Interim CEO Melissa Dykes won’t seek permanent job at JEA

‘This was (a) difficult decision for me, but a necessary step towards ensuring a fresh start’

The state attorney announcing to a federal investigation to dig into the shelved effort to sell JEA.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Melissa Dykes, the interim chief executive officer for JEA, will not seek the permanent job when the utility’s board of directors looks to fill the position, a JEA spokesperson confirmed Monday.

Dykes, JEA’s chief operating officer and former chief financial officer, was selected to lead the city-owned utility on a temporary basis when the board removed former CEO Aaron Zahn last month.

In a statement, Dykes said withdrawing her candidacy was a difficult choice but necessary to give the utility a fresh start in the wake of recent controversies, which include an abandoned plan to explore a sale of JEA.

“I remain committed to promoting a culture of employee safety, delivering operational excellence and rebuilding trust, while ensuring a smooth transition,” she said. “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.”

Zahn was ousted Dec. 17 after details came to light of a controversial bonus plan that had the potential to pay out hundreds of millions to executives enrolled in the plan in the event the city sold JEA.

One week later, the board voted to formally abandon its invitation to negotiate (ITN), an effort to solicit bids from outside companies interested in buying or operating all or part of the city-owned utility.

Dykes made the short list of candidates vying for the top job at JEA before it was ultimately awarded to Zahn in November 2018, despite his lack of experience compared to more qualified candidates.

JEA’s board of directors has yet to decide whether to fire Zahn with or without cause, which would determine if he walks away with nothing or nearly $500,000.

Dykes says she plans to continue in her interim role until a new CEO is selected by the board. She said that removing herself from consideration could increase interest from other candidates.

It’s unclear when the board will begin its search for his permanent replacement.

About the Authors:

Kelly Wiley, an award-winning investigative reporter, joined the News4Jax I-Team in June 2019.