The Valdosta Daily Times
When Ken Garren was asked to step in at the Industrial Authority, it was a time of great turmoil in the late 1990s. The Authority had recently split from the Chamber of Commerce, it’s director left in disgrace, and the entire county commission was voted out of office following the decision to bring Sterling Chemical Co. to the community.
Sterling, known today as Erco Worldwide, remains here but the wounds the battle over the industry left community-wide were far-reaching and deep. Garren stepped into the role at the Authority after retiring from public service as the county planner, which followed his military career. His entire life was dedicated to his country and his community, and he served admirably at all he endeavored.
Among Garren’s many successes, the coup of attracting the Lowe’s Distribution Center and saving the Bayliner jobs by working with the OneGeorgia authority and Regal Marine were genius. He had many small successes as well, with a dozen jobs or so here and there.
He understood the need to work with industries of all shapes and sizes, and the need to create jobs on all levels, for the unskilled and skilled workers alike.
Garren was the most open Industrial Authority director by far. He did not hide behind pet names for projects and if he had a sensitive project, he was smart enough to give the media a heads-up and trust that when the time was right to make an announcement, he would get the maximum amount of coverage.
Savvy at marketing the community, working the right contacts at the state level, working with individuals locally, and maximizing his leverage with all of the above worked to his advantage. Garren didn’t lie or cheat; he didn’t overstate his successes or abilities; he didn’t try to create smokescreens to disguise failures; and he was honest and straightforward with everyone he dealt with — rare qualities in a person who worked in government service his entire career.
Sadly, the Industrial Authority has not had the successes in recent years, since Garren’s retirement. A combination of the poor economy along with lackluster leadership has left the current administration living on the success of the projects he began years ago.
All too often, men of Garren’s caliber come and go, unnoticed and unappreciated until the void left in their wake becomes impossible to ignore.
Ken, Valdosta was lucky to have you while we did. The community is a better place for you having been such an integral part of it for many years. That’s a legacy to make anyone proud.