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The Lifeline

Bringing you the best local stories in and around our community.

Changing of the Guard

Featured Photo from Changing of the Guard

Meet Kevin Smith, Lake Mary’s new city manager, and join us in bidding a fond farewell to three great leaders who’ve served the city for more than 75 years combined.

The best-of lists tell us what we already know: Lake Mary is one of the top communities in the nation. But it didn’t get that way by accident. The city has a longstanding history of attracting and fostering some of the country’s most valued public administrators. Keeping with that tradition, as city manager Jackie Sova announced her plans to retire this year, the mayor and city commissioners focused their attention on finding someone who could fill that role with the same professionalism and passion Jackie has brought to it for more than seven years. They found those qualities in Kevin Smith. 

Most recently serving as the city manager of Winter Springs, Kevin comes to Lake Mary with more than 25 years of experience in municipal government administration, and he plans to continue the city’s proven record of success. 

“My primary goal is to continue the extraordinary standard of excellence established by Mayor David Mealor, the city commission, Jackie, and her team,” Kevin says. “Jackie has put together an incredible group of department heads, and by working closely with them, I am confident we will see ongoing success, which will be reflected in the city’s organic and encouraged business growth. We’ll accompany that with a proactive emphasis on maintaining Lake Mary’s livability and charm.”

As Lake Mary’s economic development continues to benefit both residents and businesses, Kevin’s commitment to ensuring the city’s ongoing livability is just one of the reasons the commission was attracted to his style of management. 

“Lake Mary has always been on the leading edge of economic development,” says Kevin. “I look forward to carrying on those efforts by continuing to encourage clean growth in areas such as healthcare, tech, and financial services. I believe we are also poised for major technological advances in the overall delivery of city services including mobility and transportation to enhance traffic flow and safety. However, it is imperative we never forget that the character of any great city is ultimately judged by its livability, not just its growth.”

Local Boy Makes Good
Born and raised in Florida, Kevin earned a bachelor’s degree in accounting from Florida State University and an MBA from the University of Central Florida. He and his wife, Kim, are excited to share their new Lake Mary residence with their children and extended family.  

“It’s a joy to live in a city with such a strong sense of community and a charming downtown,” Kevin says. “But most of all, Kim and I are thrilled to live in and contribute to the city in which we work.”

Thank You... and Good Luck
Times (and faces), they are a-changin’ at Lake Mary City Hall. As Kevin Smith walked through its doors in April and into the role of city manager, Jackie Sova was saying her goodbyes to her beloved staff as she passed Kevin the keys to her former office and closed a 24-year chapter in Lake Mary history. 

Now enjoying a well-deserved retirement, Jackie was instrumental in building the city’s reputation as an outstanding place to live and work. First serving as finance director, she assumed the role of city manager upon John Litton’s retirement in 2011.

Working with former assistant city manager and director of economic development Tom Tomerlin, who recently moved to Texas to pursue his dream to teach college economics, Jackie played an integral role in fostering the city’s significant growth and development including the addition of Verizon and Deloitte to the area’s high-profile roster of high-paying private employers.

“I learned so much from Tom,” Jackie says. “His knowledge of economic development and his ability to attract first-class businesses to our area is second to none. Through our team efforts, Lake Mary is now uniquely positioned as one of the few cities in the region that offers outstanding educational opportunities from elementary school through college and advanced career opportunities all within a few square miles.” 

However, for all of the fanfare the city’s growth has warranted, Jackie says one of her greatest achievements garnered no publicity, but it will ensure her legacy for city employees for generations to come. 

“Through a partnership with the City of Sanford, we are able to offer employees of both cities access to medical and pharmaceutical services five days a week via two employee wellness centers,” says Jackie, who spearheaded the implementation of the Lake Mary wellness center in 2012. “The program complements the city’s insurance plan and not only saves the city money, but also helps employees and their family members improve their overall health by offering them easy access to medical care.”  

Jackie also led the charge to resurrect the city’s community center and the recent expansion of the senior center. 

“I am so proud to have been able to play a role in the history of our beautiful city,” she says. “And, I am confident Kevin and his administrative team will continue to enhance the city to the benefit of the staff and its residents. I will miss seeing my wonderful colleagues on a daily basis, but I will be checking in during WineART Wednesdays!” 

As Jackie made her transition to retirement, she was joined by Carol Foster, Lake Mary’s longtime city clerk. Holding the record for most years of service as a city employee, Carol was an integral thread in the fabric of Lake Mary’s history for more than four decades.

Playing an important support role in city commission meetings, local elections, and daily city business, Carol watched downtown Lake Mary transform from a quiet neighborhood into a vibrant community center.

“It has been exciting to watch downtown grow,” she says. “When we purchased the building that is now the Lake Mary Museum, we [city employees] spent nights and weekends volunteering our time to strip down the building to transform it. We had a lot of fun getting our hands dirty and working as a team. I have great memories of working with my colleagues.”

Carol hopes she is remembered for her dedication as a team player and research resource. 

“I’m not planning any big retirement trips or adventures,” she says. “I’m just happy to have more time to spend reading and fishing with my husband right here in Seminole County, where I was born and raised.”

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