Jilted JEA CEO likens firing to biblical rescue
Melissa Dykes.

Melissa Dykes
She got on the metaphoric helicopter.

The brand new board for JEA, Jacksonville’s public utility, convened Tuesday, and summarily fired the interim CEO.

This is just the latest example of upheaval among one of the ten biggest municipal utilities in the country. Locals hope it’s the last.

For Dykes, who just wrapped up her second stint in that position, the firing was just part of a surreal meeting where board members performed the “distasteful” duty of dispatching her.

With the utility under federal investigation for a scheme to sell that cast a wide net over the city’s power players, both inside and outside of office, the new board felt that firing her was necessary to clear the slate.

Dykes, who has been measured in her remarks for years despite a series of indignities and slights, likened the experience with the embattled utility to Biblical parable in a statement Tuesday.

“I continue to be strongly guided by my faith, and I believe the past two years has been my own version of the Parable of the Flood,” Dykes said in her final CEO report.

“In that story, a man is trapped in his home during a flood and prays to God to rescue him. His neighbor urged him to leave and offered a ride, but the man said he was waiting for God to rescue him.

“A boat then came by to offer a rescue, and finally a helicopter, and the man refused them, waiting for God to rescue him. When the man gets to heaven and asks God why He didn’t rescue him, God says, I sent you a pickup truck, a boat, and a helicopter, what else did you want me to do??”

“When I was passed over for the Interim CEO role more than two years ago, I passed on the pickup truck. Over the past 2 years, I had my boat moments, but I am on board the helicopter now and trust in God to guide my steps into the future,” Dykes said.

While some people disagree about God’s existence, the JEA investigation is real and on a federal level, with subpoenas having been served last week.

The subpoena targets texts, emails, and other archival information, including communications between the office of Mayor Lenny Curry and the “senior leadership team” of JEA, according to the Florida Times-Union and multiple sources.

Curry, an on-and-off-again proponent of “recapitalizing” the utility over the years, faced political headwinds in the months ahead of the coronavirus crisis, as the sale push proved politically unviable.

The subpoenas target past and present members of the utility’s brain trust including former CEO Aaron Zahn, current CEO Melissa Dykes, Chief Administrative Officer Herschel Vinyard and former CFO Ryan Wannamacher, who was dismissed via a terse email.

The investigation was moved to a federal venue at the discretion of State Attorney Melissa Nelson who shared political consultants with Curry through her successful 2016 campaign for office.

Investigators were interested after a series of revelations regarding ongoing attempts to sell the company, coupled with a “performance pay” plan that would have allowed executives to buy stock that could exponentially increase in value.

Some attribute the mess to CEO Aaron Zahn, Others say that he didn’t act alone.

Curry hit the brakes in December on a bid process to sell the utility after unprecedented pressure from the City Council, the Civic Council, and other stakeholders.

Curry disclaimed responsibility for the sale push, stressing at various points the independence of the board members, and pushing for City Council to evaluate bids, even as phone records show he and Zahn were in regular communication at key points in the sale timeline.

However, that wasn’t enough to stop the bleeding.

The since-replaced JEA Board, a collection of Curry loyalists, summarily voted on Christmas Eve to stop the so-called “invitation to negotiate” process, one that elicited interest globally.

The current board vows, meanwhile, that JEA is not for sale.

While the board may be finished with the sale push, a moot point in a collapsed economy, the feds clearly are not done.

How those investigators see the sacrifice of Dykes remains to be seen.

A.G. Gancarski

A.G. Gancarski has written for FloridaPolitics.com since 2014. He is based in Northeast Florida. He can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter: @AGGancarski


  • Frankie M.

    April 29, 2020 at 10:34 am

    This reminds me of what Justin told Brittany in his 2002 hit album Justified. Cry me a river.

    Hopefully the purging doesn’t start and end with Dykes. Kerry Stewart should be summarily dismissed for pooping in our mouths and calling it a sundae. Lenny needs to go for trying to play both sides of the fence. All these people are responsible for what transpired with this veiled attempt to fleece the taxpayers either through incompetence or stupidity but most likely via just plain good ol fashioned greed.

  • LittleMe

    May 1, 2020 at 6:50 am

    The giant scheme to sell JEA and rip everyone off while making a few people a ton of money appears to have been going on for years before Zahn. Some people called it 5 years ago. I hope they blow the thing wide open.

Comments are closed.


Florida Politics is a statewide, new media platform covering campaigns, elections, government, policy, and lobbying in Florida. This platform and all of its content are owned by Extensive Enterprises Media.

Publisher: Peter Schorsch @PeterSchorschFL

Contributors & reporters: Phil Ammann, Drew Dixon, Roseanne Dunkelberger, A.G. Gancarski, Anne Geggis, Ryan Nicol, Jacob Ogles, Cole Pepper, Gray Rohrer, Jesse Scheckner, Christine Sexton, Drew Wilson, and Mike Wright.

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @PeterSchorschFL
Phone: (727) 642-3162
Address: 204 37th Avenue North #182
St. Petersburg, Florida 33704