JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The JEA board of directors took steps to lock down its leadership team Tuesday by approving contracts for interim chief executive officer Aaron Zahn and chief operating officer Melissa Dykes.
In addition to signing off on the executives' pay, the board also voted to hire Heidrick & Struggles, a high-powered executive search firm headquartered in Chicago, to look for a permanent CEO.
The developments came during the same meeting where board members evidently sought to squash months of speculation swirling around the potential sale of the publicly-owned utility.
"What I do think was needed was to answer any speculation that was taking place in the minds of the public or the media that somehow there was a backroom deal or agenda that was keeping the privatization discussion alive," said board chairman Alan Howard.
"That simply is not the case," he added.
While Zahn received a contract that will pay him $330,000 a year, the board elected to pay Dykes, his second-in-command, $400,000 a year.
Howard said the pay gap is not a signal that Dykes should be in charge, but rather a reflection of her years of experience in the industry and the value she brings to the organization.
"I suspect a permanent CEO will have a compensation package more in line with industry norm," he said.