At 64, former Augusta Mayor Bob Young sees his newest job as the final rung on a long and varied career ladder.
“You could say I’m back in the water game, so to speak,” said the new president and chief executive officer of Southeastern Natural Sciences Academy.
The nonprofit research and educational institution, which also operates Phinizy Swamp Nature Park, recruited the former journalist, politician and bureaucrat from his most recent stint with the U.S. Department of Defense Dependent Schools in Beaufort, S.C. He starts work Nov. 1.
“I’m just learning my way around,” he said Friday, during a visit to the academy’s campus near Augusta Regional Airport. “I don’t even know where all the boardwalks go yet.”
Young said he is more of a conservationist than an environmentalist, with a long-standing interest in water issues and their political and financial effects.
The academy’s mission, which includes leadership to balance environmental sustainability through research and education, conforms to his ideals and philosophies.
“It’s a natural fit with what the academy is doing with water issues in the Savannah River Basin,” he said. “It is becoming more and more apparent that there will be consequences upstream for decisions that are being made downstream.”
As mayor, Young was involved in water issues including controversial discussions of interbasin transfers that could move water from the Savannah to other areas. He was also involved with expansions of the city’s wastewater programs that have improved water quality.
The academy, through its studies of urban impacts on rivers, can help shape future water policy in Georgia and beyond, he said.
Another role he is likely to help fulfil is fundraising for an organization that relies heavily on grants and the generosity of the public.
“Like any nonprofit, the academy is challenged to be a financially viable institution,” he said.
“Part of my assignment is to develop a sustainable business model, expand the brand and expand our outreach to folks who are not typically aware of our organization.”
Young’s six-year tenure as mayor, which ended in 2005, came after a long career in broadcast journalism. After leaving elected office, he served as regional director – and later as an assistant deputy secretary – for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. He also accepted an appointment from President George W. Bush to the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation.
In more recent years, he wrote a novel, The Treasure Train, to be published this fall. It is set during the closing days of the Civil War, in a location near Augusta.
Despite rumors to the contrary, Young said he will never run for political office again: “For me, the closest thing to future elections will be as a voter.”