Before interviewing to be manager of James H. "Sloppy" Floyd State Park in Chattooga County, Ga., Will Wagner decided to come to town early and take a look around.
Wagner, 30, liked what he saw.
"I knew if they offered me the job I was going to take it," he said last week. "I am happy to be here."
On Feb. 16, Wagner, who had been living in Jackson, Ga., replaced Chattooga County native Tim Wilson, who retired in late 2010.
Floyd State Park covers 561 acres and has two fishing lakes, a campground, hiking trails and four cottages at the base of Taylor Ridge, south of Summerville, Ga.
The park is a favorite fishing spot for locals and a temporary home for travelers who rent the cottages and take advantage of the 25-site campground.
"We get a lot of people from Atlanta on the weekends, people who want to get away from the big city," Wagner said. "We also get a lot of campers from around North Georgia and the Chattanooga area."
The park also is the site of the popular Twisted Ankle Trail Marathon and Half Marathon in May.
Wagner, who earned a two-year business degree at Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College and a bachelor's degree in outdoor education from Georgia College, has worked in both the public and private sectors.
He led whitewater rafting trips in the Nantahala National Forest in North Carolina. While working there, he lived in a tent in the forest for four months. Then for four years he worked for High Country Outfitters as an adventure guide, leading rock climbing, caving, rafting and hiking excursions on the Ocoee River in Tennessee.
It was during some of those rock climbing and caving excursions that he became more aware of the Northwest Georgia region.
"I knew LaFayette real well, and we would often pass through Summerville on our way to Alabama for caving trips," he said. "I've always been interested in the ridge and valley region."
Wagner later worked as a park ranger at Reynolds Nature Preserve, a county-owned facility in Morrow, Ga. At the same time he was working for the state part time at nearby High Falls State Park in Jackson.
He believes his diverse work background will help in his new job.
"It's a plus for me," Wagner said. "Working in the private sector where we had to turn a profit should help me make good fiscal decisions with a taxpayer-funded park. Also, having worked for city, county and state governments helps me understand some different aspects. It's broadened my view."
Wagner oversees a staff of four full-time employees.
He said he would like to see more community-related events at the park. Nature hikes and a fishing rodeo are two possibilities, and creating more educational programs is a priority, as well, he said.
Wagner and his wife, Shelly, have moved to the county with their 2-year-old Isla. They are expecting a second child in May.
Jimmy Espy is based in Dalton. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.