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- 2012 - September - 19th -

JEA board agrees to $381,000 contract with new CEO

by Joe Wilhelm Jr., Staff Writer

Paul McElroy, the chief financial officer for JEA, was made the highest paid CEO of the City’s independent authorities Tuesday by JEA’s board of directors.

The board unanimously approved a three-year contract with a $381,000 annual base salary. The contract includes a 3 percent annual increase beginning Oct. 1, 2013.

“As a board, we decided that we had to be competitive with the industry in our salary offering across the organization, not just at the executive level. We did exhaustive research to find that level,” said Ashton Hudson, JEA board chair.

When asked why the salary is more than the current Managing Director/CEO Jim Dickenson is making, $364,000, Hudson explained that number had to be compared to the product.

“You have to put it into the context that JEA is a $2 billion-a-year industry,” he said.

McElroy is the board’s second choice because its first choice, Pittsburgh businessman Joseph Belechak, removed himself from consideration, citing family issues.

The last round of negotiations with Belechak included an annual salary of $400,000, which also was offered to McElroy.

“That offer was also extended to me, but when I considered it and the Jacksonville community, I thought the number was too high for this community. I didn’t want it to be a distraction for the transition,” said McElroy.

“I was comfortable with the salary Jim would have made had he continued in the position,” he said.

One of the deciding factors for the board in first looking to a person outside of the organization was a fresh perspective on the utility’s problems with customer service, which was highlighted in its last-place finish in J.D. Power and Associates’ “2012 Electric Utility Residential Customer Satisfaction Study, South Region: Midsize Segment.”

JEA ranked last of 31 utilities.

“I may have worked in the JEA culture for the last 10 years, but I’m not from the JEA culture. I have had broad-based experience in transforming businesses into more customer-service based models,” said McElroy.

His first act will be to “send a strong signal” to communicate to the organization and customers that JEA will better coordinate its resources from the people in the field to the people in the call centers to serve customers better, McElroy said.

McElroy’s first meeting as CEO will be at the Oct. 16 evening meeting of the board. One of the board’s goals was to make meetings more accessible and an evening meeting was seen as one way to accomplish the goal.

“This is not going to be another board meeting, more of an evening with the board,” said Hudson.

Dickenson will take on a new position at the meeting. He will transition into the role of senior adviser as McElroy begins serving as managing director/CEO. The board approved the title change Tuesday.

In other board business, board member Cynthia Austin volunteered to attend the 2012 JAX Chamber Leadership Trip to Cincinnati Oct. 23-25 at a cost of about $2,400, but the motion died for the lack of a second.

Dickenson and McElroy plan to attend the trip, and Hudson was unable to attend because of business obligations.

jwilhelm@baileypub.com

@photojoe71

356-2466

CEO salaries at independent authorities

JEA – Paul McElroy, $381,000 (as of Oct. 1)

Jacksonville Port Authority – Paul Anderson, $336,000 (as of Oct. 1)

Jacksonville Transportation Authority – Michael Blaylock $287,000 (JTA is currently searching for a new CEO)

Jacksonville Aviation Authority – Steve Grossman, $280,000 (as of Sept.19, performance review Oct. 22. )

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