Darren Gray’s 15 Years of Service Transformed the City
“Darren has helped make Clermont a great place to live and a great place to do business,” Colby said. “We truly believe we would not be the Choice of Champions without his efforts. We will certainly miss him, and we wish him all the best in his next position.”
Lake County Chairman Sean Parks praised Gray for their strong city-county relationship.
“On behalf of the Lake County Commission, we thank him for his great service to Clermont and to the county,” said Parks, who also worked with Gray when he served as county manager.
Leaders of other community groups also expressed their gratitude.
Gray has led numerous successful initiatives in the past eight years as the city manager and CEO of Lake County’s largest city. Upon his departure, he oversaw 400 employees, managed a budget of about $158 million and served about 44,000 residents. He was assistant city manager for the seven years prior to his promotion.
As a result, the private sector has made record investments in capital projects, stimulating economic and business development downtown like never before.
Downtown is thriving with new businesses and entertainment, including two breweries, two indoor markets and dozens of other shops and restaurants that opened in the last few years.
“The implementation of the Master Plan far exceeded anything I’ve ever been a part of,” Gray said. “What we’ve accomplished here has been phenomenal, and it was the community who drove it.”
Gray also launched the city’s “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 the state, county, city and private developers.
During his eight years as city manager, Clermont’s population jumped 47 percent, its square footage grew 30%, the per capita personal income level rose 22%, the total taxable property value leapt 93% and annual single-family residences doubled; the city issued almost three thousand business tax receipts, and the number of annual building permits jumped 200%.
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 the Clermont Arts and Recreation Center, including one of Central Florida’s largest performing arts centers; the 220-acre Lake Hiawatha Park, the million-dollar Clermont Boathouse, Champions Splash Park, a new Clermont City Center. During Gray’s eight years, the city tripled its park space and doubled its trails.
Under Gray’s leadership, the city’s finances have been sound, and its millage rate has remained among the lowest in Central Florida.
Gray leaves Champion-sized shoes to fill. An internal and external recruitment process has begun for the next city manager, with an anticipated start date in April 2021.