COUNTY Hall has waved goodbye to its boss of almost 14 years and welcomed a new chief executive.

Dorset County Council leaders and its chairman gathered to mark the retirement of chief executive David Jenkins.

Replacing him is Debbie Ward, formerly the director for adult and community services, who is the first woman in the top job.

Mr Jenkins’s time at the authority, the county’s largest employer, extends back to 1989.

He said: “It has been a very great privilege to work for so long in this very special county.

“I have been particularly fortunate to work with some very committed and able people and I was very touched that so many leading councillors joined me to mark my retirement.”

Originally from Barry in Wales, Mr Jenkins started his career as a teacher before training in law.

He joined the council as deputy county solicitor, later became assistant chief executive, county solicitor then director for corporate services before taking on the top job in 1999.

Past and present council leaders and other dignitaries attended a ceremony to mark his retirement.

Chairman John Wilson said: “David is a fine example of good leadership combined with a caring attitude.”

He added Mr Jenkins was leaving behind an ‘impressive legacy’.

The group was also present to watch Coun Wilson and Lord Lieutenant of Dorset Valerie Pitt-Rivers plant a Mountain Ash tree outside County Hall to mark the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee year. They were joined by Richard Belding of the Butterfly Conservation Trust, which has supported a garden in the grounds as a refuge for butterflies.

Mr Jenkins added: “It has been a great privilege to have been chief executive of the county council.

“I know that Debbie will do an admirable job of taking the council forward in the next stage of its development.”

Debbie Ward came to Dorset from Reading Borough Council in May 2010. With experience working for unitary, district and London borough councils, she will lead the authority at a time of huge change for the public sector.

Mother-of-two Mrs Ward, who lives in Poole, said: “I will take up the job with enthusiasm and a clear sense of responsibility for the leadership I will need to show as we rise to the significant challenges of the coming years.”

Council leader Angus Campbell said: “Debbie is a hugely capable individual and will continue the tradition of outstanding chief executives serving Dorset County Council and the people of Dorset.”