BARTOW – Bartow City Manager George Long was named Manager/Administrator of the Year by the Florida Rural Water Association August 9 in Daytona Beach.
Long won the award from among nominations that were judged by representatives from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, Florida Department of Health and others. He has been Bartow's city manager since 2008.
Long said he was surprised to learn he was the winner of the award. He added that he had an indication he might be in the running when he was specifically told to be at the convention in Daytona Beach last week.
He said he is not sure why he stood out among other administrators who were nominated, but added that he believes his thinking “outside the box” and planning were signs for the judges.
However, he steadfastly believes the award is more than just his fortune.
“I prefer to talk about things in [terms of] 'we' and 'us” rather than 'I' and 'me,’” Long said.
To Commissioner James Clements, who has been on the city commission since Long was hired 11 years ago, the recognition was deserving for someone who has done as much as Long has for the city.
“George does a great job with [the] water and wastewater department,” he said. “It's really top notch.”
Clements pointed out that Long helped the city and county recently with his ability to think “outside the box.”
For example, when the county's sewer plant off Spirit Lake Road was reaching the end of its functionality, Long and county officials made a plan where the county could buy water from the city, which is much cheaper than fixing or building a new plant. The money would help Bartow to improve its plant and expand.
While pleased to be recognized for the work the city does, Long was clear it doesn't take an expert in a field to be successful. Rather, he explained, it takes the ability to reason, to plan and then to execute.
“Being involved in water and wastewater entities and projects for the last 30 years wasn't physical and it's never been my primary job,” Long said. “I've served in roles involving those areas. The bottom line is I'm not a stranger but I'm not an expert either. It takes overall practices of the business of a city and the way it can operate.”
Before serving as the city manager in Bartow, Long was the county administrator in Okeechobee County for 13 years. Before that Long was a firefighter in Temple Terrace, just north of Tampa, becoming fire chief there. He also served as the fire chief in Lake Park. He has a Bachelor of Arts Degree from Western Illinois University.
Since coming to Bartow, approximately 75 employees have completed supervisory training and another 35 employees graduated and received their designations as Certified Public Managers.
“Mr. Long is a community leader that strives to deliver the best possible product to its citizens of today and tomorrow at a cost that is fair for all. To him, it is all about doing the right things in the right way,” said Ben Lewis of the Florida Rural Water Association.