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Deputy County manager expected to become new Lee County manager

Roger Desjarlais announced retirement on June 1
Dave Harner
Posted at 4:50 PM, Jun 06, 2023
and last updated 2023-06-06 18:52:50-04

LEE COUNTY, Fla. — A familiar face is expected to take over as Lee County manager. The decision from commissioners comes a day after current Lee County Manager Roger Desjarlais announced his retirement.

The retirement letter, sent to commissioners on June 1, comes less than two weeks after Fox 4 Investigates revealed a seven-month-long investigation about the Hurricane Ian evacuation Desjarlais was in charge of.

RELATED ARTICLE: Fox 4 Investigates: The Hurricane Ian Evacuation

Current Deputy County Manager Dave Harner will now enter contract negotiations with Chair Brian Hamman and the county.

Many commissioners said during a board meeting on Tuesday that because of his knowledge of the area and how much Ian recovery we still have, they do not want to expand their search nationally for a new county manager.

"Dave was there for every single decision along the way throughout the hurricane and has been for every single decision throughout the recovery," Hamman said.

Harner's been with Lee County for 32 years. Since February 2019 he's been serving as the deputy county manager and assistant county manager since 2015. Harner's also served in the Parks and Recreation Department and Domestic Animal Services.

Desjarlais announced his retirement on June 1, the first day of hurricane season. As Fox 4 Investigates has reported, documents show leaders did not follow the county's own emergency management plan to evacuate as early as Sunday night instead of Tuesday morning. That delay prevented people from being able to make the most informed evacuation decision.

When Fox 4 asked Hamman if the retirement of Desjarlais refers back to the Ian response he said, "Roger has always impressed upon his employees who work with him that family comes first."

With hurricane season here now, many commissioners say they want to act fast.

"Most importantly what I want try to do is try to transition right away," said Kevin Ruane, a Lee County commissioner.

Many expressed the need to promote internally, rather than an outsider.

"This will ensure the most seamless transition for our residents," Hamman said.

Though Ruane, at first, thought otherwise.

"We also would be remiss to think that there’s nobody out there that could fill in and understand Lee County," he said.

The transition is still not official. Hamman and Harner, along with the county attorney, need to negotiate a contract. It will be presented at the next Board of County Commissioners meeting on June 20.

If they put pen to paper, Harner will take over on August 1, the day after Desjarlais retires.