Flanagan: Fairfield ‘exceptional’ community
Fairfield’s city administrator, Kevin Flanagan left behind Georgia’s mountains and southern jazz for something he and his wife Stephanie both craved — adventure.
Flanagan, 42, became Fairfield’s city administrator in June after spending three years in an Iowa community across the state. Aside from traveling together, he and his wife had never moved from their home state until he accepted an offer to become the chief administrative officer of Denison in 2009, a small, blue-collar community in western Iowa.
Growing up listening to Bruce Springsteen’s serenades to working class struggles, Flanagan was “enamored with blue-collar communities.”
In Denison, he was able to work in the type of city he’d long heard of in song. He learned a lot while managing the daily operations of the city, he said, and made new friends while working with the elected city council in implementing and forming policy. But after two years in Denison, he was drawn to Fairfield, whose culture and community he’s found to be the best fit thus far in his political career.
“I’ve realized I’m a college town, tourism community kind of guy,” he said. “It’s a pleasure to have the opportunity to become a part of such an energetic and progressive community.”
Flanagan said he, his wife Stephanie, and three children, Aidan, 8, Garrett, 7, and Merrick, 4, have experienced a warm welcome in Fairfield. He said they appreciate living in a rural area, which they value for “the great quality of life of small-town living, and safety for raising kids.”
Flanagan’s political career can be traced back to his childhood in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains in Lumpkin County. He remembers listening to local gossip at his father’s convenience store, which he said was the hub of the town in Dahlonega. His great-grandfather opened the “little country store” in 1935 after his cotton farm failed during the Great Depression.
“Everyone would come to the store and talk politics around the stove,” said Flanagan.
After earning a degree in political science from Georgia Southern University in 1993, Flanagan moved back home to help manage the family business. He helped turn the convenience store into a franchise, The Corner Store Inc.
Flanagan said he didn’t always know he’d work in local government, starting out in college as a kid with waist-long hair, studying mathematics and playing the drums in a southern jazz band.
But in 2000, Flanagan became involved in a cousin-against-cousin campaign to become the sole commissioner of Lumpkin County, a rare form of government with only one elected official. Flanagan helped his cousin Steve defeat his eldest cousin Charlie, who had been sole commissioner for several years. Flanagan worked as special assistant to the new Lumpkin County Commissioner for five years, during which the county changed to a five-member board. During this time, he earned a master in public administration from North Georgia College and State University. Flanagan left county government in 2005 after running an unsuccessful campaign for county commissioner.
Before returning to government work in Denison, Flanagan launched a number of businesses, including a construction contracting business, construction supply company, pawnshop and family farm.
Flanagan said both his experience in development and county government have helped inform his decisions as a city administrator. And while Fairfield is very different from Denison, he said both share the challenges facing small, Iowa communities.
“In small, Iowa towns there’s a common need for housing and economic development,” he said.
Flanagan helped implement a new zoning code in Denison, which he said helped spur new development. He plans to do the same for Fairfield.
When Flanagan moved to Fairfield in June, he immediately noticed an atmosphere of growth, making a project such as the Fairfield Arts & Convention Center possible. In the few months following, he’s discovered a strong working relationship between council members and community volunteers.
“Fairfield has been wonderful to our family,” he said. “Our
community accomplishes big things by working together, and that is truly exceptional.”