Vacalis to join Planning Commission

Published 10:01 pm Monday, June 20, 2011

Former City Manager James Vacalis is back in city government, this time as a member of the Planning Commission.

Vacalis replaces Ritchie Jordan, whose term expires this month. Vacalis retired as the city manager in January 2008 after 35 years of service to the city.


“I’m looking forward to it,” Vacalis said of his new position.

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After Vacalis graduated in the 1960s from Georgia State University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in urban geography, he began work with the Georgia State Planning Bureau, a job that frequently required travel to different parts of the state.

He then moved on to regional planning jobs in Athens and Columbus before he tired of the traveling.

“With a couple of babies in tow, I started looking for a job I could be in one city or county,” he said.

In 1973, he saw a listing in a professional journal for director of planning in Suffolk — the first time the soon-to-be city had sought a full-time planner.

He took the position and served in that capacity until 1990, when he was promoted to director of community services.

In 1993, he was promoted again to assistant city manager. He held that position until February 2007, when he became city manager after City Council fired Steve Herbert. Vacalis had served as interim manager for several months between Herbert’s dismissal and his own permanent appointment.

With such a long history in planning and in Suffolk, Vacalis made the obvious choice for the appointment, City Councilman Michael Duman said.

“Jim had over 30 years’ worth of experience with the city of Suffolk,” Duman said. “I don’t think there’s anyone more qualified that could possibly be on the planning commission. Jim just brings a plethora of knowledge to that position.”

Vacalis saw the city through its first major comprehensive plan and overhauls of the rezoning and subdivision ordinances.

“I’m glad I’m able to see some of the results of our work,” he said. “I thoroughly enjoyed working with the city all those years, and I’m anxious to get back into it.”

Vacalis had to resign from two other boards — the Board of Equalization, which hears real estate assessment complaints, and as an alternate member of the Board of Zoning Appeals, which hears appeals of zoning decisions — to serve on the Planning Commission.

Duman also acknowledged that Jordan had done an excellent job.

“I would like to thank him for his service,” Duman said.

Vacalis’ first meeting will be July 19.