Will Hardin, superintendent of Camden County schools since 2007, has announced his retirement, effective Dec. 31.

He made the announcement at Thursday’s Camden County Board of Education meeting in Kingsland.

In a letter to school board members, he praised them for their “principled approach to ensure our schools offer the very best opportunity for success” and said they “influenced the decision to serve most of my professional career in Camden County Schools.”

“I have been in public education for 38 years and enjoyed both the challenge and the opportunities,” he said in an interview on Friday. “I can honestly say I would not change one thing about my journey. My family traveled this road with me and my best friend and spouse never wavered in her support despite the time and energy the job required.”

Hardin is just the fourth superintendent of Camden County schools in the past 53 years. His 12 years as superintendent is the third longest of the nine Camden schools superintendents to serve at the position in the last 108 years, according to the announcement.

“At this time, when our schools are on a clearly upward trajectory and the leaders in our district are so capable, I feel comfortable asking the board to find another to lead the district so that I can change gears and devote more time to those who have been so understanding to this point,” he said.

Hardin taught at high schools in Berrien and Atkinson counties before moving to Camden County schools in 1995. He served in different administrative positions before he was hired as superintendent.

He was a nominee for Georgia School Superintendent of the Year in 2010 and currently serves on the Georgia School Superintendent’s Association board of directors and is president of the First District Superintendent’s Association.

Hardin is an advocate for public education for federally impacted school districts, serving on boards trying to raise awareness of the challenges facing school districts with a military base such as Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay. He provided expert testimony before a congressional committee on education and the federal government’s responsibility to schools and communities impacted by a military presence.

He said it’s possible he will play a role in the process to determine his successor.

“I enjoy a very open and honest relationship with my Board and we agreed long ago never to surprise one another,” he said. “Succession planning is something every well-run organization must do to sustain performance so I do not believe anyone was shocked by my announcement.”

Hardin said he expect the board to establish a timeline to being the process of choosing his replacement.

“I will continue to help the board in any way they choose,” he said. “If they believe I can contribute to the process I am sure they will let me know and I will be glad to oblige.”

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