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New city planner gets to work
I want to help any way I can."
City Planner Jason Stewart

RINCON — Rincon’s city planner is getting accustomed to the lay of the land in his new post

“We’re getting there,” said Jason Stewart, who reported for duty Aug. 31. “There’s a lot of stuff going on.”

The Rincon City Council picked Stewart to succeed LaMeisha Hunter Kelly on July 13.  Kelly, who held the job for 13 years, resigned in favor of a position with Effingham Health System.

Stewart didn’t arrive in time to help generate Rincon’s list of projects for the Nov. 3 TSPLOST referendum. The projects, including much-needed enhancements to 9th Street, total nearly $7 million.

“I know a little bit about what is going on with it but I missed that discussion,” he said.

Still, Stewart has plenty to do.

“LaMeisha had a lot of irons in the fire, so to speak,” he said. “There is the continuation of that and I know we are talking about reworking our ordinances to get them more efficient. We are modernizing them and all that.

“I am working with (City Attorney) Raymond (Dickey) on that and one of the things that (City Manager) John (Klimm) wants us to do is kind of hone in on how we are seeking grant opportunities. I had a lot of experience in grants in other localities so I hope to be involved in some of that and help in other departments even if it isn't on the planning side of things.

“I want to help any way I can.”

A native Virginian, Stewart comes to Rincon from Asheville, N.C. He has a bachelor’s degree and master’s degree from Virginia Tech. He is also accredited by the American Institute of Certified Planners, the preeminent organization in the field.

Stewart’s work history includes stints as a town manager, county manager and assistant city manager/director of community development. He served as community development director of Fluvanna County, Va., where he was responsible for planning, building and economic development departments.

“You never know where you are going to find funding,” Stewart said. “There is rural development money for everything from like getting new police cars to renovating facilities. It just depends on how it is framed or the nature of the project. There are sources out there that, at first glance, you may not think are helpful to your project.”

One of the Rincon City Council’s goals is to develop a “downtown area” that it currently lacks.

“Every locality needs a focal point and I think Rincon kind of skipped that step,” Stewart said. “If you are trying to be more than a crossroads and become a destination, you need that. People kind of pass through on the four-lane (Ga. Hwy 21) but, sometimes if it wasn’t for the signs, you would think (Rincon) was just the continuation of Port Wentworth in some ways.

“That’s one of the things we are trying to get a handle on — building an identity.”