Hendry elevates Jennifer Davis to County Administrator

Jennifer Davis has been named interim county manager. (Submitted photo/Emily Hunter)

CLEWISTON — While accepting Charles Chapman’s departure as Hendry County administrator collegially and with humor, joking that he essentially was being “fired” before his last day, county commissioners then paid him a high compliment by tentatively elevating his deputy Jennifer Davis into his chair during their meeting here last week.

Rather than go forward with a search, suggested Commissioner Karson Turner in making a motion, the board should honor Mr. Chapman’s contract, which calls for 60 days’ severance pay and continuing his insurance benefits up to his separation date (Nov. 30); put Ms. Davis into the job immediately as interim administrator; and have Chairman Mitchell Wills negotiate a contract to make her the full-time county administrator to be presented at the next meeting, Tuesday, Oct. 23.

“I think that Charles has done a wonderful job of developing a bench. I think that his executive team is competent, and I think that Jennifer Davis is ready to lead Hendry County into the future,” Mr. Turner said. Commissioner Michael Swindle seconded, and after some additions such as tweaking the job description to make the move possible, the motion carried unanimously.

Mr. Chapman had signed a contract Oct. 3 to become city manager in Naples effective Dec. 3 and was planning to take accrued leave for a time to prepare for his move. The commissioners’ vote relieved him of duty immediately except that he’ll continue to assist in the transition by being on call for consultation.

Ms. Davis has served Hendry County for over 19 years in various roles, including chief financial officer and budget director for the clerk of court, also county budget director and, finally, deputy county administrator.

Mr. Chapman had given commissioners a five-page report of his transition plan, suggesting an interim management structure and five options for ways to fill the position, four of which involved a search at varying costs up to $40,000 to hire an executive search firm. “I don’t think we need to get into that,” said Commissioner Darrell Harris.

Other executive team members are Executive Assistant Keitha Daniels, County Engineer Shane Parker, Planning and Community Development Director Margaret Emblidge, Information Technology Director Ryan Purdy, Community and Media Relations Director Emily Hunter and Human Resources Manager Audelia Bustamante.

Mr. Chapman’s report also listed all of the projects under way in the county along with lists of current activities on each matter and those who will take over in leading each project.

Chris Felker can be reached at cfelker@newszap.com

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