The Downtown Improvement Board will be moving forward with the scheduled candidate interviews for its executive director position. The board arrived at that unchanged course after traversing some tense terrain during a special meeting yesterday.
“I just want to get it discussed and get it out into the open,” said DIB Chairman Corbett Davis, II, suggesting the executive search process was moving “too fast” and raising “some issues, some questions and some concerns.”
In short, Corbett, as well as DIB board member John Peacock, had concerns about the structure of the search process. They were expecting the search committee to present them with a fuller list of candidates—around five—to select from.
“Before it went to the mayor, before we set up interviews for them to come in,” Corbett said.
DIB board member Ed Carson, head of the search committee, and Sandra Ward, interim director, laid out the search process. The field began with 182 candidates, was narrowed to 30, then 13; in early January the five finalists were interviewed.
“I think, Corbett, that we have a major disagreement about what a search committee is,” Carson said, maintaining that the committee followed the process approved by the DIB. “This is an executive search committee, not a resume-vetting committee.”
Peacock summed it up as “obviously some miscommunication, some misunderstanding.” Carson described it as “very clear and on the record.”
“So, the committee’s going to pick the person?” clarified Davis.
“That’s how it works,” said Carson, adding that the DIB board could always reject the pick.
One of the concerns expressed by Peacock was that the candidates understood the landscape which they would be stepping into. He felt they needed to be confronted with Mayor Ashton Hayward’s Urban Redevelopment Advisory Committee report, which recommends cutting the DIB operations to one clerical position housed at city hall.
“They’ve done a lot of homework, read a lot of blogs,” Ward told him, adding that the candidates had also been provided with several primers on the area, one of which was the MURAC report. “So that there were no surprises.”
“That would have eliminated a little bit of concern,” Peacock told her.
Ward and Carson said that the field of candidates was acutely aware of the situation in Pensacola. Some had removed themselves from the running.
“The two finalists, apparently it didn’t bother them at all,” Carson said.
“They didn’t get scared, they didn’t run away,” Ward would later explain.
The two candidates—one from Colorado, the other from Georgia—will be interviewing for the executive director position Jan. 30. There is also an alternate candidate.
DIB Vice Chairman Burney Merrill asked Ward if she would be able to stay on if the organization found itself unable to secure an executive director.
“I’m hoping that these two are—” Ward began.
“I am too,” Merrill said, before repeating his request.
“Not intentionally,” Ward said.
“I never know what’s gonna happen,” Merrill told her, “that’s why I bring that up.”
“I’m enjoying this,” she laughed. “I’m enjoying what I’m doing, with all the craziness going on—I’m mentally ill, I’m telling you.”