Villages District Manager Richard Baier is stepping down from a long career in public service at a time of rapid growth, the challenges of the pandemic and the expansion of government services to the nation’s largest retirement community. His last day will be January 7. Baier announced the news via a taped video released at a meeting of the Village Center Community Development District Supervisory Board on Wednesday. “Looking at our team here in Villages District Government, I’m delighted to say that we have such a strong team that embodies our core values,” Baier said. “When I look at the progress we’ve made over the past few years, we’ve taken a solid foundation and built on that.” The board unanimously approved Assistant District Manager Kenny Blocker as Baier’s successor. Baier leaves behind a strong legacy in The Villages, said Kelly Flores, President of Village Center.
“Working with Richard has been a great experience,” she said. “He is very knowledgeable about all aspects of district government and knows all the ins and outs. Transparency is something he mentions often, and he stuck to it. He was always ready to explain things and take the time to explain why it had to happen this way.
Baier was named district manager in July 2018 after serving — as Blocker did — as assistant district manager. Previously, he was Deputy Sumter County Administrator and Director of Public Works, a relationship often cited for the strong partnership between The Villages and the county.
Baier’s career also includes 35 years of public service, including roles as Director of Transportation and Environmental Services in Alexandria, Virginia; the Clearwater Public Works Administrator; and director of operations at the Florida Department of Transportation.
Among the accomplishments of which he is most proud, Baier highlighted:
– A new solid waste energy recovery and recycling program.
– Technology upgrades that enable more paperless transactions.
– Improvements in communication and customer service through an improved weekly district newsletter.
– A revamped district fleet service and the purchase of its own fuel facility.
– Transparency created with the District’s Balanced Scorecard.
– Fiscal responsibility that has saved tens of millions of dollars through bond refinancing.
– Protecting the Villages Public Safety Department after newly elected Sumter County Commissioners considered options to merge it with the County Fire Department.
– Spearheaded the proposal to create a special independent fire district focused on the unique needs of retirees, an effort that is now progressing through the Legislative Assembly.
Blocker has risen through the ranks in district government since taking on the role of Chief Financial Officer in October 2017. He was promoted to Deputy District Manager in July 2018 and took the post of Deputy District Manager in June 2020 .
During his tenure, Blocker supervised directors and managers in the Office of Management and Budget and the finance, procurement, risk management and special projects departments.
“I’m very grateful for your support and your belief in me,” Blocker said. “But it’s not just me that’s singled out, it’s the great team we have here. It’s a great team everywhere – in the recreation centers, Community Watch, the fire department, behind the scenes with accounting and budgeting – there are a lot of people that make this place work. I am deeply indebted and grateful to them for taking this opportunity to be a team leader and move this place forward. We all know it’s a great place to live and it’s our job to maintain the integrity of the community. Growth and development doesn’t slow down, so we have a big chore ahead of us. I don’t take this job lightly.
The board is lucky to have someone with Blocker’s skills and experience, Flores said.
Specialty Editor Keith Pearlman can be reached at 352-753-1119, ext. 5347, or [email protected]