PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. — Port St. Lucie has seen a lot of changes in the last few years and more could be on the way.
The city announced Monday that its current city manager, Russ Blackburn, is retiring at the beginning of next year.
"I felt like this was a really good time for me since we've had so many accomplishments to make that transition to retirement," Blackburn, 69, said. "We're really a much better city through the work of hundreds of people and, certainly, outstanding leadership from the mayor and City Council."
Blackburn has been city manager for Port St. Lucie for six years. He's spent 47 years in local government.
He said one of the biggest challenges in Port St. Lucie is how to balance the extreme growth the city has experienced while still trying to maintain a good quality of life for people who live here.
"This is a great city," Blackburn said. "It's an honor for anybody to be selected as city manager here. There's so much going on, so many issues that we have as a growing city that are all opportunities to make Port St. Lucie a better place."
Blackburn is credited for leading projects such as the development of the Southern Grove jobs corridor, the completion of the Crosstown Parkway and the acquisition of the City Center property.
During his time, Blackburn said, the city has grown from about 180,000 residents to 225,000-plus, with more on the way.
"This growth has just exploded here and I just don't know," Anthony Oakes, a 42-year-long resident, said. "Where are we going with all the traffic, never mind all the other issues?"
Blackburn said he expects the city to nearly double in size, topping out at about 400,000 people.
"It's not the sleepy city that it was. I get it," Oakes said. "It's supposed to grow and all that and they've done a great job here, but, you know, crime is up in our little town. You hear sirens all the time. Where's all those animals going? They cleared all the woods over there."
Due to all the growth and traffic, Oakes is now considering moving to a less populated part of Florida.
For others, like Port St. Lucie business owner Wayne Goldsmith, with a boat charter and heating company, the growth has been good for business.
"Everybody building these houses are going to be putting HVAC. There's going to be air conditioners put in and a lot of work like that, so, you know, that's a good thing," he said.
Goldsmith said his challenge will be to keep up with demand, as there are still supply shortages. He hopes the next city manager can focus on traffic issues.
Blackburn's last day as city manager is Feb. 17. Te city will discuss the next steps in filling his position in January.
"I'm sure that I'll do things around the house like most people want to, but I'll be looking out in the community for volunteer opportunities, ways to be involved," he said.