The Jacksonville Downtown Investment Authority narrowed its search for a new CEO to three finalists, including City Council member Lori Boyer, and is scheduled to interview the candidates in a public meeting May 15.
WJCT News partner the Jacksonville Daily Record reported that Boyer told the JAX Chamber Downtown Council on Friday that she is moving on to the second and final round of interviews.
The DIA held a first round of interviews in mid-April.
Boyer confirmed the other two candidates are from outside Jacksonville, but the city did not immediately release the names.
The DIA has been without a permanent chief executive since October, when CEO Aundra Wallace left to become president of the JAXUSA Partnership at JAX Chamber. The partnership is the chamber’s economic development division.
Brian Hughes, Mayor Lenny Curry’s chief of staff, serves as the interim DIA CEO.
Hughes has been appointed to replace retiring city Chief Administrative Officer Sam Mousa, who will leave June 28.
The DIA contracted with executive search firm Jorgenson Consulting Inc. in November to help identify the next CEO.
Boyer will leave her District 5 council seat in June after serving a maximum two consecutive terms.
Her connections with the authority run deep. Council President Aaron Bowman appointed her as the council liaison to the DIA, putting her in a close working relationship with the agency.
She also was part of drafting the initial legislation that created the DIA.
Boyer told the chamber members why she is the best fit to lead the DIA.
She said her longstanding experience and knowledge of Jacksonville and Downtown would be more beneficial than an outside perspective.
“I know that there are those who perceive there is great value to bringing in new ideas from other places. And I don’t disagree with that,” she said.
“There is a lot of value you can learn from other things and other locations. There’s also, though, a lot of history and a lot of understanding of people and places and what the rules are here that make it easier to operate here,” she said.
Boyer said her biggest challenge is an opinion issued in April from the Florida Commission of Ethics that says a former City Council member is not allowed to represent a group or the city’s interests before the council for two years following their term.
Boyer said she understands why a former elected official acting as a paid lobbyist for a third-party organization should not be allowed to address the council.
The nine-member DIA is appointed by the mayor, who has five nominations, and the council president, who has four. Council confirms all nominations.
As for representing the city as CEO of the DIA, she cited the opinion of Jacksonville’s Office of General Counsel.
“Our own General Counsel for the city had issued an opinion saying that if you’re appearing of behalf of the city you’re not lobbying,” she said.
“It’s kind of convoluted to get to where (state ethics commission members) are but that’s their opinion, and that means when I interviewed I had to explain to the board members how I would handle that.”
In April, Boyer said she would have DIA staff or authority representatives address the council on her behalf for the first two years.