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Fostering Development
May 17, 2004

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Telegraph Staff Writer

At Georgia Power Co., Stewart Rodeheaver is content playing a "supporting" role.

"I support the cities and counties to work through development problems," said Rodeheaver, central region manager for economic and community development. "I support the communities by finding new business or expanding existing businesses."

If government or business leaders decide on a project or program they want to tackle, Rodeheaver helps them put together a financial package to get it done. If a community wants to build an industrial park, he helps decide where to put it and how to find the money to pay for it.

During a typical week, he travels to three or four companies in his region, which stretches from McDonough to McRae and from Sandersville to Butler.

"You can talk to them on the phone, but they can't trust you until you sit and talk with them eye-to-eye," he said. "I try to visit a community or a business every day."

Macon City Council President Anita Ponder said Rodeheaver has been an "invaluable resource" in her government role and in her involvement with the Greater Macon Chamber of Commerce.

"He's calm and competent," Ponder said. "I've never seen him rattled. I've never seen him in a situation - no matter how dire it may seem - without blinking, being able to tackle it head on. He can look at a situation and find the positive in it, and that motivates you."

Leave of absence helps career

When Rodeheaver, a Forsyth resident, started working at Georgia Power in 1976 as a mechanical inspector, he thought it would be a stepping stone to something else, he said.

He worked with his father, who was a plumber, and he thought that would be his career.

"I tried everything I could to be just like my daddy," he said. "My daddy was a plumber, and I was going to be a plumber."

Rodeheaver took the Georgia Power job because he had just finished plumbing work at the Brown & Williamson Tobacco plant during its construction.

Georgia Power was building a plant in Forsyth, and the company needed someone with plumbing and piping experience to inspect underground pipes, he said.

He continued working at Georgia Power, becoming an instructor in 1981, teaching mechanical courses to other employees.

Rodeheaver had started taking college classes part-time in 1970 at Georgia Southern College (now Georgia Southern University), later transferring to Mercer University. But, it took him 15 years to earn his degree in business management because of his work, marriage and children, he said.

After seven years at Georgia Power, he said it became clear that he needed to try something different in order to get into a management position.

"I knew I had gone as far as I could with the construction business at Georgia Power," he said.

He decided to take a leave of absence and worked with former U.S. Sen. Mack Mattingly, R-Ga., as a congressional director. He had a commitment from Georgia Power that he could go back to the company after three years. He traveled with Mattingly anytime he was in the region and he worked with constituent services.

"It was the best three years I ever spent," he said.

When he rejoined Georgia Power in 1986, he was a community development representative, and in 1990, he switched to the economic development side of the company. In 2002, he became a regional representative doing both community and economic development.

"I get to deal with a different person every day," he said. "The challenge is getting everyone to understand the big picture and work toward the same goal."

The least favorite part of his job is the amount of paperwork required to track everything he's doing.

"The second (least favorite) thing is the political fights we have to settle," he said.

Ponder said he has a no-nonsense style of handling sticky situations.

"He can shoot straight, and I like that," she said.

Top dog of military unit

At the same time he was developing his business career, going to college and raising a family, Rodeheaver also was rising through the ranks of the Georgia National Guard.

At age 18, he enlisted on Oct. 17, 1971, he said without hesitation.

"I didn't mean to stay in that long," he said. "But I stayed because of the friendships I've built and the challenges I've had the opportunity to work with."

Last month, Rodeheaver was promoted to the rank of brigadier general, making him commander of the 48th Infantry Brigade headquartered in Macon. More than 4,000 Army Guardsmen are in the brigade.

He downplayed the hard work it took to achieve his rank.

"The only reason you go up like this is because somebody invests time in you," he said. "A lot of somebodies helped me."

Lt. Col. Joe Hoffman, brigade executive officer and full-time administrative officer for the 48th, has known Rodeheaver since 1982. His description of Rodeheaver showed a mixture of personality traits.

"He can win you over with a smile. He has a charming personality," Hoffman said. "He's a negotiator. He's very straightforward, very blunt."

The soldiers who serve under Rodeheaver know he cares about them, Hoffman said.

"He's tough on accountability," he said. "We are in the business of training soldiers for war, and he takes that very personal. He doesn't really compromise when it comes to allowing people to sort of shirk responsibility. With the country being at war right now, he's the right man for the right time."

About five years ago, Rodeheaver added something else to his plate. He and a hunting buddy, Paul McPipkin, and their sons didn't like any of the mosquito repellents on the market, so they began making their own.

"It turned out good enough that we started selling it," he said, calling it a sideline hobby.

The company, Hawk Outdoor Products, not only makes the repellent, but various scents to attract animals or cover human scent. The products are sold on a seasonal basis through hunting stores in Middle Georgia and via the Internet.

"We ship to 22 stores," he said. "We will start this June making stuff for this fall."

The secret to handling so many things at one time, he said, is by achieving balance.

"Figure out what your balance point is," he said. "If you have more than one thing in the air, you have to realize some things have to give and some things can't. I don't let any one thing overshadow everything."