Charlotte County has two new leaders in government: Public Works Director John Elias and Tourism Director Wendie Vestfall.

County commissioners on Tuesday unanimously confirmed the appointments.

The commission also voted to rescind a 5 percent salary increase for Interim Economic Development Director David Gammon, and boost his interim salary to $90,000 while he serves in this position. The 5 percent increase gave him $83,500, which was less than at least one person he was supervising, commissioners noted. Gammon is serving as interim director following the departure of Lucienne Pears, who left this month to join Babcock Ranch Property Holdings. The county must still pick a permanent economic development director.

Commissioners did not discuss their appointments of Elias and Vestfall, but they debated the salary increase of Gammon. According to the county charter, they are in charge of picking an economic development director, while County Administrator Ray Sandrock picks candidates for many of the other leadership positions in the county.

Elias was promoted from his current position with the county, while Vestfall will move to Charlotte County in mid-February from her current job in Dover, Delaware.

Vestfall has been the president of the Kent County Tourism Corporation since 2016. Like Charlotte, Kent County is a coastal community on the Atlantic Ocean. Its latest tourism campaign was called “Quaint Villages,” which boosted tourism dollars out of a slump, according to the Delaware Business Times.

Vestfall replaces Lorah Steiner, who retired in September after seven years with the county. Vestfall’s official title is director of the Punta Gorda/Englewood Beach Visitor and Convention Bureau.

Vestfall also held regional marketing positions in Virginia and Washington, D.C. In her resume, she promised to “Use well developed interpersonal skills to build consensus and relationships with customers, staff and other stakeholders.”

Elias replaces long-time public works director Danny Quick, who retired in December. Elias has risen through the ranks, starting in 1989 with an entry level position in the department. He most recently served as the manager of maintenance and operations for the county.

The public works department is responsible for maintaining the county’s roads, storm water drainage, right of ways, street signs, mosquito and aquatic weed control. In his cover letter, Elias wrote: “I have had the opportunity to serve in leadership positions with most every major catastrophe Charlotte County has faced...I am a transformational leader with strong team building and strategic planning skill sets.”

Elias’ new salary will be $107,224. Vestfall’s will be $107,000. The county requires senior managers to live in Charlotte County.


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