From businessman to newly appointed Martin County commissioner, Harold Jenkins isn’t afraid to get his hands dirty.
It’s a view that Harold Jenkins relishes. When under the hood or chassis of a classic car he is restoring, Jenkins can survey the situation and apply his knowledge and tools in order to put everything back in proper working order.
“You can’t fix a problem until you face it,” says the 56-year-old Hobe Sound resident.
This mindset motivated his surprising foray into local politics. This fall, Jenkins was sworn in as a Martin County commissioner, stunning observers when he defeated Anne Scott—then chair of the county commission as well as a former Jupiter Island town commissioner and Chicago circuit court judge—by more than 20 percentage points.
His message of bringing sound business principles and customer service to county government resonated with voters, many of whom blamed Scott for county decisions that cost millions of tax dollars for litigation and outside consultants.
“We’re not going to legislate through litigation,” he says. “I want to change the mindset of the county government from abusive and obstructive to helpful.”
A few years ago, Jenkins co-founded Preserve Martin County, a grassroots group that fought large-scale residential developments proposed for rural Hobe Sound while encouraging investment in the county’s historic Community Redevelopment Areas.
A Hobe Sound resident since age 7, he’s volunteered with Hobe Sound Community Chest, Hobe Sound Chamber and multiple non-profits. Before running for office, he helped kick-start an ongoing effort to incorporate Hobe Sound as a municipality—which he sees as his hometown’s best chance to ensure broad citizen representation and self-determination in maintaining its identity.
“Hobe Sound is a small town where you know almost everybody, and that’s something we don’t need to lose,” he says. “That small town feel is what we need to protect.”
A father of two sons and one daughter, and a grandfather of four, Jenkins has been married for 35 years to his wife, Susan Jenkins, who he met at age 18 at the Double Roads in Jupiter. Chief financial officer of Jenkins Landscape, Susan Jenkins helped him helm the business through its toughest period.
His father, Harold “Gene” Jenkins, started the business in 1958. He died of cancer when Jenkins was 26. Once in charge, Jenkins discovered that the company’s dire circumstances of high overhead and limited client-base threatened its demise. The couple made several difficult but necessary decisions, slashing staff by two-thirds, purging unprofitable accounts and rebuilding anew.
Today at more than 100 employees, Jenkins Landscape is a multimillion-dollar business with accounts including upper-end communities across Martin and Palm Beach counties.
Whether working on a troubled balance sheet or the engine of his 1964 Ford Galaxie, Jenkins says his blue-collar work ethic—a willingness to “literally roll up my sleeves and get my hands dirty”—will translate well on the county commission.
Decrying the duplicitousness and grandstanding common in politics, Jenkins says most people share his sentiment and prefer local leaders who remain reachable, relatable and accountable—which he invites.
“I don’t have an ego that needs to be fed,” he says. “When I do something wrong, I need someone to tell me, and I want someone to tell me. I’m a listener, not a talker—and I’m a worker.”