Emergency manager is selected

From Sentinel staff reports
Posted May 18, 2005

TAVARES -- As hurricane season approaches, Lake County officially removed "interim" from Jerry Smith's job title Tuesday, hiring the former paramedic as the county's emergency manager.

Smith, 39, a 1983 graduate of Eustis High School, had served as the acting director of emergency management since Erwin E. "Butch" Whitehead resigned Nov. 30.

Whitehead, who helped guide the county through three hurricanes in two months, returned to the U.S. Central Command at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa.

Smith will make $60,400 in his new role, about $8,000 less than the county paid Whitehead, 59, who headed Lake County's emergency operations for more than 21/2 years.

Public Safety Director Gary Kaiser said he chose Smith from a pool of about 50 candidates, many of whom were military veterans with a "take-charge and command" attitude.

He said Smith knows the community, the operations and Whitehead's plan.

Kaiser said the director's job requires a thorough understanding of emergency operations and an ability to work effectively with other government agencies, resources and volunteers.

Smith, who lives in Leesburg with his wife and two sons, previously worked for 15 years with emergency medical services in Lake County, serving as a paramedic and supervisor.

He also is an active Air Force reservist with the 45th Medical Group.

As director of emergency management, Smith expects to continue the blueprint established by Whitehead. Smith served as Whitehead's assistant during the hurricanes.

"We need to fine-tune what we did last year," he said. "You can always do better."

Teens' funerals this week

LEESBURG -- Funeral services will be held this week for two teenagers who died in a car crash Saturday night.

Services for Scott Davis, 18, will be at First Baptist Church of Leesburg today at 4 p.m.

Services for Casey Shelton, 19, will be Thursday at 5:00 p.m. at Northside Christian Church on Eagle's Nest Road in Fruitland Park.

Beyers Funeral Home in Leesburg is handling arrangements for both services.

Davis was a passenger in the car driven by Shelton when the Volkswagen Jetta crashed into a tree about 10:30 p.m. on Silver Lake Drive in Leesburg.

Davis also was among 19 members of the Leesburg High soccer team honored Tuesday by Lake County commissioners. Head coach Jason Gray gripped Davis' No. 7 jersey and blinked away tears as he praised his players as good students.

The team posted a school-best record this season, which ended in the regional semifinals of the Class 4A playoffs.

Commission Chairwoman Jennifer Hill consulted with Davis' family Monday about the recognition. She said his parents urged her not to postpone the honor, saying their son would have wanted his teammates to be recognized for their success.