The task force formed earlier this year to find a replacement for Mike Weinstein, the executive director of the Jacksonville Economic Development Commission who will take over as president of the Super Bowl Host Committee on Oct. 1, plans to interview four candidates for the job.
On Sept. 25 Randy Cardoza of Conyers, Ga., Stephen Dragos of Basking Ridge, N.J., Don Maxwell of Virginia Beach, Va., and Margaret Mullen of Phoenix, Ariz., will be in Jacksonville for interviews with the task force the next day.
Cardoza has said he isn’t positive he will interview for the job while Mullen said she was interested in the job and planned to be in town later this month.
Both Maxwell and Dragos said they intend to interview for the position.
Maxwell, the director of economic development for the City of Virginia Beach, said he is looking forward to seeing Jacksonville for the first time in 20 years.
“I’ve talked to the recruiter [Joan Jorgenson of Joan Jorgenson Consulting, Inc.] but nobody in Jacksonville,” said Maxwell, who was last in Jacksonville for a HUD conference about 20 years ago. “She [Jorgenson] has talked with me several times over the last several months.
“I do know I’m a finalist and I’ll go down there for the interview. I would not be coming down there if there wasn’t strong interest.”
Maxwell has held his current position with the City of Virginia Beach for the last seven years but has been in the area much longer.
“This is my 27th year in the Hampton Roads area,” said Maxwell, who is 53 years old. “I was with the City of Hampton a little over 20 years, 17 as the director of development and three as the chief planner.”
Although the metropolitan area around Maxwell is larger than in Jacksonville — 1.6 million as opposed to about one million in Jacksonville — he said he sees a lot of similarities in the two regions. Maxwell pointed to the facts that both communities are on the east coast and have a strong Naval presence.
“I’ve heard a lot of good things about the city,” said Maxwell. “I’ve heard good things about the political and business climate in Jacksonville and she [Jorgenson] thought it would be a good fit for me.”
Should he get the job, it would be the first for Maxwell outside of the Virginia Beach area in almost three decades, but said he’s prepared to make a major change.
“I don’t move around too much. I’ve had two jobs in 27 years,” said Maxwell.
Dragos, the president and CEO of Business Partnership of Somerset County, said he did not know Jacksonville was in the market for a new economic development leader.
“I didn’t know the job was available until Joan called me,” he said. “She described the job to me and the more she talked the more I liked what I heard. I expressed interest in the job and continue to.”
The BPS in Basking Ridge is the conglomeration of several non-profit agencies that all focused in some capacity on economic growth and development in the Basking Ridge area.
“I have been the president and CEO of the Business Partnership since Jan. 1 of this year,” said Dragos. “Before that I was the president of the Somerset Alliance for the Future that was formed in 1990. I was the first person hired and (served as) president and CEO for 10 years.”
Once the first round of interviews has taken place, selected candidates will interview personally with Mayor John Delaney, who will ultimately decide who succeeds Weinstein, who is also a member of the task force.
Delaney’s chief of staff, Audrey Moran, who is also a member of the task force, said it is unlikely the new person will be on the job before Nov. 1 which means the City will go with someone on an interim basis. Moran said that person would be an employee of the City but not necessarily from the JEDC or the Downtown Development Authority.
The task force also consists of former JEDC chairman Leerie Jenkins, DDA senior director Paul Krutko, current JEDC chairman Rev. Fred Newbill and JEDC commissioner Carol Thompson.