Log in

Untitled design-7

Lee County Commissioners unanimously voted Tuesday to appoint Deputy County Manager Dave Harner as the new county manager following Roger Desjarlais’ retirement announcement Monday. 

The appointment is subject to a contract negotiation between Chairman Brian Hamman and Harner, with the assistance of the county attorney’s office. The contract will be brought to the commissioner meeting on June 20 for ratification, which would allow Harner to assume the role of county manager effective Aug. 1. 

Commissioner Kevin Ruane stressed the importance of having plans in place, especially considering all the work the county has ahead. “We obviously have an awful lot of recovery from Hurricane Ian, we have some business issues and we potentially have a recession that’s in front of us,” he said. 

Ruane made an initial motion to name Harner as interim county manager, as well as pursue a national search for the role. This motion and its second was redacted after discussion.  

Dave Harner

“We’ve done it before, and we’ve seen the results of that with other positions,” Commissioner Cecil Pendergrass said. “That’s what scares me of doing a national search when we are in such a critical, critical time right now in Lee County. With what’s going on with the influx of money coming in and the growth going on in Lee County, to bring somebody new in who has no idea of anything about this area, or the people and how it affects the community.” 

Commissioner Mike Greenwell agreed with Pendergrass, emphasizing the importance of an immediate permanent position.  

Commissioners decided promoting from within was the best course of action. 

“He’s homegrown, just like Roger was,” Pendergrass said. “Before any of us were involved here in Lee County, Dave was here 32 years ago.” 

Harner has served as deputy county manager since February 2019 and has had several other roles within the county, such as the director of parks and recreation beginning in 2012 and assistant county manager since 2015. 

“I have always found Dave to be a go-to person who I can count on to help me solve some of the most complicated issues too,” Hamman said. “I would be very comfortable appointing Dave as the county manager today.” 

Hamman then thanked Desjarlais for his decade-long service as county manager.  

“In the last 10 years, when you look at the things we’ve all faced together, any one of those things on their own would have been a historic challenge to have to try and deal with,” he said. “But we’ve been through Hurricane Irma, Hurricane Ian, a [COVID-19] pandemic, all of these things together, and I just couldn’t have asked for a better person to work with. I think your legacy here is that you will have left us with an amazing, incredible team.” 

Desjarlais served as county manager since 2013, overseeing a $2 billion budget and 2,640 employees.  

“I want to express my deep appreciation to the citizens of Lee County, the Lee Board of County Commissioners and all the county employees I have been privileged to lead,” Desjarlais said in his retirement letter dated June 1. 

Copyright 2023 Gulfshore Life Media, LLC All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without prior written consent.