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Jax Daily Record Thursday, Sep. 20, 200112:00 PM EST

JEDC search may go local

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by: Mike Sharkey

While round two of the national search to find a replacement for Jacksonville Economic Development Commission executive director Mike Weinstein is in its initial stages, one thing is certain. If none of the four candidates coming to town next week to interview for the position work out, the job will go to a local — permanently.

“The mayor [John Delaney] has said there will be no round three,” said Delaney’s chief of staff, Audrey Moran. “He is anxious to get the results of the interviews on the 26th. If there’s not a candidate that emerges as a good choice, then we will look for someone local to fill the job until his term ends. He’s been very clear on that.”

Moran is joined on the task force by Weinstein, current JEDC chairman Rev. Frederick Newbill, former JEDC chairman Leerie Jenkins, JEDC commissioner Carol Thompson and Downtown Development Authority senior director Paul Krutko.

In January, Weinstein announced he would leave the JEDC and take over as the president and CEO of the Super Bowl host committee. The plan was for Weinstein to remain with the JEDC until June 30 or so, then concentrate full time on the 2005 Super Bowl. All that changed Tuesday when Weinstein announced he would not only leave the JEDC at the end of this month but he was also going to step down as president of the Host Committee in order to mount a campaign for the 2003 mayoral race.

(Delaney will be stepping down because of term limits.)

What didn’t change is the fact that the task force formed to find Weinstein’s replacement will be under the gun to pick one of the folks coming to town next week. The potential candidates include Randy Cardoza, Vice president/real estate services with The Facility Group of Conyers, Ga.; Stephen Dragos, president and CEO of Business Partnership of Somerset County, Basking Ridge, N.J.; Don Maxwell, Director of Economic Development, City of Virginia Beach, Va.; and Margaret Mullen, president and CEO of Urban Realty Partners, LLC of Phoenix, Ariz.

Delaney said he is eager to put someone in place for a variety of reasons and almost opted not to conduct a second national search and just go with a local. The fact that the JEDC director serves at his pleasure and his term expires in April 2003 has played a role in the nine-month search.

“I actually was close to saying that last time,” said Delaney. “But, Leerie and Fred urged me to go to round two. The clock has become our enemy. When you start looking at salary and expertise requirements, there are not many people interested in a two-year contract, or less. That has been one of the difficulties.

“Second, people don’t want their home towns to know they are looking elsewhere.”

Delaney said he in no way feels that a third national search would mean the City would be getting lower on the totem of talent.

“There’s a lot of talent out there, if you are willing to pay,” said Delaney, adding that Weinstein, who has been the JEDC’s only director since its creation in 1996, was the perfect person for the job. “Mike is unique in that he is an attorney, had run the City’s finance department and had been a chief of staff. So, he had the financial, political and legal experience and those are rare qualities.”

Although he’s hopeful that next week’s interviews will yield at least two viable candidates, Delaney said he will look locally for a permanent replacement if the task force is not impressed with any of the four prospects. And, the local choice would probably serve until at least the end of his term.

“It might be a permanent interim and it could come from anywhere,” said Delaney, adding there are many people to consider from both the public and private sector.

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