David Dionne, who retired two years ago as superintendent of the Valley Street jail, resumed his old job on Monday, and Hillsborough County began a search for a person to take the job permanently.
Dionne said he committed to running the Hillsborough County Department of Corrections for three months. He did so after the superintendent for the past two years, Willie Scurry, said he wanted to return to his old position of director of jail programs with the rank of captain.
Dionne said he will stay longer if necessary.
“This is a very, very hard job,” said Dionne, who will be paid $60 an hour as interim superintendent. “People try and can’t do it or do not want to do it anymore. This job isn’t for everybody.”
According to an undated news release on the Hillsborough County website, Scurry announced he would resume his previous job on June 7. His change was effective on Friday. Dionne took over as superintendent on Monday.
Dionne said, “It’s like I never left.” He said he hopes to keep the jail running smoothly until he hands the keys over to a new replacement.
Scurry, who has 29 years with county corrections, took over the job of superintendent on Sept. 1, 2020.
County Commissioner Toni Pappas, R-Manchester, said Scurry did a good job but faced a difficult time because of COVID-19 challenges.
In the early months of 2021, COVID-19 swept through the jail, which critics said had not done enough to stop its spread. At one point, half the inmates had COVID-19, and judges released inmates whose medical conditions put them in danger if infected.
Pappas said she is happy to see Scurry return to director of jail programs. Many programs had been suspended because of COVID-19, and Scurry had a following of volunteers who liked him and his leadership.
As director of programs, Scurry will oversee the SATCO program, which provides drug abuse programs directed at inmates; electronic monitoring of inmates released to home confinement; medically assisted treatment for drug users and other programs.
“Although I have worked extremely hard over the last year and a half to do a good job, I have come to the realization that I was better suited for and contributed at a much higher level as captain,” Scurry said in a news release.
Dionne assumes his job as county leaders meet Thursday to consider adoption of a county budget for the 12-month fiscal year that begins July 1.
An $18.4 million spending plan for the jail is on the agenda.
Pappas said she realizes that Dionne cannot take the job permanently but hopes he may be convinced to stay longer if necessary. Dionne said the state pension system limits how much he can work in a given year — 1,350 hours — and still receive pension benefits.
Pappas said about 15 people applied for the job two years ago, and four were interviewed. The only internal candidate was Scurry.
The posting for the job calls for a starting salary of $91,650.