, resigned one month later.

Bryant has since replaced Turner with Paul Hanebuth, whom he worked with in Talladega, Alabama. But he told the AJC this week he’s still evaluating how he’ll re-structure or re-define the job for Stevens’ replacement.

“Right now I can’t speculate on what direction we’ll go in,” Bryant said. “I’d like to get someone here as soon as possible. But people like [Stevens] are difficult to replace. The city is going to miss her level of expertise and institutional knowledge.”

“It’s tough leaving here,” she said. “I want everyone to know I’ve really enjoyed working with all community members, our boards, commissions, business owners and staffers. Together, we’ve always had a really great team.”

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