After seven years at the helm of the McDuffie County Tourism Department - his second career - Gerald Baygents will ride off into the retirement sunset.
The county's tourism director said he planned on retiring at the end of the year, but he decided to go ahead and bow out at the end of September to make way for some slight changes to his position that he said have been in the works.
Tourism Board Member Hazel Mobley talks with retiring Tourism Director Gerald Baygents.
"I wasn't going to do this forever, anyway. This is a second profession for me," said the retired educator of 31 years, 16 of which he spent as principal of Forest Hills Elementary.
Mr. Baygents moved to McDuffie County after his first retirement. He said the tourism position was something he never anticipated.
"I've enjoyed the ride. I felt blessed to kind of have stumbled in to have this opportunity," he said. "I really moved to Thomson-McDuffie not for this job, I moved here because my wife still teaches and I was looking for some place to have a little bit more fresh air and breathing room."
During his time as Tourism Director Mr. Baygents said he enjoyed meeting people with similar jobs to his. He said it was a lot like his job as a principal - being a people-person was important.
"I like networking with people around the state about tourism and kind of spreading the good stuff that we're doing to help bring visitation here," Mr. Baygents said.
"I've enjoyed traveling and seeing places all around the state and what they're doing," Mr. Baygents told the Tourism Board during his last meeting last Thursday. "...The job is like a good ole' dog, I've really enjoyed it and want to stay connected to it somehow."
Forward McDuffie Director Don Powers - Mr. Baygents' boss - said he did a great job during his tenure as tourism director. He said that Mr. Baygents helped bring about a new era in McDuffie County tourism.
"He's organized. He has added structure to the whole tourism effort," Mr. Powers said. "And these things that we've developed with fishing and softball and those types of things, 10 years ago we didn't think of them as tourism products. He's been right there in the middle of all that and has done a great job helping that board develop those avenues to bring tourists into town."
Mr. Baygents is proud of what he has done in those areas during his time on the job. He thinks those tourist draws will continue to bring more and more people into the county.
"I think we've done a lot. We've opened up some new business in some areas with fishing and all, and it's jump started now," he said. "I think it will continue to grow. I plan to stay in this area, and I hope that I'll still be involved in it in some kind of way."
For the time being, Mr. Baygents has no plans to do anything but enjoy himself, "But I'm not going to say no to anything," he said.
Mr. Powers said a full-time tourism intern will be hired by the end of the year, and that person's time will be spent in training. Mr. Baygents will continue to offer his expertise to assist the new director on an as-needed basis, Mr. Powers added.
"We want to hire somebody who's community-minded and knows the community and can have some skills that perhaps we need here," he said.