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Clearwater council approves new city manager contract

Jon Jennings will begin on Nov. 8 and will be paid $230,000 to lead Tampa Bay’s third-largest city.
Jon Jennings, currently the city manager of Portland, Maine, will take over as Clearwater city manager on Nov. 8.
Jon Jennings, currently the city manager of Portland, Maine, will take over as Clearwater city manager on Nov. 8. [ LUIS SANTANA | Times ]
Published Sep. 17

CLEARWATER — It’s official. The first new city manager in 20 years will begin his administration on Nov. 8, according to an employment contract approved by the City Council on Thursday.

Jon Jennings, currently the city manager of Portland, Maine, will be paid $230,000 to lead the day-to-day operations of Tampa Bay’s third-largest city. According to the Portland Press Herald, Jennings earned $179,790 last year as Portland’s city manager.

Jennings will succeed former Clearwater City Manager Bill Horne, who died of a suspected heart attack on Aug. 14, three weeks before his planned retirement. The national search for Horne’s successor was underway at the time of his death.

Interim City Manager Micah Maxwell will continue to lead the administration until Jennings arrives.

Related: Clearwater taps Portland, Maine, leader as first new city manager in 20 years

Like Horne’s contract, Jennings’ employment does not have a fixed term as he will serve at the pleasure of the council. Jennings will be given a $600 monthly car allowance, as Horne’s contract provided. He will be required to reside in city limits within one year and will be given up to $35,000 for relocation expenses.

Jennings’ $230,000 salary is $12,906 more than Horne’s last salary. The council advertised the position at a range of $210,000 to $240,000.

Jennings would receive 20 weeks pay if the council terminated him without cause. If he resigns or is fired with cause, he would receive no severance but would be paid for unused leave, according to the contract.

The council selected Jennings on Sept. 2 over three other finalists for city manager.

Jennings spent a decade as a scout and coach for the Boston Celtics beginning in the late 1980s. He transitioned into government through a White House fellowship in 1997 with the Clinton administration. He worked in the Office of Cabinet Affairs under Thurgood Marshall Jr. and as acting assistant attorney general for legislative affairs.

After an unsuccessful 2004 run for Congress as a Democrat in a red Indiana district, he raised $1.5 million to bring the Maine Red Claws, an NBA development team, to Portland.

He pivoted to local government, becoming assistant city manager of South Portland, Maine, in 2013 and city manager of Portland in 2015.

In Portland, Jennings said he helped center an unstable government by accelerating stormwater and sewer upgrades and expanding training for department heads. He created a sustainability program and helped build a 4-acre solar farm. He oversaw what he called a progressive police department as it hired a substance abuse position to battle the opioid epidemic.

Jennings joined the Clearwater City Council and staff members in Philadelphia on Sept. 10 and 11 for their annual trip to network with the Philadelphia Phillies. The team has its spring training operation in Clearwater.

“The faster he can get in and get familiar with everything, the better the city’s going to be,” council member David Allbritton said.