Avondale Estates city manager celebrates five years with the cityAvondale Estates City Manager Patrick Bryant. Photo by Dean Hesse.
Avondale Estates, GA — In graduate school, Patrick Bryant wrote his thesis about how local governments can implement smart growth initiatives to dictate development. Years later, he’s getting an opportunity to deliver on his words in Avondale Estates.
Bryant didn’t always aspire to be a city manager, but always had an interest in politics. He grew up in Alabama, and politics and government were popular topics of conversation in the Bryant household.
He had dreamed of working in Washington, D.C., but had the opportunity to intern with the city manager of Mountain Brook, Ala., while he was getting his masters of public administration degree. During the internship, he was able to job shadow the city manager and really learn about the job.
“I loved [seeing] how the sausage was made,” Bryant said. “I was 25, and I was in the room for major decisions. There’s nothing cooler than that.”
Bryant was then an International City Management Association local government management fellow in Douglas County, Nev., where he worked as a budget analyst. From there he worked as an analyst in the city manager’s office in Santa Clarita, Calif., and was the city manager in Talladega, Ala., for three years.
Now, Bryant has been the city manager of Avondale Estates for about five years. He was attracted to the city because it’s similar to the communities he grew up in, and he believes in the work the city commission is doing and the goals they have set.
“They’re family-oriented, educated persons, close to an urban center. It’s the lifestyle I’m comfortable with. For me, that’s step one to a good relationship is that I can identify with the folks who live in this community,” Bryant said. “I thought [the city commission’s] goals were worthwhile and attainable. I wanted to be a part of the effort to see that come to fruition.”
The role of the city manager is similar to that of a chief executive officer of a small corporation. As the city manager, Bryant coordinates the work of the city’s departments, carries out policies and works to execute the city commission’s goals. He is additionally responsible for preparing the budget, managing day-to-day operations, hiring and firing personnel and serving as the city commission’s chief policy advisor.
Bryant added that he’s grateful for the leadership of the city commission and the downtown development authority, especially that of Mayor Jonathan Elmore and DDA Chair Dave Deiters.
“[They’ve] been transformative leaders who really understand the work and have provided us with the resources that we need in order to do it, which is incredibly important,” Bryant said.
Bryant looked forward to the opportunity to develop a thriving commercial district, as those opportunities don’t come around often.
“There aren’t many communities that have as much redevelopment potential. A lot of communities are already built out, or they’re zoned in a way that it’s almost a forgone conclusion as to what’s going to go where,” Bryant said. “Here, we had an opportunity to build all of that from scratch. We redid a zoning code so that the zoning code aligned with the downtown master plan.”
When he began this job, the city was in the process of releasing the request for qualifications to invite developers to make proposals for the development of the Town Green. And now construction of the park and market pavilion portions of the Town Green are done and work on the commercial development is expected to start in the next few months.
“The fact that we were able to catalyze the development that fit the vision of the community through a new zoning code and an urban town center that acts as the cornerstone or the anchor of that development, that right there is a source of tremendous pride,” Bryant said.
The city is also working to implement several plans and complete various capital projects.
“The work that we’ve done thus far serves a purpose – the street grid, the [U.S.] 278 complete street, the Town Green, trying to diversify the housing stock, trying to curate commercial development around the Town Green that makes sense to activate the space,” Bryant said. “All of that is near and dear to me because that’s the whole reason I got into the field to begin with. Being able to do what you set out to do when you began your career is incredibly fulfilling.”
He is most proud of the work the city has done around downtown development.
Bryant is also proud of the city’s financial management. Under his leadership, the city has established a capital fund, created a stormwater master plan and created a sanitation program that funds itself, increased the fund balance, and completed a classification and compensation study, among other things.
“We’ve got a stormwater fee that generates revenue that allows us to not only tackle stormwater management but also stormwater capital needs, and we’ve got a sanitation fund that fully pays for itself so we’re not borrowing money from the general fund,” he said.
But Bryant can’t do all this work by himself, he said.
“I’m also incredibly proud of the team that we’ve built here. We’ve got a lot of expertise on this staff, which when you have a small staff, and you’ve got a lot of stuff to do, it’s necessary,” he said.
The city has built a staff that has decades of experience, which includes Assistant City Manager Shannon Powell, City Attorney Stephen Quinn, Communications Director Ellen Powell, Police Chief Harry Hess, Planner Lori Leland, Public Works Director Marcel Jackson, and others.
“I’m very fortunate that Shannon was interested in coming to work here and being a part of the team,” Bryant said. “She has decades worth of experience in the very areas that we needed decades worth of experience,” Bryant said.
He added that Quinn is also a big part of the team.
“Having a city attorney with patience, who I can trust, who I can communicate with effectively helps me make better decisions, saves us time, saves us money, saves us risk,” Bryant said.
It’s up to the city commission to hire the city manager. Mayor Elmore said the commission hired Bryant because he impressed them as ethical and capable.
“He’s very competent and games things out,” Elmore said. “I believe we also saw someone we could get along with and trust.”
He added that the city probably wouldn’t have seen the progress it has without Bryant’s expertise.
“I mean, we can legislate all we want, but if we don’t have someone to make it happen, it’s all moot,” Elmore said. “He has hired really good staff, helped us sharpen our processes and procedures, and has led our largest project, the Town Green, to successful completion, amongst many others. And we just received the highest credit rating possible for a city of our size due to his financial stewardship.”
Assistant City Manager Shannon Powell added that Bryant finds creative solutions to complex financial challenges, and is a persuasive speaker on almost any city project.
“These traits have led to operational changes and capital projects, such as the Town Green, that are making Avondale a model for good municipal governance,” Powell said.
She added that Bryant’s hands-off approach allows the city staff to thrive.
“It is an amazing gift to work with an incredibly talented staff that is committed to the city’s vision and making Avondale the best possible version of itself,” Powell said.
In his free time, Bryant enjoys spending time with his girlfriend, Amber, and their dogs, Jack and Jolene. He also enjoys beer and wine, smoking meat and watching Alabama football. The pair is also going to try to take up pickleball.
Jack spent time at city hall as well during the COVID-19 pandemic when the building was closed to the public.
“He became kind of a helping friend who helped us get through those hard times and just hung out here,” Bryant said.
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