Originally created 07/01/00

Official gives up city posts



H.M. "Monty" Osteen Jr., chairman of the Development Authority of Richmond County and board member for the Augusta Neighborhood Improvement Corp., resigned from both organizations Wednesday.

The retired banker, a member of more than a half-dozen other civic groups and organizations, said Friday that he no longer had enough time to devote to the authority and ANIC.

"I've got an awful lot of other things I'm committed to," he said. "I've promised I would get out of some of these things for years."

Mr. Osteen has been affiliated with the development authority since the early 1970s. His decision to leave the two organizations came just days before the authority was to accept more than $7 million in state funds for ANIC.

The money - part of a three-year, $30 million economic development package netted by state Sen. Charles Walker - must pass through the agency before going to ANIC, a nonprofit group formed last year to oversee housing rehabilitation and civic project funding.

Mr. Walker, who is vice-chairman of the development authority, is also a member of ANIC, as is authority member Robert Osborne, city president for Wachovia Bank.

Mr. Osteen notified Mayor Bob Young on Wednesday in a hand-delivered, two sentence letter. Development authority members contacted Friday by The Augusta Chronicle said they were unaware of Mr. Osteen's resignation.

Kevin Shea, authority secretary and chief economic developer for the Augusta Metro Chamber of Commerce, said he was sorry to see Mr. Osteen go.

"It's not good in the sense that you're losing somebody with that kind of knowledge," he said.

Mr. Shea said the authority, whose members are appointed by Augusta Commissioners to four-year terms, will likely hold an election for a new chairman within a few weeks.

Mr. Osteen, an off-and-on authority chairman since the early 1980s, is the former chairman and chief executive officer of Bankers First, an Augusta-based savings and loan that once had $1.5 billion in assets and offices across Georgia and Tennessee.

He retired from banking after shareholders voted to sell the thrift to regional bank SouthTrust Corp. in 1996.

Although Mr. Osteen said he plans to remain active on Augusta Tomorrow and Greater Augusta Progress, two civic organizations he helped found, he said it's time he acts more like a retiree.

"My golf handicap is going up instead of down," he said.

Reach Damon Cline at (706) 823-3486.