Doug Lewis took over the reins as Pinellas Park city manager Wednesday replacing Mike Gustafson, who retired after 10 years in the position.
Lewis, 58, is a native of New York whose family moved to Pinellas Park in the mid 1950s.
He attended what was then St. Petersburg Junior College for continuing education courses in fire science. He received a bachelor's degree in 2000 in public leadership and organizational studies from Eckerd College. He received certification as a public manager from Florida State University in 2004.
Lewis worked for St. Petersburg Fire and Rescue from 1975 to 2002, retiring as the rescue division chief before becoming the Polk County fire chief. He left Polk in 2004 to become Pinellas Park fire chief, a position he held until about 10 months ago when he began training to succeed Gustafson. While chief, Lewis served as president of the Pinellas County Fire Chiefs Association and in a myriad of other leadership positions.
He met his wife, Darlene, when they were in the ninth grade at Pinellas Park Junior High School. He has two children. Michael is a firefighter-paramedic with the St. Petersburg Fire and Rescue. Brittney is a resident in orthopedic surgery at Orlando Regional Medical Center.
Lewis has one grandchild.
As city manager, he will earn about $130,905 a year.
What do you see as the biggest challenge facing you?
Transitioning from answering to one boss to answering to five bosses — the mayor and four City Council members, Lewis said. Maintaining the good relationship Gustafson built between the manager and the council and building on the rapport he developed with council members during the past 10 months.
What do you see as the biggest challenge facing the city?
Continuing the great service to the city and its residents, he said. Pinellas Park has done a great job since the economic crash of 2007 in maintaining services while cutting back on employees to about 498 from about 600. "I don't think the residents have noticed a drop in services." Officials are ready to revamp citywide technology to maintain and improve customer service without increasing costs. This will help hold down costs as the economy rebounds and the demand for services increases.
What have you learned the past 10 months?
Lewis was especially impressed by Gustafson's ability to connect to all levels of city life, from citizens to employees to businesses. "If I've learned one thing, it's how well he's done that. . . . I'm hoping to continue that."
What is the best piece of advice Gustafson gave you?
"He gave me his phone number." Kidding aside, Gustafson impressed on Lewis the need to make decisions that benefit all — residents, employees, businesses — so that Pinellas Park becomes a better place to live and work.
How do you see Pinellas Park in five years?
The vision of the city is the job of the council, but Lewis said he hopes to see continued redevelopment along Park Boulevard and in the community redevelopment area. He also sees a drastically changed staff with the coming retirement of many longtime employees, including police Chief Dorene Thomas. "We'll lose a lot of the historical experience. . . . We'll be developing a new staff or administration." Currently, officials are mentoring some employees to replace those who will be leaving.
Anything you want to say to Pinellas Park residents?
"Hopefully, they won't see any difference" in services or reduction in the quality of life from the changeover. Lewis said he plans to have an open-door policy for all residents. "We're listening all the time and looking for opportunities" to serve.
Anne Lindberg can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8450.