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Ocala
Thursday, September 16, 2021

Ocala City Manager Sandra Wilson has decades of human resource experience

Ocala City Manager Sandra Wilson has been a lifelong civil servant. 

In recent weeks, Wilson has faced a public backlash from, among others, Ocala City Council members that said they were blindsided by the firing of former Ocala Fire Rescue Chief Shane Alexander. Alexander’s replacement, Clint Welborn, was officially announced as the new Ocala Fire Rescue Chief on Friday, July 9. 

Wilson spoke on record in June about her past, which includes decades of work in human resources and city management. 

During that presentation, Wilson indicated that her employment in public service began at the age of 18 when she began work at the Eustis City Clerk’s office while simultaneously enrolled in Lake-Sumter State College (formerly Lake Sumter Community College). 

After receiving her associates degree at the college, Wilson went on to receive her bachelor’s at St. Leo University before transitioning into town clerk of Lady Lake. During her time as clerk, Wilson says she wore a variety of hats, including chief of personnel, among others. While working in Lady Lake, Wilson attained her first masters degree in human resources development. 

That led to her taking over as the first professional human resources director of Lauderdale Lakes in south Florida.

In January of 2000, Wilson came to the city of Ocala and assumed the role of human resources director.

Shortly thereafter, she received her Masters in Business Administration (MBA), something she says she decided to pursue because of a growing interest in business. 

She led the human resources department in Ocala for 11 years.

After her time at the head of that department, she transitioned to the City Manager’s Office as chief of staff before becoming assistant, and then deputy, city manager. 

Last summer, Wilson was appointed as the Ocala City Manager after filling the position temporarily while the city conducted the search for former city manager John Zobler’s replacement. Zobler resigned in November 2019. 

During the July 6 Ocala City Council meeting, a surprise motion to terminate Wilson’s contract with the city was narrowly defeated by a 3-2 vote. 

Before the motion for termination was made by Ocala City Council President Justin Grabelle, Ocala Mayor Kent Guinn, who had no voting power in the termination, said on record that he asked Wilson if she had spoken directly to Alexander about the firing. 

Guinn says Wilson said she did not because “[Alexander] would deny it.”

In the past 12 months, the city of Ocala has replaced its City Manager, its Chief of Police, and now, its Fire Rescue Chief. 

Shane Alexander was terminated at 5:15 p.m. on Friday, June 25.

Five Ocala City Council members, the Mayor, and the Ocala Fire Union President spoke on public record to specify that they had no knowledge or discussion of Alexander’s performance, the reasons for termination, or any inclination that a termination was in question prior to June 25.