The commissioner who represents The Villages portion of Marion County has been elected as chairman of the Marion County Commission.
Jeff Gold represents District 3, which includes all of the homes in the Marion County portion of the mega-retirement community. He had served as vice chairman the past year and his vice chairman will be Commissioner Carl Zalak III.
Gold is a native of Marion County who retired from both Marion County Fire Rescue and the Marion County Sheriff’s Office after nearly 30 years of service. In that law enforcement role, he served as the bomb squad commander, patrol supervisor and SWAT team member.
Gold, who holds degrees in business management, criminal justice, emergency medical services and fire science, also has worked as a contracted military and public safety instructor.
Gold came under fire last year when Villagers living in the sinkhole-damaged neighborhood of Calumet Grove descended on the Marion County Commission to seek help after dealing with the issue for more than a year. Gold initially scolded a group of angry residents after saying he had just received a courtesy letter about their concerns a few days before.
But he made several visits to the neighborhood and took a strong stand a year later with the company that had purchased the damaged homes. After the county expressed an interest in doing an independent study on one of the homes that was slowly being repaired for resale, he said he was concerned because the owner suddenly wanted to wrap up the project.
“It’s very troublesome,” he said. “I’ve gone out there and there’s not a lot of work being done. And now that’s going to be the excuse that they don’t want us to come out and do an independent study? I think that’s unacceptable.”
Zalak said he is proud to call Marion County home and as a business owner and civic leader, he has “dedicated” himself to improve the community. He has promised as a commissioner to “face the tough issues of jobs and solid waste.” He has been committed to protecting water rights, reducing wasteful spending and standing up for constitutional freedoms.
Each member of the commission also thanked David Moore for his eight years as the District 1 commissioner. He decided not to seek a third term and instead made a failed run at becoming Marion County’s property appraiser. He was presented with a framed photograph of Fort King in honor of his work in restoring that historic location and was asked by outgoing Chairman Kathy Bryant to lead Tuesday morning’s meeting.
Bryant, who will remain as the District 2 representative, thanked her fellow commissioners and staff members for working together to get through a year that was made extremely difficult because of the COVID-19 pandemic. In April, she implored Gov. Ron DeSantis to reopen Florida after he announced that restaurants could reopen at 25 percent, even though his task force had recommended 50 percent. She will preside over the State of the County address that’s planned for Nov. 12.