JEA's Interim CEO Says She Won't Apply To Become The Utility's Next Leader

Jan 13, 2020

JEA interim CEO Melissa Dykes announced Monday she will not seek a permanent appointment to the position.

Dykes was tapped as the interim replacement for former General Manager and CEO Aaron Zahn when the JEA board voted to get rid of him in December.

“This was a difficult decision for me, but a necessary step towards ensuring a fresh start for all stakeholders and what is best for JEA,” said Dykes in a news release and at an employee town hall meeting.

Dykes would have faced opposition if she had decided to apply for the job.

Last month the Jacksonville Civic Council asked JEA’s board to start a search for a new CEO that excludes any internal candidates. The council is made up of a group of area business leaders.

"I remain committed to promoting a culture of employee safety, delivering operational excellence and rebuilding trust, while ensuring a smooth transition. This way, there will be no question that all decisions going forward will be with JEA and the community in mind, instead of through the lens of someone applying for a permanent position,” Dykes wrote.

Zahn remains on paid administrative leave while the board decides whether to fire him either for-cause or without-cause, in which case he could walk away with a severance package worth at least $842,000, according to WJCT News partner The Florida Times-Union.

JEA’s board postponed a meeting to deal with Zahn’s exit package  indefinitely at the request of the city’s Office of General Counsel, which asked for additional time to do more interviews as it investigates JEA and Zahn’s dealings.

Zahn was removed largely for how he handled the exploration of a sale of JEA and after the details of a controversial employee incentive plan became public. The board officially canceled the incentive payout plan last month.

Contact reporter Cyd Hoskinson at choskinson@wjct.org, 904-358-6351 and on Twitter at @cydwjctnews.

Bill Bortzfield can be reached at bbortzfield@wjct.org, 904-358-6349 or on Twitter at @BortzInJax.