A resolution drafted for the Jacksonville City Council would block interim JEA CEO Aaron Zahn from applying for the permanent position.
The as yet unnumbered bill moves to block Zahn, “given the complex nature of running a public utility and the current climate of change at JEA which has created distrust and concern from the JEA employees, ratepayers as well as City officials, the JEA Executive Director should have experience in running a large utility company and a good past track record, including companies that have thrived under his or her leadership and stoke the public’s trust in the process, which does not appear to be the history presented by Mr. Zahn.”
Zahn expressed interest in the permanent JEA CEO role in a Wednesday interview with Florida Politics.
“I would not have made the position to run for the interim office if I weren’t interested in running for the permanent office,” Zahn said, adding that his qualifications would need to match with a “scorecard” crafted by the JEA Board.
Councilman Garrett Dennis has filed a few JEA bills, and this is the latest.
Dennis said this resulted from a conversation with Zahn.
“This resolution is a follow up to my personal conversation with Mr. Zahn where I conveyed that he is not the right person to lead Jacksonville’s largest asset. It is unfortunate that cronyism and personal friendships played a role in Mr. Zahn becoming interim CEO in favor of a uniquely and exceptionally qualified internal candidate [COO Melissa Dykes], one who does not fit well in the boys club. She is missing a ‘Y’ chromosome,” Dennis said.
The bill doesn’t sit well with the Mayor’s Office, per Chief of Staff Brian Hughes.
“A unanimous decision of JEA’s board determined Aaron Zahn should serve as the interim CEO and is eligible as a candidate for a permanent appointment if he chooses to seek the job. We don’t believe politicians should meddle with or dictate to the board the path they take,” Hughes said.
[Dennis fired back: “Then the mayor should have taken his own advice before seeing that his friend was chosen. Totally inappropriate!”]
“The Council Member has voiced the same concern, yet this move is clearly intended to inject politics into this important decision. It’s hard to imagine thoughtful Council Members who genuinely want what’s best for our community would be persuaded to agree with such blatant hypocrisy,” Hughes asserted.
Dennis fired back: “Then the mayor should have taken his own advice before seeing that his friend was chosen. Totally inappropriate!”
One Dennis bill thus far has been successful, forcing a November 2018 ballot question on whether or not people want to explore selling the utility.
Another one is still pending: a bill that would give the City Council control of the board, allowing legislators to select four of the seven board members. This would be a drastic change from the mayoral appointed board, members of which were purged and replaced early in Curry’s tenure.