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JEA board member resigns to pursue interim CEO position

JEA board member Aaron Zahn has resigned his position to pursue the interim CEO position.

The news, first reported by the Florida Times-Union, was confirmed via a letter sent to board chair Alan Howard and Jacksonville’s Office of General Counsel and obtained by Florida Politics.

The letter confirmed Zahn’s “intent to pursue the position of Interim Chief Executive Officer of the JEA for the period of April 17, 2018 through April 17, 2019 (the ‘Transition Period’).”

The interim CEO, at least through Apr. 17, is Chief Financial Officer Melissa Dykes.

Zahn lamented that “Sunshine law does not provide a reasonable avenue to discuss and deliberate this matter with the collective Board in an ‘executive session’ prior to my personal resignation. If available, I would most certainly have utilized the more than appropriate and normal Board format to reach consensus on the best path forward for JEA.”

Zahn then made his case: “In the event of an abrupt departure of a CEO, it is common practice for a Board member with chief executive leadership, industry and strategic planning experience to assume an Interim CEO role. As you know, the main reason is to provide a stable environment for the company.”

That stability “allows executive team members to operate in their functional capacity without major distraction or disruption to the affairs of the corporation.”

Zahn outlined what he would do in the CEO position.

“My immediate actions would include, but not be limited to: 1) engagement of a top tier full-service executive search and research firm to implement a permanent CEO search and aid the Board with corporate and CEO transition services during the Transition Period; 2) reestablishing trust and open communications of JEA with our many stakeholders beginning with all of our employees, City Council, the Mayor and the Board; 3) building consensus around the purpose and role of JEA in our community; and, 4) providing the Board and executive team with resources, tools and structure necessary to establish JEA as “a utility for the future of Jacksonville” prepared to navigate and take advantage of the current trends in the electric and water industries.”

Zahn, appointed to replace Tom Petway, has experience in mergers and acquisitions — potentially pivotal experience during the privatization debate unfolding in Jacksonville.

The Jacksonville City Council JEA special committee canceled its Thursday meeting in light of JEA’s organizational flux. There are expectations, however, that whoever JEA’s CEO will be will end up testifying to the committee as soon as this week.

Written By

A.G. Gancarski has been a working journalist for over two decades, with bylines in national and local publications alike on subjects ranging from pop music to national and global politics. Gancarski has been a correspondent for FloridaPolitics.com since 2014, and has held a column in Jacksonville, Florida's Folio Weekly for two decades. In 2018, he was a finalist for an Association of Alternative Newsweeklies "best political column." Gancarski is a frequent presence on Jacksonville television and radio, including fill-in slots on WJCT-FM's award-winning talk show "First Coast Connect." He can be reached at a.g.gancarski@gmail.com.

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