For 38 years, Steve Bradley has called Bartow County government home. On Tuesday, he will celebrate his retirement as county administrator, official Jan. 1.
Bradley’s path to county administrator evolved, taking him through the tax assessor’s office and the district attorney’s office. He also served as treasurer under late Commissioner Frank Moore, which Bradley said is a position that evolved into the county administrator job.
The county will honor Bradley for his service during a retirement celebration Tuesday from 4 to 6:30 p.m. at the Clarence Brown Conference Center.
The Bartow County native became county administrator under retiring Commissioner Clarence Brown in 1993.
“I never really did even think about anybody else,” Brown said. “... I knew I needed some help. From '91, until whenever I hired him, it was rough. I really hired the right man there's no doubt about that. His knowledge, his honesty — he's one of the most honest people you'll ever meet. He's smart. He knows county government.
“He's kept me from making mistakes. ... He's given me advice throughout the years, and I think he's kept me out of getting in trouble with things. He's been outstanding.”
Brown said Bradley’s experience was key in his hiring
“With all the stuff that he's done, with all his background and then coming in, I'm glad to keep him for my 21 years that I've been here,” he said.
Once he became county administrator, Bradley said he really never considered anything else.
“The fact that I was working with somebody that I respected, in a job that I really enjoyed, I never gave thought to working somewhere else.”
Bradley’s son, Stan, said his father’s passion for his work was a standard he himself has tried to follow.
“Throughout his career, dad has had the opportunity to take other jobs making more money, but his heart has always been in county government, making Bartow County a better place for all of us to live and work,” said Stan Bradley, who serves as police chief in Emerson. “It was through dad's dedication that I learned the value of service to my community. I strive — every day — to model myself after the example that my mother and father have set for me both personally and professionally.”
The father of two is a graduate of Cartersville High School, earning his bachelor’s from West Georgia College and his law degree from Woodrow Wilson College of Law in 1979.
“The hardest part of the job — and the part that none of us relishes — is when we deal with HR matters, where employees are having to be subject to disciplinary actions and sometimes even terminated, and I have to be involved in that a great deal over the years. It's something I've never really enjoyed doing,” Steve Bradley said.
He added that serving in a fast-growing community presented its own set of challenges in the past 20 years.
“I guess the hard part and the challenging part was in being the senior staff person and dealing with first the growth challenges,” he said. “That took a lot of effort and planning and things like that, but that kind of switched when the economy went down to balancing the budget. And that's been very difficult for the past four years. That took a lot of staff time. When we say this, we're not just talking about ourselves — we're all working together on it.
“But the growth was a big challenge, and if we hadn't done a good job with that it would be harder on us now. That's made balancing the budget a little easier because if growth had been not managed the downturn would have hit us harder.”
Of his accomplishments as county administrator, Bradley considers the growth management plan as perhaps his greatest.
“That growth management plan set the tone for what we've been able to do in managing county government through the growth time and helped us so much during this downturn. Because, if the growth had been out of control, and it easily could have happened, then I think it would have been a lot tougher,” he said. “We would have seen a lot more loss in revenue, in property taxes and other things because it seems when you look at the counties who did have a lot more growth, maybe had a tougher time and had to do layoffs and things like that.”
Bradley said he has continued to look ahead for the county, coordinating with staff and incoming County Administrator Peter Olson.
“One thing that I wanted to do when I knew Clarence was serious about retiring. … But we knew this time was going to be his last term in office, his last four years, so when we got closer to the time, we started talking to the department heads about the importance of transition. We spent a lot of time working with them on things like finances and insurance and benefits and HR matters and planning and all those things,” he said. “Peter and I will continue working on things together.”
With retirement just weeks away, Bradley said he will shift his focus a bit closer to home.
“Well I'm going to be main taxi service for grandchildren. We have three small grandchildren and my wife has been providing daycare, at her choice, for the last eight years. … So I’m going to be helping out a lot like that,” Bradley said. “But I've got a lot of hobbies that I enjoy that I haven't really had the time for them. I enjoy writing and I want to do that.
“... I guess I kind of get that from my dad. He put together some things that ended up in a little book that was published and circulated locally called ‘Phases of Life,’ and I want to continue that for my family so they know the heritage about growing up in Cartersville and Bartow County as a youngster. Daddy gave us that, which we cherish, and I want to kind of continue that for my children and grandchildren.”
Stan Bradley said his father’s dedication to family is one of the gifts he passed on to his children.
“My dad is the most dedicated family man I have ever known. He always has put his family first. Mom and dad have always emphasized that no matter what your priorities are in life, that God and family always are one and two on that list,” he said. “My dad, of course, influenced who I am today. He was always quick to discipline when I got out of line but also quick with a positive comment when I was doing what I was supposed to.
“I learned a lot about commitment from dad, watching him in his professional life. He has always loved Bartow County and has proved it, time and time again, by putting the county’s interest, as a whole, ahead of himself.”