COVINGTON, Ga. — Jarvis Sims may be new to Newton County but he was well-versed in the details of its economic potential before he arrived.
And that is what helped attract the veteran government administrator to apply for the interim county manager position in Newton County, he said.
"It was just my reading on the things that are happening in this particular region," Sims said. "I think Newton County is set for greatness, for explosiveness.
"I see opportunities here. I think the proximity to Atlanta — 45 minutes to Atlanta — as well as being on a major interstate, Interstate 20, creates great opportunity for this region and I'd like to be a part of it."
The Georgia native began work as interim county manager March 7 and has hit the ground running leading the day-to-day operations of most of Newton County government.
Among his first duties was preparing the 2023 budget for presentation to the Newton County Board of Commissioners.
Sims said he already is working with the finance department on the early stages of compiling the document and is sorting out the needs of the individual departments and government offices included in the annual spending plan.
In anticipation of the beginning of a round of public workshops for the 2023 budget process Tuesday through Thursday this week, Sims said he has met most of the 20 department heads individually and all those under his direct supervision in a group.
"The HR director as well as the chairman said I was coming into a great team of department directors that were dedicated and understood and knew their craft," Sims said, "I can tell that right away."
He also has worked to meet all the constitutional officers — sheriff, clerk of courts, tax commissioners and probate judge — as well as the district attorney and Superior Court and Juvenile Court judges.
Last week, he worked to meet representatives of the nonprofit organizations that annually seek appropriations from the county government, such as Viewpoint Health and Alcovy Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA).
The 2022 budget totaled $77.6 million in its General Fund and $118.6 million with all funds combined.
The proposed 2023 budget is tentatively scheduled to be presented to the Board May 24 with public hearings planned for May 31 and June 7.
Sims said his experience with Richmond County after years working in municipal government helped prepare him for the Newton County role.
He said his past experience working in Georgia governments — rather than coming from another state — also helped prepare him. Many Georgia counties mirror each other in the types of departments they operate, such as a landfill, public works and others, he said.
"You see a lot of similarities in the different counties in the state," he said.
Sims said his goal is for the county government to be innovative, transparent and effective while providing "excellent service."
The county government should have a consistent approach when dealing with the public — along the lines of how Chick-fil-A restaurant works to provide a consistent level of customer service at all its locations, Sims said.
The new interim county manager grew up in Atlanta and is a graduate of Walter F. George High School — which later merged with another school to form what is now South Atlanta High School.
Sims earned a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from Georgia State University, a master’s degree in business administration from Mercer University and an online certification in government digital transformation from Harvard University.
He said he first saw himself working in law enforcement rather than city and county governments.
After working in the private sector for IBM and Sears Credit, Sims began a 16-year career with the East Point city government. He began work as a crime analyst in the early 2000s and worked his way up to manager of capital projects and public safety administrator.
He then was hired as deputy administrator for Augusta-Richmond County consolidated government in August 2018 and stepped in as interim administrator when the administrator resigned in April 2019. He served a year and a half in the position — including the months when governments nationwide struggled to deal with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
However, he lost his job as part of a political reshuffling when a new administrator was hired in early 2021, according to a report in the Augusta Chronicle.
Sims said a "mentor" from Newton County he declined to name helped guide him along the way. He also regularly traveled through Newton County when traveling from Augusta to visit relatives in Atlanta during his time in east Georgia.
He agreed Newton County is facing the same challenge other public and private employers are facing in competing for workers as the Atlanta area emerges from the pandemic.
He said he is glad the county is considering doing a compensation study designed in part to make its wages more competitive.
However, the Newton County government already has a "family environment" that helps convince existing employees to stay and could help attract new workers, Sims said.
"Sometimes you don't have the family environment that I've experienced here so far," he said.