Worthy picked as finalist for Abbeville post

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By Travis Jenkins

Sandi Worthy nearly went from running the City of Chester to running the County of Abbeville.

According to the The Index Journal of Greenwood, Worthy was one of two finalists last week for the position of Abbeville County director. The job ultimately went to David Garner, who had local ties to the county after serving as the administrator of Calhoun Falls, a municipality within Abbeville. Still, Worthy said it was an honor to have been selected as one of the final two in a pool that included dozens of highly qualified candidates.

“I was very excited that Abbeville County thought my credentials were suitable to be considered a finalist to manage their county operation,” Worthy said. “I met with the council and had a great interview, but I understand the manager from Calhoun Falls is very local and understands Abbeville County. There would be a steeper learning curve (for me),” she said.

Worthy stepped down as Chester City Administrator on April 24 after nearly four years on the job. She had been on medical leave and said, “didn’t want (her) absence to hinder any potential growth” for Chester. At the time, she gave the News & Reporter a list of accomplishments, including that the then-current fiscal year budget did not rely on the fund balance for operational expenditures (a change from previous years). Worthy developed an economic incentives toolkit for small business owners and historic property owners, which she said the council has been deliberating for a year-and-a-half. Worthy helped introduce the idea of a hospitality tax to defray the cost of events that draw tourists to the area and a Sunday alcohol sales referendum (which passed) that increased revenue to the city. Worthy said she spearheaded the first comprehensive planning process for land use in the city since 1998, developed a city mulch site which resulted in cost savings and revenue production, successfully transitioned city property tax collection to the county, collaborated with the Palmetto Trust for Historic Preservation to stabilize, place easements on and market significant but dilapidated historic homes in the city, reinstated centralized grant writing and administration (the city is on track to achieve $1 million in new grants by the end of 2017) and facilitated a grant for the Smithsonian’s “Way We Worked” traveling exhibit (which is now visiting Chester).

She and Chester City Council did not always see eye-to-eye. Chester City Council actually went against the wording of its own handbook where hiring department heads was concerned in 2016. The normal procedure as laid out in the city handbook was to have the administrator and human resources director review all applications, weed out those that didn’t meet minimum requirements and then forward those remaining to the council for consideration. The council decided that everyone on council should get every application whether they met qualifications or not. In the last meeting Worthy attended (in February before beginning a medical leave) the council voted to nullify a “recruiting and standards” position she attempted to create. Worthy deemed the position necessary because she said the police department was struggling with officer retention and training. She once clashed over her role with Mayor George W. Caldwell, who chastised her for evaluating and disciplining city employees, though she countered doing so was mentioned in her job description.

Worthy has not ruled out working in public administration in the future, said her experience in Abbeville was positive and said she does have another job lined up, though she declined to offer specifics at this time.

“To have met them and seen a very well-organized, team-oriented council was refreshing,” she said of her Abbeville interview. “It would have been a tough decision for me since I already have a prior commitment in Newberry, so things really did work out for all parties.”

Worthy said Abbeville was worth the visit for anyone, calling it’s downtown “a treat.”