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Jax Daily Record Thursday, Mar. 28, 201904:10 AM EST

The Cawton Report: April Green to lead JEA board after Howard’s term expires

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CEO of Bethel Baptist Institutional Church was appointed to the JEA board in 2017.
by: David Cawton Associate Editor

April Green will lead JEA’s board of directors in April after Alan Howard ends his nearly two-year term as chairman. 

Green is the chief operating officer and chief financial officer of Bethel Baptist Institutional Church in Downtown Jacksonville. Since 2014, she also has been the COO of Baxter Technology Corp.

Mayor Lenny Curry appointed Green to the JEA board Dec. 1, 2017, for a term to expire Feb. 28, 2021. 

He appointed Howard to the board Feb. 10, 2016, for a term that expired Feb. 28. Howard served as chair since May 2017. 

“Mrs. Green will be great,” Howard said. “She’s been an active participant at the committee level, she’s fully up to speed on what JEA is confronting and she is well-prepared to assume the role of chair.” 

In January, Howard said he would remain as board chair through the utility’s selection of a new corporate headquarters site, a process set to conclude April 2.

Howard is a managing partner of the Milam Howard Nicandri Gillam & Renner law firm in Downtown Jacksonville. 

At the end of the board meeting Tuesday, Howard reflected on his tenure and defended the JEA board’s approach and decision-making during debates over possibly selling JEA to a private operator and the selection in November of CEO Aaron Zahn.

“Certainly, the privatization conversation was painful and distracting for our team and our employees,” Howard told the board. 

“Like many painful events we encounter in life, I think some good comes from that,” he said. 

Howard said he stands by the decision to select Zahn over two other candidates with more experience in the utility industry. 

“I think that time will prove this board made the right decision,” he said. 

After the meeting, Howard again praised Zahn’s leadership and initiatives over the past year, saying he doesn’t see “how any objective observer could evaluate the performance of Mr. Zahn and the senior leadership in light of all that and come away with any other conclusion other than an outstanding job.” 

In addition to Green’s selection as chair, Camille Lee-Johnson will serve as vice chair. 

She is the COO of Lee Wesley & Associates. 

The Rev. Frederick Newbill of First Timothy Baptist Church will remain as board secretary.

Brian Hughes, chief of staff for Mayor Lenny Curry, said Tuesday that Howard’s service has been “important to the administration and JEA.” 

“It’s a lot to ask people to volunteer so much time and energy when they are often busy with other aspects including their professional life,” Hughes said. “We’re grateful for everything he did for the city and for JEA.” 

Hughes said Green has been an active board member and a “great community leader.” 

“We’re glad her colleagues saw fit to put her in a leadership role,” he said. 

More changes are expected for the public utility’s seven-member board in the coming months. 

Howard’s departure adds another vacancy following the resignation in January of Husein Cumber. 

Cumber stepped down after his wife, LeAnna Cumber, won an uncontested race for Jacksonville City Council District 5. He said he wanted to avoid any potential conflict of interest. 

Another concern for the board is the health of John Campion, who has leukemia. 

The illness has kept Campion from attending board meetings since November. 

“I know that John is wrestling with some personal health issues,” said Howard. “It’s certainly our hope that he will be well enough to return soon.”

Campion, 56, is the founder and chairman of APR Energy, which is represented by the Jacksonville-based advertising and public relations firm, The Dalton Agency. 

Dalton Agency Partner Michael Munz said on Campion’s behalf that his doctors anticipate a full recovery. 

“The doctors have not given him a timeline to return to normal duties when it comes to life beyond treatment, but hopefully he will get a timeline to share with his business interests and his volunteer interests at JEA and with others as soon as possible,” Munz said. 

Hughes said Campion has been in contact with the mayor’s office and that they continue to have confidence in him. 

“For now we’re just praying for him, we’re ready for him to get healthy and come back,” Hughes said. 

Hughes said appointments for other vacancies would be proposed to council “soon.”

HQ decision looming

The JEA board meets Tuesday to decide where the utility will relocate its corporate headquarters. 

The decision, arguably one of JEA's biggest in the last decade, is expected to be made by only four board members. 

Flanagan is the CFO of the Jaguars and will abstain from the vote. Campion, as previously mentioned, is out with an illness and the seat vacated by Cumber has yet to be filled.

“I am confident that this board will do its job in evaluating the offers that have been submitted, the merits of each offer, and doing what’s best for JEA and its customers,” Howard said. 

He said the board received “best and final offers” from three development groups and that those offers would be made public before the meeting. 

Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shad Khan wants JEA to anchor the first phase of his plans for what is now Parking Lot J, west of the city-owned TIAA Bank Field stadium. 

Also on the Northbank, Ryan Companies USA proposes to build on a vacant lot near the Duval County Courthouse and the State Attorney’s Office.

On the Southbank, developer Mike Balanky wants to build a tower between the Kings Avenue Skyway station and two hotels he developed along Kings Avenue.

Zahn said JEA is preparing to sell or lease the current headquarters campus, comprising a 19-story tower and customer service center at 21 W. Church St. and a parking garage and offices at 421 N. Laura St.

The utility’s real estate department estimates the properties could be priced between $20 million and $35.1 million. 

JEA leadership previously stated the utility could demolish the structures to give developers a clean slate. 

Zahn said no decision has been made.

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