JEA names new interim CEO

JEA has an interim CEO and could see an additional executive position added to their organizational chart.

JEA has an interim CEO and could see an additional executive position added to their organizational chart.

There were two people who had expressed interest in the post- JEA’s Chief Financial Officer Melissa Dykes, who has been serving as interim CEO since the prior one stepped down; and Aaron Zahn, who recently stepped down from the JEA Board in order to seek the interim position.

The Board has voted unanimously to extend Zahn the interim CEO position. While they declined Dykes as interim CEO, they have voted to create a new contract position for her that currently doesn’t exist on the organizational chart. That role could be something similar to a Chief Operating Officer, which would tap Dykes’ experience, especially given that this interim period will overlap with the hurricane season, and Dykes has been with JEA for the past two active storm seasons.

Content Continues Below

WOKV told you earlier this month that JEA’s then-CEO Paul McElroy resigned, saying the utility needed a new set of leadership skills that were outside of his strengths. While he immediately resigned the day-to-day CEO responsibilities, he agreed to serve as a consultant through the transition, at least through the end of his contract in September.

Zahn told the Board he intends to immediately ask the City Council and Mayor to halt talks about JEA privatization, in order to give a sense of stability and squash any sense of fear that has surfaced from these talks. He also wants to streamline JEA’s management structure, in order to allow the CEO to focus on the strategic vision of the utility moving forward.

Upon a question from the Board, Zahn said he would intend to seek the permanent CEO position, if his skills matched what was needed.

For the long-term CEO search, JEA’s Chief Human Resources Officer Angelia Hiers says they have gotten some push back among other search firms. Hiers says one company told JEA they would not be interested in taking on the search, because of the current climate around talks of possibly privatizing JEA. Hiers says some companies are concerned about the impact that will have on finding quality candidates.

Nonetheless, the Board has decided to solicit proposals from executive search firms who are interested in taking on the task. They’ve waived certain requirements in that solicitation process, which will allow them to conduct this step in an expedited manner. A search firm that currently works with JEA- ZRG- can be considered as part of that solicitation. Hiers had initially recommended the Board move forward with ZRG, citing their experience in the utility industry, low cost, and prior high ranking and good results for JEA. Several Board Members wanted to make sure they were considering all viable options, and another worried about engaging a search firm before they had defined what they were looking for in the next CEO- which ultimately led to the broader solicitation.

The Board then discussed some of the characteristics they want to see in JEA’s next executive, and “strategic vision” was at the top of most of their lists. This again ties back to the ongoing talks about whether to privatize JEA, with one Board Member saying this is not about whether to sell, but about how to move JEA forward in a quickly evolving industry.

This is a developing story that will be updated through the day.