JEA board extends Ashton Hudson as chair: Mayor’s appointee deferred
The JEA board of directors Tuesday voted to extend its current group of executive officers for 30 days, a move that will leave outgoing Chair Ashton Hudson on the board as City Council reviews the nomination for his replacement.
The board voted 6-0 to delay the election of new officers until a new member is in place. That leaves Hudson as chair, Mike Hightower as vice chair and Cynthia Austin as secretary.
Hudson's second term is set to expire at the end of the month, but it is unclear whether he is eligible to serve a third term.
Hudson filled the unexpired term of William Foley II on Oct. 10, 2006, which was set to expire Feb. 28, 2009.
Mayor Alvin Brown has selected Wyman Winbush to replace him. Board members are limited to two consecutive terms. Action on Winbush's appointment was deferred Tuesday by the Council Rules Committee.
"(The City Council's Rules Committee) is looking at whether or not Mr. Hudson served two full terms or not. I'll have to confirm whether the date when you were appointed is more than half or 50 percent of the term to determine if he is eligible for another term," said Cindy Laquidara, City general counsel, during the JEA nominating committee meeting.
The seven board members are appointed by the mayor and confirmed by Council.
The full JEA board voted on the recommendation to maintain its current officers from a three-member nominating committee comprising Hudson, Austin and member Ron Townsend. The subcommittee decided its recommendation in a meeting before the 10 a.m. board meeting.
Townsend said he did not see any harm in waiting for the new member to be appointed before electing a new group of officers.
"Notwithstanding the politics, because I'm not a politician, I would like to do what's best for us to continue our business because we've got a lot on the table right now," Townsend said during the subcommittee meeting.
Townsend presented the motion, which Hudson seconded. By a 2-1 vote it was submitted to the full board, with Austin in opposition.
Hudson asked Laquidara if he was able to serve on the board until either he or a replacement is appointed, which she confirmed he could. Austin then asked Hudson if he would continue to serve if he wasn't chair.
"No, there are reasons why I think it is prudent for me to remain chairman at this time. We have set the precedent in the past of (Austin) serving two years as chair, (Townsend) serving two years as chair. I would propose for reasons that I would rather not get into now, but will become clear later, that I remain chair at least until we can get some clarity on these other issues," said Hudson.
During the Rules Committee meeting, Council member Matt Schellenberg pressed committee members to speak to Hudson regarding his desire to remain on the board. Schellenberg also spoke of Hudson "spearheading an economic development issue with JEA" as a reason for continuity and said Hudson indicated he would be willing to step down after such deals are completed.
Hudson after the JEA meeting said he is involved with economic development projects, but declined to provide details.
At the full board meeting, the board voted 6-0 to support the subcommittee's recommendation. Austin was not present because she stepped out to address a JEA customer complaint