Clermont City Manager Darren Gray, the visionary leader responsible for the city’s rebranding and the Downtown-Waterfront Master Plan, has announced his resignation.
Gray accepted a new position as deputy county administrator for neighboring Orange County Government starting Dec. 14.
“It has been my pleasure to serve this amazing community,” Gray said. “Clermont has been my home for many years and it will always have a special place in my heart.”
Gray shared the news at the Oct. 27 City Council meeting at the Clermont City Center, following Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings’ announcement earlier that day at the Board of County Commissioners meeting.
“Darren (Gray) leaves Champion-sized shoes to fill,” Clermont Mayor Gail Ash said. “I’ve had the privilege of working with him for almost a decade, and he has truly been a transformational leader for Clermont. He will be missed and we wish him all the best as he begins his next chapter.”
Gray’s last day with the city will be Dec. 11. City Council appointed Assistant City Manager Susan Dauderis to serve as the interim city manager starting Dec. 12.
Gray has led numerous successful initiatives in the past eight years as the CEO of Lake County’s largest city.
Perhaps most notably, Gray held a series of community-wide visioning sessions that drew more than 1,000 people and prompted the creation of the city’s $22-million, award-winning Downtown-Waterfront Master Plan, including the iconic Victory Pointe stormwater filtration system, a new Clermont Boat Ramp, Legacy Loop Trail, the Clermont Art Walk, and a streetscape transformation. Gray ensured that the city delivered on its promises ahead of schedule, with completion planned for 2022.
As a result, the private sector has made record investments in capital projects stimulating economic and business development downtown like never before, including the opening of two breweries and two indoor markets, as well as a townhome project, a high-end spa and two hotels in the works.
Gray also launched the city’s new “Choice of Champions®” brand in 2014, inspired by the haven Clermont has become for professional athletes – and for champions of all walks of life who call Clermont home.
Gray has been integral to elevating the city’s reputation, attracting world-class athletes and events to Clermont, as well as a 250-acre Olympus sports and wellness community that is estimated to create over 4,000 jobs and over $1.4 billion in economic impact. Olympus is spearheading Wellness Way, a 15,000-acre growth and innovation corridor in South Lake County being jointly planned by Lake County and the City of Clermont.
Additionally, Gray spearheaded the city’s Open for Business plan, creating a business liaison position and making the city an even more attractive place to do business.
Among his other accomplishments, Gray led the acquisition and opening of Clermont Performing Arts Center (among central Florida’s largest), the 220-acre Lake Hiawatha Park, the million-dollar Clermont Boathouse, Champions Splash Park, new police headquarters, wastewater treatment plant expansion and upgraded fire apparatuses and equipment. A new public services facility and fire station are in progress.
Under Gray’s management, the city has earned numerous awards, including Best Central Florida City to Live In, Best Central Florida City to Launch a New Business, Top 20 City in America for Retirees and Top 20 American Cities Leading the Way in Economic Development and Quality of Life.
Upcoming Interim City Manager Dauderis is an accomplished professional with 20 years of multi-faceted experience in local government, seven years of which have been with the City of Clermont. Gray promoted Dauderis to assistant city manager in March 2020.
“It’s an honor to be appointed interim city manager of the Choice of Champions,” Dauderis said. “I’m confident that we will have a smooth transition, and I look forward to working closely with our outstanding councilmembers, directors, businesses and residents.”
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