By John Schaffner

The man CH2M Hill recruited to write the company’s proposal for handling the government services for the new city of Sandy Springs in the summer of 2005 and then to oversee the city’s start-up and stabilization is no longer a part of the city’s government or an employee of CH2M Hill.

Al Crace was the point man for CH2M Hill in planning the start-up and staffing of Sandy Springs’ services before the city had a mayor, City Council or city manager. Until he was let go Feb. 20, Crace served Sandy Springs as an assistant city manager.

Crace, who brought 30 years’ experience in managing local governments to CH2M Hill, said he was dismissed because of the recession and probably because at 62, the Roswell resident swas not on a career path with the company. “I am in the senior years of my career.”

He also said he was more expensive than some of the younger employees, and CH2M Hill “needed to make some changes due to problems associated with the economy.”

Before being recruited by CH2M Hill in 2005, Crace managed operations for several communities in Georgia. He was the city manager for Rome and the old city of Athens, worked for Gainesville to solve its police and wastewater problems, went back to work with the unified Athens/Clarke County government, then served as manager of Jackson County.

After Jackson County, Crace started his own firm, Al Crace and Co., consulting on municipal services and helping developers with project management. He is back running his firm out of his home but said the business of helping developers manage projects isn’t in the cards in this economy because “there is no development happening.”

As for the early days of Sandy Springs, after the cityhood referendum passed in June 2005, Crace the next month started writing the proposal for CH2M Hill to handle the staffing and operation of city departments and services. The company “got the nod from the city in September.”

Crace said, “Sandy Springs has been a splendid experience.”

He had nothing but praise for the city’s elected officials. “The elected officials have done an outstanding job. They have been very clear about what they wanted to do and what they didn’t want. That made it much easier to work with them.”

Crace said the elected officials set the tone for how the city should be run, then let the staff handle the day-to-day operations.

Sandy Springs’ elected city officials are “the best I have ever worked with,” he said. “It was an excellent experience.”