Keep Macon Bibb Beautiful seeks new leader


Liz Fabian

Former Keep Macon Bibb Beautiful CEO Pam Carswell, second from right, speaks with board members at her retirement lunch in June.

Eight years after retired school principal Pam Carswell was hired to lead Keep Macon-Bibb Beautiful, the organization is looking for a new executive director.

Carswell announced her plans to retire from the post earlier this summer.

“Thank you for this awesome opportunity,” Carswell told the board last month before heading off to the beach. “I have no plans other than to enjoy my family… and a new puppy.”

Board member Charles Jay said, “Let the record show how much we appreciate all Pam has done.”

In 2012 when the county was on the brink of pulling KMBB financing, Carswell left the Bibb County School System after 34 years and took the helm of the beautification effort.

With Carswell’s retirement, concerns over the organization’s effectiveness again were raised during budget talks last month at the Macon-Bibb County Commission.

“There are some problems with Keep Macon-Bibb Beautiful, numerous problems,” Commissioner Elaine Lucas said. “So, the administration needs to have a hand in the new direction for it and correcting those problems.”

Lucas was concerned that the majority of the county’s funding was paying the administrative salary and benefits. She questioned how much actual work was being done to clean up the county.

In late 2015, Carswell created a Litter Hotline where concerned citizens call to report someone littering on the highway. The offender is traced through their license plate number and the sheriff’s office and KMBB send a warning letter in a program modeled after one in Athens.

The next year, Carswell worked with a Downtown Macon Challenge Grant to erect 26 dog waste stations in local parks. In the past year, she supported a campaign to promote biodegradable drinking straws and continued annual events such as Christmas tree recycling, school education programs and neighborhood cleanup efforts. The most recent cleanup effort was canceled due to COVID-19.

The pandemic’s cancellation of the Cherry Blossom Festival also meant a loss of about $7,000 typically generated by KMBB’s sales of cherry trees in the park.

Commissioner Lucas’ concerns about the effectiveness of the effort are not new.

In 2017, Macon-Bibb County threatened to pull $110,000 from the organization during what became a very public rift between Carswell and the Cherry Blossom Festival, which was created by KMBB in 1982.

The festival wanted KMBB to move out of the Pink House headquarters, prompting county spokesman Chris Floore to say Macon-Bibb was paying for litter pickup, not “drama.”

To continue funding, Mayor Robert Reichert’s administration ordered KMBB to submit an action plan for litter removal. The board also voted in by-laws to properly govern the organization.

Tensions eased with the festival, and the organizations remain in the same building at the corner of Cherry and New streets.

Illegal dumping, litter and blight continue to draw complaints from the community.

KMBB board member Janice Habersham began volunteering when Carswell was hired and spoke nothing but praise for the former CEO at the retirement lunch. Habersham thinks the organization’s effort should target older students beyond the current emphasis on second graders.

“We’ve got to reach our inner cities a little more because that’s where the litter is,” Habersham said. “I remember in school being educated about that, but like handwriting, that’s gone by the wayside.”

KMBB founder Carolyn Crayton, who remains on the executive board, said the national Keep America Beautiful organization also recently discussed ways to reach higher grade levels in anti-litter campaigns.

In 1974, Crayton launched Keep Macon-Bibb Beautiful as one of only a few pilot beautification efforts through Keep America Beautiful. Since that time, the local organization has won 41 awards from the national organization and 36 from Keep Georgia Beautiful.

Former Keep Macon Bibb Beautiful CEO Pam Carswell led the organization for eight years before her retirement this summer . (Liz Fabian)

Carswell said the CEO position gave her the opportunity to find out what life was like outside the “cinderblock walls” of schools.

“The travels and the friends I’ve made across America… I hope the person who fills this position has the same opportunities,” Carswell said.

Myers McRae executive search firm is currently recruiting candidates for Carswell’s replacement.

The job listing seeks a “dynamic, versatile, and experienced administrator” for the “highly visible” community leadership position.

The search committee is looking for someone proficient in goal-setting, planning, budgeting and recruiting volunteers. Experience working with government agencies and a bachelor’s degree are preferred.

Applicants should respond before Aug. 17 for best consideration for the position.

Nominations can also be submitted to [email protected] including complete contact information and email for the candidate.

Contact Civic Reporting Senior Fellow Liz Fabian at 478-301-2976 or [email protected]