Community Engagement

Jacksonville, Fla., mayor will not offer JEA privatization plan

Lenny Curry, the mayor of Jacksonville, Fla., on April 26 made it clear that he will not submit a plan to the Jacksonville City Council that would privatize public power utility JEA.

In a written statement, Curry noted that when the JEA Board of Directors and senior leaders of the organization undertook an effort to know the financial value of JEA’s assets, he was supportive. “Our tax dollars and the hard work of public employees created that value, and city government has an obligation to preserve it. The discussion moved to privatization, and as city law speaks to this I felt an obligation to understand what impact the value had on future planning,” Curry said.

At the same time, he noted that he “never proposed any privatization plan, nor did I ever suggest or say to anyone that I would propose such a plan. Instead, as I have consistently stated, I did not believe I had enough information to correctly contemplate such a proposal.”

Curry said that is why he wanted to gather information and talk to stakeholders about these issues. “In this effort, I met with JEA leaders, municipal utility experts, financial experts, union representatives and workers from JEA.”

Curry is supportive of the recent efforts of the JEA board and senior leadership “to steady the organization and embark on internal reviews that strengthen the organization for the years ahead.”

This strategic planning and long-term commitment to JEA employees and customers “is also why I am choosing to state unequivocally that I will not submit any JEA privatization plan to the City Council.”

Search for permanent JEA CEO

Meanwhile, the JEA Board of Directors is moving to find a permanent replacement for Paul McElroy, who recently announced his resignation as JEA CEO.

At its April 17 meeting, the JEA board voted to proceed with a request for qualifications process to hire a firm to assist with the search for a permanent JEA CEO.

At that meeting, the board also selected Aaron Zahn, a former member of the JEA Board, to serve as interim CEO of JEA.

Zahn on April 26 appeared before the Jacksonville City Council Special Committee on the Future of JEA. The committee was formerly known as the Special Committee on the Potential Sale of JEA. According to local news reports, at the committee meeting, Zahn unveiled a new executive leadership structure under which Melissa Dykes, JEA’s current CFO, will become president and chief operating officer at JEA, while Ryan Wannemacher will serve as interim CFO.  Wannemacher is currently director of financial planning and analysis at JEA.