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Jax Daily Record Wednesday, Sep. 26, 200112:00 PM EST

Should JEDC post remain appointed?

by: Mike Sharkey

Today is a big day for the task force assigned to find a replacement for departing Jacksonville Economic Development Commission executive director Mike Weinstein. Three candidates are in town for interviews with the task force, a group determined to find Weinstein’s replacement, and quick.

While the job has many positive aspects — good pay, up and coming city with lots of golf courses, the beach, good weather — there is one major drawback. And, it’s one that may have driven away a candidate or two that the first search produced. Quite simply, there isn’t much job security.

Should Stephen Dragos, Don Maxwell or Margaret Mullen impress the task force and Mayor John Delaney enough to get the job, they just may be out unemployed come July 1, 2003.

(Dragos, of Basking Ridge, N.J., is the president and CEO of the Business Partnership of Somerset County. Maxwell is the director of Economic Development for the City of Virginia Beach. Mullen, of Phoenix, Ariz., is the president and CEO of Urban Realty Partners, LLC.)

The JEDC was created by Delaney and Weinstein, who was hand-picked by Delaney, and has been its only director. However, Weinstein is leaving to run for mayor and the job has to be filled. The new director will ultimately be appointed by Delaney and that is where the job security ends. Because Delaney’s term expires on July 1, 2003, the job will be up to the whim of the next mayor. Should the next mayor want to clean house, there could be a total shake-up at City Hall and that could include the JEDC job.

Knowing this, task force member Leerie Jenkins — a former JEDC chairman and current ex-officio commissioner — is kicking around the idea of making the job more along the lines of mayoral approval rather than mayoral appointed. The new executive director would still require Delaney’s approval, but their job wouldn’t necessarily be in jeopardy when someone else moves into City Hall.

“We have several options now that the JEDC is up and running,” said Jenkins. “A possibility is to look at the executive director needing approval by the JEDC commissioners.”

Jenkins said he has only one brief discussion about the matter, has not talked with Delaney once about the matter, but has been thinking about it since the JEDC received its strategic plan early last spring. The plan specifically addressed the issue of the JEDC executive director and the impending mayoral change in 2003.

“We wanted to make sure the JEDC had a vision in place for leadership,” said Jenkins. “That strategic plan has now been adopted by the JEDC and Chairman [Fred] Newbill has created task forces to implement those plans.”

Chief of Staff Audrey Moran said she is aware of Jenkins’ idea to bring a little more security to the job, but she also believes not much will change.

“It will be an appointed position,” she said.

Jenkins said all three candidates are well aware of the job stipulations and hopes that one of them makes such a good impression that the job becomes a non-issue come election time.

“We have already been up front with them,” said Jenkins. “They know it’s part of the executive team. If we bring in somebody with great abilities and leadership, I would hope it would transcend the change of mayor.”

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