NEWBERRY – At the City of Newberry's latest commission meeting, city manager Keith Ashby asked for a show of hands from those were 70 years old and also in an executive position. No hands rose up.

After 10 years of managing Newberry, Ashby, who is 70 years old and in an executive position, has decided to retire within the next three to six months.

“I feel good about it, and they gave me a standing ovation,” he said about his announcement on Monday night, Jan. 13.

The position feels more like a stressful environment lately, he said, after several major turnovers in the city’s senior staff. The parks and recreation director, city planner and utility director are leaving soon or have left already.

“I recently lost my right arm, Richard Blalock,” Ashby said. Blalock, recreation director, along with Commissioner Joe Hoffman, had the goal of expanding the role of the Parks and Recreation Department.

“Then I lost my left arm, Lowell Garrett,” he said. Garrett was the best city planner in North Florida, Ashby said, bringing an invaluable perspective on the regulatory and statutory sides of business.

After having heart issues this past year that resulted in two operations, Ashby said he is ready to leave the high pressure of his position to spend more time with his wife, Sara, and five sons.

He will see the commission through the transitional period that comes with staff reorganization, but then he will look into teaching government courses at Santa Fe College and Saint Leo University as an adjunct professor.

He said he looks forward to the dinner that will be put on in honor of his career with the city, where he will have a chance to say a few words.

Ashby grew up between Melbourne and Carmel, N.Y. He went on to be an Air Force pilot for 30 years and retired as a colonel in 1997. He has been in county and city management ever since.  

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