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The Villages
Friday, July 12, 2024

District Manager Richard Baier and staff have Villages moving in right direction

Richard Baier officially became district manager in July 2018 and to say that he’s made huge accomplishments in a short amount of time would be a massive understatement.

Richard Baier

Baier discussed some of the achievements he and his staff have accomplished and exciting future plans during a presentation on Friday morning at Laurel Manor Recreation Center. Accompanied by several of his department heads, Baier spoke before an audience dominated mostly by elected officials in The Villages who represent community development districts, the Amenity Authority Committee and the North Sumter County Utility Dependent District.

Baier didn’t hesitate to share praise among those in the room, which, of course, is the sign of a good manager. He pointed out that those elected officials came up with budgets last year totaling $336.37 million – a $4 million reduction from the previous year – and that department heads have been doing their part to find plenty of savings opportunities.

High-tech digital billboards that have been installed at the Rohan Recreation Center and the Everglades Recreation Center were touted as successes. In fact, they have proven so popular that Recreation Director John Rohan said they soon will be installed at older regional recreation centers as well.

Baier also talked about the customer service center that opened in July at the new Villages Public Safety Department station south of State Road 44. So far, that facility has provided valuable services to 1,000 residents and logged a whopping 5,500 calls.

A recently completed $1.9-million renovation added about 4,600 square feet to Villages Public Safety Station 40, which is located at 2455 Parr Drive near The Villages High School and the Village of Belvedere.

Not surprisingly, as The Villages grows in the southern end of the community, the Public Safety Department isn’t far behind. This past Wednesday, a ribbon cutting was held at the renovated fire station on Parr Drive that now serves as home to a 95-foot tower truck to service nearby multi-story buildings. It was a moment that brought a smile to Baier’s face as he talked about the accomplishments of Fire Chief Edmund Cain and his department.

“My biggest goal in providing District services is making sure that we never, never overlook the critical services that we provide through The Villages Public Safety Department,” he said.

Baier also proudly addressed the fact that the fire department maintains an average response time of about 4 minutes and 27 seconds – much less than many departments that require seven to eight minutes to arrive at emergency calls.

“It says that the health, welfare and safety of our residents is of paramount importance,” Baier said, “and also that we put that first as one of our priorities.”

This 95-foot platform truck is stationed at the newly renovated Villages Public Safety Department’s Station 40 on Parr Drive.

Community Watch director Nehemiah Wolfe, well known from his many years in law enforcement, provided an overview of what his organization does everyday to keep residents safe, from the Historic Side of The Villages, down to the newest sections in the southernmost end of The Villages.

During Friday’s presentation, Baier also offered the crowd a glimpse into future by talking about projects such as the First Responders Recreation Center in the northern end of the community, the Brownwood Woodshop, a sound system upgrade at Savannah Center, a pilot tunnel lighting project and an automated meter reading feasibility project, among many others (click HERE to see the entire presentation).

Those who know Baier and interact with him know that one of the many reasons for his success is his constant emphasis on communication and transparency. When it comes to government, that’s a concept that all too often isn’t followed. But in our District Government, it’s something that we – and Villagers – find extremely refreshing.

Not surprisingly, Baier also has many other success stories. He’s upgraded the District’s website – www.districtgov.org – and made it much more user-friendly. He’s made positive improvements to the Welcome Wednesday program and laid out a clear plan to reorganize the management structure of his office. And he recognized the talents of staff members that might not have been completely utilized in the past and then went the extra mile to make sure every supervisor was up to speed on the changes he implemented – yet another excellent example of communication and transparency.

District Manager Richard Baier speaks to a small crowd before the ribbon-cutting event at Villages Fire Station 40 last week.

But without a doubt one of Baier’s biggest accomplishments is the fact that no question from a resident is too small to answer. More than once we’ve seen him answer inquiries and hand out countless business cards. And we know for a fact that his follow-throughs are thorough and courteous, to say the least.

We’ll also point out that Baier has been heavily involved in moving the Villages of Calumet Grove forward after devastating sinkholes opened up in the community more than two years ago. And the former assistant Sumter County administrator and public works director has gone to great lengths to make sure that Villagers are top of the recycling and trash collection changes that are coming down the pike.

As we said earlier, we applaud the many success stories Baier and his staff have enjoyed over the past 19 months. He clearly knows the community inside out and we – like Villages residents – truly appreciate his openness and attention to detail. That’s exactly what government officials are supposed to do and it’s great to see that Baier leads by example.

With The Villages in a high-growth mode, open communication and transparency will become even more important, as Villagers will have a plethora of questions that need to be answered. We have no doubt that Baier and company will do their best to take care of those needs and we’re glad to see the District Office in his capable hands at such an important time in the history of Florida’s Friendliest Hometown.

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