BROOKSVILLE — Hernando County government's second-in-command, Deputy Administrator Larry Jennings, is among the first to sign up for the second round of early leave.
Although those who sign up for the voluntary severance can opt out before it is final, Jennings said Tuesday he had made up his mind to go.
"We're ready to try something different,'' he said. "I think I'm ready to spend more time with the family. I just think it's time.''
Jennings, 58, will receive a buyout of $43,480.80 for the 18 weeks of pay, which is part of the package in addition to 18 months of COBRA coverage.
Add in his personal, sick and vacation time and the buyout would increase to $58,578.30, unless he opts to leave later than the Oct. 16 date when those in the plan end their employment.
Jennings' base salary is $126,611.20; with benefits, his position costs the county $159,128.14.
Jennings has been with the county since 1973, starting as a planner and working in various capacities in planning, zoning and growth management over the years. He eventually became planning director and finally deputy county administrator in 2006.
Soft-spoken and unflappable even in the midst of the last couple of years of public budget upheaval, Jennings had plenty of practice from the decades of development battles he oversaw as the county grew from a population of 26,000 to more than 160,000.
Jennings, who is a native Floridian, said he didn't see any one event that convinced him that now was time to get out. He just was ready to try some different things, and he vows not to do a departure countdown.
He acknowledged that the work has been challenging as the county has been downsizing to cope with shrinking revenue.
"The hours have been pretty long, and there is a lot that has been going on,'' he said. "But we've gotten to a point where the budget is done, or it will be done by the time I leave. It's a decent time to go.''
Still, Jennings said, "obviously there are a lot of good people who work for the county, and I'm going to miss being around them.''
County employees have until Aug. 7 to file their intention of taking early leave. Employees with six years of experience by Oct. 4 are eligible to take the buyouts, which were offered to save money in the county's strapped budget.
The county has determined that there are 355 employees who are eligible to consider this round of early leave. If even just 5 percent, or 18 employees, take the leave, county officials estimate the savings in the first year would be $339,000; and in subsequent years, nearly $1 million.
That would be assuming that at least two of those 18 employees would be replaced by workers earning lesser salaries.
As of Tuesday, 21 people had applied for the leave option, according to Cheryl Marsden, human resources director.
Only three of 116 eligible employees accepted buyouts in the first round of early leave offered earlier this year. That program was restricted to employees making $50,000 or more. This round has no salary restriction.
Barbara Behrendt can be reached at email@example.com or (352) 848-1434.