JAA Taps 2 Finalists for New Director of External Affairs; Winner Expected to Be Chosen by Early October and Will Guide the Authority through City, State and Federal Government Relations

Article excerpt

Byline: GREGORY RICHARDS, The Times-Union

The Jacksonville Airport Authority has selected two finalists for its new director of external affairs position: Brad Thoburn, Mayor John Peyton's director of state and federal affairs; and Michael Stewart, BellSouth's regional manager for corporate and external affairs.

The winner, expected to be chosen by early October, will guide the authority through city, state and federal government relations and coordinate communications. The job will pay between $74,619 and $115,929 annually.

Thoburn and Stewart were winnowed from a pool of the eight most promising candidates by a four-member committee consisting of Maribel Hernandez, JAA's chief administrative officer; John Clark, JAA's executive director; Susie Wiles, a top aide to Peyton who handled Airport Authority governmental affairs as a contractor from 2002-03; and Mike Miller, the Jacksonville Transportation Authority's director of external affairs.

Hernandez and Clark will meet privately with the final two candidates to make their selection. In all, there were 80 applications.

Stewart has handled BellSouth's government and community relations in Nassau, Duval and St. Johns counties since 1992. He has worked for the telephone company since 1978, previously as a project engineer and as a manager for building design and construction.

Thoburn has served as Peyton's state and federal affairs director since July 2003, serving as City Hall's liaison to Tallahassee and Washington, D.C. From 2000 to 2003, he worked as Mayor John Delaney's director of intergovernmental relations. He is a former aide to U.S. Rep. Tillie Fowler.

Both finalists have ties to either the Airport Authority or the selection committee. At BellSouth, Stewart reports to Jim McCollum, chairman of the Airport Authority's board of directors. And Thoburn lists Wiles as a reference on his application. Hernandez said those connections did not impact the decisions.

Government relations are now divided between four members of the authority's senior staff. …