Gaye Sharpe Named To Succeed Jeff Spence

Gaye Sharpe, whose skills as a scientist, manager and fifth generation Polk County native helped to make the Polk County Environmental Lands Program a success, has been tapped to become the new director of parks and natural resources.

Sharpe, whose appointment by County Manager Jim Freeman must be confirmed by the County Commission, will succeed longtime director Jeff Spence, who is retiring.

She played a key role in the development of Circle B Bar Reserve and Polk’s Nature Discovery Center and had been involved in a variety of environmental monitoring work before taking over the Environmental Lands Program, which was funded by tax proceeds approved in a 1994 referendum organized by Sierra and other local environmental groups.

Her appointment provides some continuity in the program at a time when taxpayer funding for the program has ended, forcing the program to be supported by an endowment created to provide a sustainable funding source for the management and operation of the sites purchased by Polk County and its partners.