Carl Halbirt, Archaeologist for the City of St. Augustine, announced to Historic City News that he will retire from the position he has held for 27 years, effective on September 30, 2017.
Halbirt joined the city’s Planning and Building Department in 1990 as the city’s first full time archaeologist shortly after the city established its archaeology ordinance, one of the country’s most comprehensive. Halbirt’s work has not only generated a vast wealth of knowledge of St. Augustine’s history, but has demonstrated how such an ordinance can work to protect the past in the active environment of a living city.
“It has been my pleasure to serve the City of St. Augustine as its first staff city archaeologist,” Halbirt wrote in in a letter to David Birchim, Planning and Building Director and Halbirt’s supervisor. “This position, which I shouldered on April 17, 1990, has afforded me the privilege to create and maintain the nation’s premier municipal archaeology program for almost three decades. It has been an archaeologist’s dream come true.”
City ordinances requires that archaeological investigations be conducted on public and private properties before and during ground-penetrating construction activities. Since the adoption of the ordinance in 1986, approximately 800 archaeological projects have been completed, resulting in the documentation of 10,000 years of human history in the area that is today St. Augustine.
“Carl truly built the program we have today,” said Birchim. “Essentially, the city had no program prior to Carl and today we have a model program that is emulated by other cities around the country. The program we have today works and works well because of Carl’s leadership and unwavering dedication.”
Whether he is speaking to colleagues at an academic conference or explaining a current dig to an intrigued tourist, Halbirt cannot hide his passion for archaeology and the city where he works.
“Carl has set a very high bar for his successor,” said City Manager John Regan. “Aside from his knowledge and skill set, both of which are vast, Carl has infused the city’s archaeological work with his own personality and enthusiasm, always eager to show his latest find and explain its significance to others.”
Halbirt told local reporters that he will spend the next six months updating his project files and working to ensure a smooth transition for the city’s award winning archaeology program.