Meet the new district manager

Kenny Blocker, after serving as deputy district manager, takes over the post from Richard Baier, who announced his retirement in December.

As Kenny Blocker officially assumes the duties of district manager today, Community Development District board members and committee chairs expect a smooth transition. Blocker, who has served 18 months as deputy district manager, takes over from Richard Baier, who announced his retirement in December. “It’s absolutely a big job,” he said. “I’m overwhelmed with the support from the boards and the residents that they trust me to manage the entire operation. But it’s not just me. There’s a complete team that I’m very proud of and very happy to work with. Our collective goal is to maintain the integrity of what this place is.”

Baier made Blocker his top deputy in June 2020 and is confident Blocker will succeed.

“I think the fact that Kenny has a lot of in-the-seat experience, if you will, has given him the readiness for the job,” Baier said. “He was more than just a deputy in waiting. He and (Assistant District Manager) Carrie Duckett both assumed a great deal of responsibilities, especially this past year.”

Blocker joined the District team in October 2017 as finance director after about a decade as assistant superintendent and chief financial officer for Citrus County Public Schools.

He took the position about a month after Baier was hired as assistant district manager.

Shortly after Baier was promoted to district manager, he tapped Blocker to be his top assistant. In June 2020, Blocker was named deputy district manager.

“Richard knew my background was more than just finance, I fell under an umbrella of organizational management and had experience running the shop, so to speak,” Blocker said. “So I moved into the assistant position and then deputy manager. Richard and I worked hand in hand together.”

Blocker is excited to lead the local government responsible for maintaining the lifestyle that has made The Villages the top master-planned community in the United States.

“In my opinion, this is the best private-public partnership you could ever ask for,” he said. “Just look around and you can’t help but see this place is phenomenal. The opportunities they offer residents as far as amenities — the engagement and interactions they can have with other people and the number of activities to get them out and keep them active — is amazing.

“Nowhere can you go and find what we have here. That’s why you see everyone moving here. This is the ultimate residential location to move to. You go outside, anywhere else, and there’s no place like this. We work collectively with all the boards and the residents to maintain that lifestyle they bought into.”

The District is fortunate to have someone of Blocker’s skill and experience, said Kelly Flores, chairman of the Village Center Community Development District.

“As long as Kenny has been here, he’s been there right beside Richard,” Flores said. “He’s been part of the journey. So we’re looking forward to what’s to come and confident that he will continue to carry out the great services and programs that we have in place.”

Mike Berning, chairman of the Sumter Landing CDD, echoed those sentiments.

“I am very excited that the District will be moving forward under the leadership of Mr. Blocker as district manager,” he said. “His experience and in-depth knowledge of all aspects of the District will be invaluable as we head into the future.”

Don Wiley, a CDD 10 supervisor and chairman of the Project Wide Advisory Committee, said Blocker is ready to assume the role.

“There’s no doubt he was the right choice,” Wiley said. “He knows the job, he knows what’s expected and he’s very capable of doing it. It’s a tough task to replace Richard Baier, but we’re in good hands with Kenny.” Don Deakin, a CDD 4 supervisor and chairman of the Amenity Authority Committee, said Blocker’s experience speaks for itself.

“Mr. Blocker has great experience and a great background with the District, first as finance director and as assistant district manager and deputy district manager,” he said. “He worked very closely with Mr. Baier and I am confident he is more than ready to step up to the plate and do the job required of him.”

One of Blocker’s first tasks will be helping to establish an independent fire district in The Villages.

“That is absolutely one of our top priorities for the coming year,” Blocker said. “We heard the residents who came forward in support of the initiative to establish a special independent fire district, and it will remain at the forefront of our efforts until we get this done.”

A fire control district that is independent of county control would allow The Villages to tailor its resources to the unique needs of the community that stretches beyond Sumter County. The new district’s boundaries would include all of The Villages in Sumter, Lake and Marion counties, while continuing to cover areas outside the community but within The Villages Public Safety Department’s service area.

Rep. Brett Hage, R-Oxford, placed the issue on the 2022 agenda for state lawmakers, who must approve the move through new legislation. If it passes as expected, the issue will then go before voters on the November ballot.