When North Augusta Mayor Tom Greene was first elected to city council in 1971, the city treasurer made change out of a cigar box.
Twenty-six years later, the city has a diverse economic base, downtown and riverfront development well under way and 17,000 residents. Mr. Greene figures he has done his part.
On Friday, Mr. Greene, mayor for the past 12 years, announced he won't run in April's city elections. The city is in good hands with good plans for the future, he said.
"I'm leaving in a very positive period of time and that's the best time to leave," Mr. Greene, 64, said. "We've come a long way as a city. Every major objective I've been interested in is accomplished or successfully launched."
Those include Riverview Park, a community center, an activities center, the "Greeneway" walking trail that is named after the mayor and the riverfront and downtown development plans.
In the 1960s, North Augusta was virtually a company town, home to 15 to 20 percent of the workers from Savannah River Site. Mr. Greene, an Atlanta native, had come to SRS as an engineer in 1955, was called away to the Air Force for four years, then returned.
"I've never left since," he said with a laugh on Friday.
City Councilman Bill Gray, who has served on council in three separate stints since 1966, said Mr. Greene was "one of the better mayors we've had."
"He had a lot of foresight," Mr. Gray said. "He presents his programs logically and in a clear manner and the ones that were not adopted he had the grace and knowledge to see that it was for the best."
Mr. Greene, said the mayor's job is outgrowing him.
"The demands of the job keep getting bigger and it's time to point my energies in other directions," he said, though he won't say yet what those directions might be.
Mr. Greene suffered a heart attack two years ago while skiing in Colorado, but jokingly attributes that to "what happens when you go off one of those high ski jumps."
North Augusta's plans for the future revolve around creating the downtown "center" the city has never really had and attracting new residents with a golf course and residential development along the Savannah River and that makes the mayor feel he can let go.
"The vision is solidly there," Mr. Greene said.