JEA CEO Jay Stowe resigns, leading the Jacksonville utility to consider new leadership

Jay Stowe via JEAdotcom
Stowe stabilized the utility after a turbulent period under Aaron Zahn's stewardship.

Jacksonville’s public utility is embarking on another leadership search, with CEO Jay Stowe announcing his plans to leave the CEO role.

While he’s leaving leadership immediately, his separation date from the company will be August 15, and it’s being framed as a mutual decision. A separation agreement was ratified unanimously by the Board.

Rumors of Stowe’s departure had circulated for some time and crystallized into confirmation in the days before the special Board meeting.

But JEA will now be tasked with replacing a leader who stabilized the public perception of the power and water company after the tenure of Aaron Zahn, whose attempts to privatize the utility that would have brought him and other chief executives a massive windfall, ended in ignominy and led to an eventual conviction on federal charges.

Stowe opened his remarks by stressing that his departure doesn’t mean that “JEA is for sale,” before thanking employees and acknowledging the labor union’s “courtesy and respect,” then describing the “honor” of serving as JEA’s leader in recent years.

He also highlighted accomplishments, such as the “lowest combined utility rates” in a Florida metropolitan area and rebuilding “trust” and reviving corporate values “in a place that had been hurt and broken for too long.”

Vickie Cavey, already a liaison between the appointed board and management, will serve as the interim CEO. She has more than three decades of experience.

A succession plan has not been finalized, though the Board has discussed it, suggesting an interesting process is ahead.

Ahead of Stowe’s remarks, community stakeholders had their say.

City Council liaison Michael Boylan noted that the legislative body does not have a role in the CEO selection process, stressing the independence of the board and the “difficult decision” ahead, and lauding Stowe as a “stabilizing force” for a utility that needed it.

Mike Hightower, a former Board Chair and VP for governmental and legislative relations for JEA, offered comment about the way forward, suggesting that Cavey should be the permanent CEO.

Valerie Gutierrez, a former IBEW union head who worked to stop the sale of the utility in the Aaron Zahn era, stressed the importance of “communication … guidance, and stability” in what she hopes is a “smooth transition” between Stowe and his eventual successor.

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



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