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An Interview With Chuck Warbington, Lawrenceville City Manager

Chuck Warbington is the new City Manager for Lawrenceville, joining the city after a decade of leading the Gwinnett Village CID. We talked to him on his 60th day on the job, when his office was still clean and there was plenty of room to display his Georgia Tech memorabilia. Warbington, a Tech engineering grad, is a life-long resident of Gwinnett County.

What excites you about the job?

Waking up every day and having the opportunity to make a positive impact on a daily basis. When you’re in local government, whether it’s the city or a county position, you can truly change things in a positive way very quickly.

On the flip side, what keeps you up at night?

Am I doing enough? Am I doing the right things? Am I having the positive impact to the community that I need to have?

What are three top priorities for Lawrenceville right now?

Number one is I want to make sure that we have a downtown area that is vibrant. We’re really focusing on new development in and around the square. The city owns a variety of properties and we’re looking at how we can add residential, retail and also more civic elements to help our downtown become a vivacious community, both during the day and into the night.

Number two is making sure our customer service is at the forefront of everything that we do. We want to make sure (our customers) are treated very fairly, they’re treated with a smile, and with the understanding that they’re very important.

Lastly, is to continue the financial stability and history that has been here for many, many years. The previous city manager and administration have always been very frugal with the city money, and I want to make sure that we continue that.

What one thing do you want every resident to know?

I want every resident to know that the tax dollars that go to the city are spent well. Having just reviewed the financials, I can assure the residents of this city that there is a frugalness that is not normally seen through government.

What’s the biggest challenge?

The biggest challenge that I see, both from my standpoint and also from talking with residents, is the expectation that change can happen instantaneously. We live in a culture where connectivity is so easy and we all expect instant gratification. But not everything can be a quick turnaround.  For example, when we talk about cleaning up various properties that have been problems for 20 or 30 years, what has taken 20 or 30 years to accumulate, is not going to be changed overnight. I want to make sure we manage those expectations and have well thought-out plans.

What’s on your bucket list?

I’ve always wanted to go to the Grand Canyon. We decided about six to eight months ago, with our oldest becoming a senior, now is the time to make sure we do that. In two weeks, we’re going.

What’s next?

We have just submitted the budget so we’re working with the mayor and council, going through the details of a $139 million budget line by line.  (We’re) setting the wheels in motion for next year as we implement that budget and plan some great developments for next year.

Developments? Such as?

We are looking at the 40 acres between City Hall and the First Baptist Church, which also includes the Lawrenceville Lawn, and is owned by the city of Lawrenceville. We are marketing that as a mixed use development — all the way from assisted living senior housing to millennial housing and millennial apartments, with a mix of retail as well as office. You’re going to see a very dynamic $500 million plus development that would enhance our immediate downtown, just one block off the square. It’ll have a mix of civic places and urban parks. It will be a place for people to live. It’ll be a place for people to do business. It’ll be a place for folks to come and relax and visit on the weekend.

Is there a start date?

We’re in the conceptual stages. We’re talking to various developers. We’re contemplating different ideas. Obviously public input is going to be huge, but we need to start first with an overall plan. We’re in the process of developing that, and then the public will be heavily involved in what this ultimately looks like.