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Jax Daily Record Tuesday, Oct. 20, 202010:27 AM EST

JEA announces three CEO finalists 

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The city-owned utility will interview the candidates Oct. 27 and plans to name the hire Nov. 2
by: Mike Mendenhall Staff Writer

JEA announced three finalists Oct. 20 in the search for its next chief executive officer and plans to hold public interviews at next week’s board meeting.

The city-owned utility named the finalists in an emailed statement: 

John L. Hairston: Bonneville Power Administration COO in Portland, Oregon.

• John L. Hairston: Bonneville Power Administration COO in Portland, Oregon.

• Morgan K. O’Brien: President and CEO of Peoples Gas in Pittsburgh.

• Jay C. Stowe: CEO and founder of Stowe Utility Group LLC in Chattanooga, Tennessee. He is the former senior vice president of resources and operations support for the Tennessee Valley Authority.

Morgan K. O’Brien: President and CEO of Peoples Gas in Pittsburgh.

Gerri Boyce McKenzie, special assistant to interim CEO Paul McElroy, said in an interview Oct. 20 the board’s goal is to select and announce a hire Nov. 2 but not until the utility and CEO candidate have completed employment contract negotiations.

“They (the board) want to make sure that this isn’t a process just to announce a CEO,” McKenzie said. “There needs to be a lot of thought.”

JEA contracted executive search firm Mycoff Fry Partners LLC on May 26 to recruit candidates and assist in the search. 

Each candidate will have an opportunity to answer questions from the board, Boyce said. The board will have a public discussion on the merits of each candidate after the interviews.

Jay C. Stowe: CEO and founder of Stowe Utility Group LLC in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

Boyce said each board member will have 40 hours to submit candidate score sheets to JEA Chief Legal Counsel Jody Brooks.

“The board is looking for not only who is the most qualified, but who is the best fit,” Boyce said. “They probably go hand-in-hand. This 40 hours allows them to digest what they just heard. This is a very important decision and we want to do what’s best for JEA and what’s best for the community.” 

The JEA board will interview the three finalists starting at 8:30 a.m. Oct. 27 during its board meeting. The interviews will be in person Downtown at the Jacksonville Public Library Main Branch, 303 N. Laura St.

JEA will use COVID-19 precautions for the meeting, limiting space to about 70 attendees and conducting temperature checks upon entry.

JEA seeks a permanent replacement for McElroy, who returned May 8 on a six-month contract at the board’s request after former Managing Director and CEO Aaron Zahn was fired by the former board.

The board fired Zahn after city attorneys investigated and accused him of willful misconduct and gross negligence in the attempt to sell JEA and a proposed employee bonus plan, which was not implemented. 

A federal grand jury is investigating the sale process.

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