Ronald Gardner Obituary
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In Memory of

Ronald E. "Gene" Gardner

February 6, 1934 - December 5, 2013
Obituary

Ronald E. (Gene) Gardner, who served with distinction as Executive Director of the Hillsborough Civil Service Board for 26 years, died Thursday, Dec. 5. He was 79. Mr. Gardner devoted his entire professional career to public service, including 28 years in military, retiring as a Colonel in the U.S. Air Force in 1985. A decorated Vietnam War veteran, Mr. Gardner's military service also included 13 other active duty assignments in the U.S. and Asia, the last at Tampa's MacDill Air Force Base. Within a week of retirement from the Air Force in 1985, Mr. Gardner was chosen as Director of Hillsborough County's Civil Service, responsible...
Ronald E. (Gene) Gardner, who served with distinction as Executive Director of the Hillsborough Civil Service Board for 26 years, died Thursday, Dec. 5. He was 79. Mr. Gardner devoted his entire professional career to public service, including 28 years in military, retiring as a Colonel in the U.S. Air Force in 1985.

A decorated Vietnam War veteran, Mr. Gardner's military service also included 13 other active duty assignments in the U.S. and Asia, the last at Tampa's MacDill Air Force Base.

Within a week of retirement from the Air Force in 1985, Mr. Gardner was chosen as Director of Hillsborough County's Civil Service, responsible for administering a 10,000-plus employee consolidated personnel system for more than 20 county agencies. He quickly developed a reputation for integrity and professionalism. A stickler for following rules and regulations, he nonetheless had a keen ability to find solutions to complex issues and to ensure that all personnel decisions were fair and factual.

Mr. Gardner modernized the Civil Service office, overseeing the conversion of all employee applications, personnel files and job tracking from paper to digital formats, producing significant savings in time and tax dollars. He implemented professional standards for the evaluation and classification of jobs and the development of tests to ensure the selection of high-quality employees in county government.

In 1994, Mr. Gardner headed up the Florida Public Personnel Association, revitalizing that group by creating rigorous professional standards and setting up in-service training programs.
He was recognized by the Hillsborough County Affirmative Action Council and received its "Spirit Award." He also was a volunteer with United Way of Tampa, serving on its Board of Directors and heading up the Funds Distribution/Strategic Planning Activity.

Mr. Gardner was born in Esserville, Virginia, in 1934, the son of Horace and Alta Gardner. Ten years later, the family moved to Oak Ridge, Tennessee. At Oak Ridge High School, he excelled in track, setting a state record in the 440-yard dash and leading the team to a state championship in 1952. Upon graduation, he accepted a sports scholarship at the University of Tennessee, where he captained both the cross county and track teams. He was inducted into Oak Ridge Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame, and his name appears on the University of Tennessee's "Wall of Fame."

After earning a Bachelor of Science degree in business administration, he enlisted in the U.S. Air Force, received a commission as a Second Lieutenant, and completed navigator and navigator-bombardier training. In the following years, he flew B-47s and B-52s, with frequent trips to Morocco, Spain and Great Britain on nuclear alert. In 1962, he was promoted to Captain during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Other assignments included Operations Staff Officer at March AFB, California, Base Commander at Divarbakir, Turkey, and Deputy Commander at Carswell AFB in Texas, where he was promoted to Colonel.

At MacDill, Mr. Gardner helped form the newly created Rapid Deployment Joint Task Force, which evolved into the U.S. Central Command, serving as Director of Personnel.
During his military service, Mr. Garner earned many awards and commendations, including the Legion of Merit, Bronze Star, Meritorious Service Medal, Joint Service Commendation Medal, Air Force Commendation Medal, National Defense Service Medal and several medals and awards for his service in Vietnam.

Mr. Gardner is survived by his wife, Joan, whom he met when stationed at Little Rock AFB in Arkansas; a sister, Carolyn Millsaps and her husband Kenneth; niece Christina and husband Michael; and great-niece and nephews Clare Aislyn, Max Alexander, and Mitch Aidan, all of Jupiter, Florida.

A Memorial Service to celebrate the life of Mr. Gardner will be held at Stower's Funeral Home, 401 W. Brandon Blvd., on Friday, Dec. 13 at 10 a.m.

In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made in memory of Gene Gardner to the H. Lee Moffitt Cancer & Research Institute, 12902 Magnolia Drive, Tampa, FL 33612.

"We pray the love, respect and admiration for Gene is forever carried in your heart as it is with all who had the honor and privilege of knowing him." Curtis & Eileen Carlson (Valrico, FL)

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Tampa Bay Times
GARDNER, Ronald E. "Gene" who served with distinction as Executive Director of the Hillsborough Civil Service Board for 26 years, died Thursday,...

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Tampa Bay Times
GARDNER, Ronald E. (Gene), who served with distinction as Executive Director of the Hills-borough Civil Service Board for 26 years, died Thursday,...

Read obituary at Tampa Bay Times.

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