Emotional goodbye: City manager steps down amid accolades
GREENWOOD, S.C. (AP) — Charlie Barrineau’s first job after finishing graduate school at the University of Georgia in 1999 was a roving administrator the Lower Savannah Council of Governments in Aiken.
He was there for only a year. A blip on his resume, but a small reminder that he actually worked anywhere else besides the city that he has grown to love over a nearly 20-year career.
From shepherding millions of dollars’ worth of grants into the city for improvements to Uptown streetscapes to growing the Festival of Discovery into a nationwide mecca for barbecue and blues enthusiasts, Barrineau — for many — is the face of Greenwood itself.
He joined the city as assistant manager in 2000, ascending to the top position in 2009 after current County Council chairman Steve Brown retired from the post.
In December, Barrineau will step down as the Emerald City’s chief administrative official to prepare for a job as a field services manager with the Municipal Association of South Carolina.
“A number of months ago, I just had on my heart that I was interested in a new challenge and my wife Leslie and I prayed together and talked a lot, and asked the Lord to help with an answer,” Barrineau said. “About the same time, this position came open and the aspects of the job — team building, relationship building, teaching, are things that I’m really interested in.”
Barrineau met with department heads on Wednesday afternoon and spent the day reaching out to current and former colleagues, who are as much personal friends as professional peers.
“Charlie has been such a dedicated city manager. Frequently, I would be walking with him and he would stop to pick up a piece of litter. That type of focus really brought our Uptown to new heights,” said outgoing Mayor Welborn Adams, who’s worked with Barrineau for 10 years. “He is to be commended for giving Greenwood all his attention.”
Barrineau and mayor-elect Brandon Smith acknowledged the timing of his announcement may appear suspicious, but both quickly discounted that notion. Their families are close, and they both attend Main Street United Methodist Church.
“He insisted that we meet this morning, and it was surprising but yet not surprising, in that he’s a rock star in the city management world, and we’re lucky to have had him for 18 years,” Smith said. “I am sure people are going to twist this as if he’s leaving because of me but I know Charlie as well as anybody can, and I don’t believe it’s because of me.”
Barrineau said the results of Tuesday’s election had no bearing on his decision.
“I hate the coincidence with the election. It has nothing to do with whether or not Brandon or Annette would have won. This was going on in my heart months ago and at the end of the day, I have to do what’s best for my family,” he said.
He plans to stay in Greenwood through the end of the school year, and then relocate to the greater Columbia area.
Barrineau developed a strong working and personal relationship with County Manager Toby Chappell — a partnership that began before he arrived in Greenwood.
“When I was announced as the county manager in 2012, even before moving here, one of the first phone calls I received was from Charlie. He wanted to welcome me to the community, and we hit it off. Over the past six years, Charlie and I have always held true to our earliest agreement, which was that we may have to deny the others request occasionally but we would make every effort to work together for the better of the all of the citizens of Greenwood County,” Chappell said. “At no time in the last 6 years have I felt like Charlie did not uphold his end of that agreement.”
In October 2017, the American Planning Association named Uptown Greenwood one of America’s best neighborhoods, complimenting officials for carrying out the vision of a 2003 master plan that laid the groundwork for urban growth.
Floyd Nicholson, now a state senator, was Greenwood’s mayor at the time. He credited Barrineau with bringing the master plan to fruition — among his many other accomplishments.
“He’s been a true asset for the city of Greenwood. The positive improvements we’ve experienced, he’s had a lot to do with, and I really wish him well. I know he has to look out for what’s best for his family, but the citizens of Greenwood have a lot to thank Charlie for,” Nicholson said.
Reba Campbell, deputy executive director at the state’s municipal association, said Barrineau’s skill set was a perfect fit for his new role — which in a way, harkens back to that post-graduate school job as a roving administrator.
He’ll work closely with many of the state’s smaller towns and cities on local issues such as strategic planning, zoning and grant writing.
“Charlie has got a great instinct for the work he does, and we feel certain that’s going to very valuable as he takes his abilities into the field with other cities and towns,” Campbell said. “The type of help that cities need are very diverse and the two people in these positions have a lot of autonomy to identify needs. These two positions boil down to knowledge and respect, and Charlie has both.”
In his letter of resignation, Barrineau specifically thanked current County Council chairman Steve Brown for “taking a chance on a 25-year-old kid” when he was hired on in 2000.
Brown was city manager at the time.
“He’s one of the finest young men that I’ve ever been associated with. I was fortunate to be able to locate him, I think the city of Greenwood was blessed that he was wanting to get into this work and the years he worked under me, it was pure delight,” Brown said. “These jobs are tough, and I know that when you have to battle budgets like he does year after year after year, it’s not easy. When you’re No. 1, you have the whole load on top of you.”
Chappell echoed that.
“In the work life of a city or county manager there are oftentimes struggles, and it is helpful to have someone that understands those pressures. I was very fortunate to have Charlie as my counterpart and someone I could confide,” Chappell said. “I do not use the word trust lightly; so for me to say that I trust someone is as about as big of a compliment as I can give and I trust Charlie Barrineau implicitly.”
Hours after informing department heads of his decision Wednesday, an emotional Barrineau deflected any accolades for the city’s growth to them and their employees.
“Look at our Uptown today. The fire department is out there putting decorations on trees,” he said. “Greenwood has been good to my family and I, and I have nothing but positive feelings for Greenwood. But any success we’ve had as been a result of employees of the city. I can’t say enough about them, and I’m very proud of their hard work.”
Information from: The Index-Journal, http://www.indexjournal.com