Lewis slated to take Jonathan Evans’ place as assistant county administrator

Another assistant administrator — Mark Cunningham — a finalist for Pasco County administrator

North Port City Manager Jonathan Lewis. Image courtesy City of North Port

North Port City Manager Jonathan Lewis has accepted a conditional offer to serve as an assistant Sarasota County administrator, his future boss, Sarasota County Administrator Tom Harmer, announced on Feb. 21.

Lewis’ confirmation is expected to take place during the County Commission’s Feb. 28 meeting, a county news release says.

Lewis has been employed by the City of North Port since 2011, the release adds. The plan calls for him to start his new position in early April, taking the place of Jonathan Evans, who accepted a job last week as city manager in Riviera Beach.

The county also may have to replace another assistant administrator in the coming weeks. The Tampa Bay Times reported on Feb. 22 that Mark Cunningham, who joined the staff in 2012, is one of five candidates named this week as finalists to replace Pasco County Administrator Michele Baker; she is leaving the post when her contract expires in July.

During the Feb. 21 Pasco County Commission meeting, Mark J. Morien, vice president of GovHR USA, an executive recruiting firm retained by Pasco County, called Cunningham “a future start with unlimited potential,” the Times reported.

“You don’t have to keep reading. I really like this one,” Commissioner Kathryn Starkey replied as Morien read Cunningham’s credentials, the Times reported.

Prior to joining the Sarasota County staff, Cunningham was executive director of planning and development in Denton, Texas, and director of land development in Polk County. He has a Master of Public Administration — with a concentration in urban management — from the University of Baltimore.

As for Lewis: The county news release notes that he has more than 19 years of local government experience in Florida. He is a credentialed manager through the International City/County Management Association (ICMA), and he holds a master’s degree in public administration and a bachelor of arts in political science, both from the University of South Florida, it adds.

Assistant County Administrator Mark Cunningham. Photo courtesy Sarasota County

“We are excited to welcome Jonathan Lewis to Sarasota County,” Harmer said in the release. “He has gained significant experience in local government and has an understanding of the challenges and opportunities that exist here through his collaboration with the county during his time in North Port.”

“Lewis was directly responsible for operations at North Port, one of Florida’s fastest-growing cities, and more than 600 full-time equivalent employees,” the release points out.

Among the more controversial issues with which he has had to deal was the future of Warm Mineral Springs. The North Port Commission and the County Commission bought the property in 2010 for $5.5 million, with county leaders eyeing development potential for part of the site. A subsequent change in the composition of the City Commission resulted in the city’s efforts to oppose that. Ultimately, the County Commission agreed to sell its share of the land to the city.

More recently, Lewis has been working with county staff on the negotiations to construct a stadium complex in the West Villages for the Atlanta Braves.

In the county release this week, Lewis said, “I am honored to be chosen to be a part of the team at Sarasota County.” He added in the release, “I have developed a great working relationship with the county during my time in North Port and have the utmost respect for the county administrator and his organization. I look forward to continuing my public service here in the county.”

Prior to his tenure in North Port, Lewis served as deputy city manager in Palm Bay (2004-2011) and as assistant town manager (2000-2004) and assistant to the town manager and finance director (1999) in Belleair, the release notes.

As assistant county administrator, Lewis will oversee the county’s Community Development/Infrastructure departments: Planning and Development Services; Public Utilities; Public Works; Sarasota County Area Transit; and Business and Economic Development, the release said.