Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Outspoken Pinellas health official asked to resign

Hired three years ago to overhaul Pinellas County's health and poverty programs, the director of the county's health and community services department said she's stepping down after she was asked to resign.

Gwendolyn Warren, 63, was brought in to be a change agent — that's how County Administrator Bob LaSala and the county commissioners saw her at first, and that's how she saw herself.

But Warren's outspoken style and some of the changes she made, particularly shifts in funding, turned her into a divisive figure, with defenders on one side and a chorus of critics on the other. Last week, she said, she was asked to resign, but opted instead to retire in June, a decision that county officials accepted.

In an interview Monday, Warren said she was proud of what she'd accomplished. In her three years, she oversaw a detailed study of poverty in Pinellas, secured $5 million in federal funding for a medical clinic for the homeless in mid-county, and pushed the county to move away from simply housing and feeding the homeless to offering job training.

"If my efforts to improve community health may have upset someone, I'm sorry, but that was my job," Warren said. "I wouldn't change anything about what I did."

LaSala refused to say whether he asked for Warren's resignation and did not give a reason for her dismissal.

"I'm telling you that Gwendolyn has announced her retirement. That's the best thing to say at this point," he said Monday. Warren's dismissal comes about a month after a group of her employees sent an anonymous email to the commission, attacking her management style and calling their work environment "toxic and unproductive." In response, the county's human resources department began interviewing Warren's staff, an internal audit of sorts that is still ongoing, LaSala said.

Before she came to Pinellas, Warren was the deputy county manager for Fulton County, Ga., and, before that, had worked in social services in Broward and Miami-Dade counties. Hired by LaSala, she was promoted last year and given a raise after her department was combined with several others, including community development and code enforcement. Her current salary is $155,000.

But navigating politics, internal and otherwise, wasn't Warren's strong suit.

A year ago, after staff reductions in the county's veterans service office led to a backlog of claims, military veterans crowded before the county commission to complain. Warren hired replacements, and the backlog was eventually reduced, but the episode left some commissioners embarrassed and defensive of Pinellas' care for its large population of veterans.

Other decisions Warren made about which nonprofit organizations to fund, and how much to give them, angered social service groups and hospitals.

"The fact that the county believes that I have done enough is okay with me," Warren said. "I feel that I've done enough."

Anna M. Phillips can be reached at or (727) 893-8779.

Outspoken Pinellas health official asked to resign 03/10/14 [Last modified: Monday, March 10, 2014 11:06pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Rays DFA Danny Farquhar to make room for Brad Boxberger


    The Rays continued shuffling their bullpen, dumping RHP Danny Farquhar after Wednesday's game to make room for RHP Brad Boxberger to be activated off the DL.

    Farquhar, who worked an inning in Wednesday's 6-2 loss, had a 2-2, 4.11 record for 37 appearances, working primarily in lower leverage situations. In …

  2. USF to face Indiana in men's basketball next season


    The USF men's basketball team will get an early test from a Big Ten powerhouse next season.

  3. Rays employee helps save suicidal woman near Pirates stadium


    A Rays front-office employee joined umpire John Tumpane in saving a woman threatening to jump from a bridge near PNC Park on Wednesday afternoon in Pittsburgh.

    Multimedia production manager Mike Weinman, 32 (left), was walking across the Roberto Clemente Bridge with boss Larry McCabe when he saw three men …

  4. Blake Snell struggles in return as Rays fall to Pirates

    The Heater


    Blake Snell talked a good game ahead of his return to the Rays rotation Wednesday night, but he didn't pitch one.

    The Pirates’ David Freese scores on a Blake Snell wild pitch during the first inning against the Rays.
  5. College World Series title puts Florida Gators in elite company


    The Florida Gators put themselves in rare company with Tuesday night's College World Series national championship victory.

    Florida ace and Tampa native Alex Faedo (21) lets loose with his teammates after they win the Gators’ first baseball national title.