BROOKSVILLE — Hernando County's first managing veterinarian for Animals Services, Lisa Centonze, has resigned to take the same job for Hillsborough County Animal Services.
Her last day in Hernando is March 28; she begins her new job March 31.
"It was really, really a tough decision,'' Centonze said Friday. "But I decided it was the right decision to further my career.''
Centonze, 47, who worked for Hillsborough Animal Services as a veterinarian before taking the Hernando job, is moving to an agency that has come under criticism from animal advocates and that has just selected a new shelter director.
He is Scott Trebatoski, previous shelter director for Jacksonville.
Centonze came to Hernando County in January 2013 in a new position approved by the County Commission after months of public outcry and a scathing audit of past practices at the shelter that resulted in a high kill rate for stray animals.
The crisis began in April 2012 when the Hernando shelter euthanized a healthy, young pit bull mix named Zeus just minutes after a family member had surrendered the dog.
With Centonze's hiring, the shelter was able to begin spaying and neutering animals before putting them up for adoption. Under her leadership, and with the support of other new staffers who have focused on finding homes for strays, live outcomes for animals have increased.
Commissioner Diane Rowden said she was sorry to see Centonze leave.
"She has set the bar higher than it was before,'' Rowden said. "She was the one who brought in all the equipment that was donated.''
Another plus has been the shelter's partnership with the veterinary technician training program at Hillsborough Community College, a program headed by Centonze's husband, Vincent. That partnership, which gives the students hands-on experience and provides medical treatment for Animal Services, will continue, Centonze said.
"I've been very, very happy in Hernando County,'' she said, praising the support she has gotten from her supervisors, the County Commission and County Administrator Len Sossamon.
"I think I'm leaving the shelter in a good place. It was a challenge, but I think we worked through it and it is poised so that success will continue there,'' she said.
Centonze, whose salary was $82,418 in Hernando County, said she would help Hernando find a replacement by reaching out to the veterinary community.
"She has done a fantastic job here implementing many improvements to the shelter and we are disappointed to see her go," said Brian Malmberg, assistant county administrator for operations. "We will get the position posted by next week and begin the process of finding her replacement as quickly as possible."