Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Big Task Ahead for Downtown Advocate; Supervisor, Visionary, Economic Developer; Other Cities Looking, Too

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Big Task Ahead for Downtown Advocate; Supervisor, Visionary, Economic Developer; Other Cities Looking, Too

Article excerpt

Byline: Timothy J. Gibbons

Jacksonville will be competing with a dozen or more other cities as it seeks to hire its first Downtown Investment Authority chief executive, a position responsible for helping redevelop the urban core.

The City Council is reviewing the criteria drawn up by the authority board for that role, with the goal of contracting a search firm by early next year.

"We want to hire someone who has a successful track record," said authority Chairman Donald Harris, "someone who has innovated, who can think outside of the box."

Some 14 or so other cities are in the midst of a similar search, a high number for an industry that usually only sees a handful of executive postings at any one time.

The market for executives focused on downtown development has grown in recent years, said David Downey, president of the International Downtown Association, a trade group for downtown economic developers.

"We have a pretty healthy group of willing and interested candidates - especially some of the mid-career candidates who are moving around the country," Downey said.

Still, competition will be tough for the best candidates, said Don Shea, a Downtown Investment Authority board member and former chairman of the international trade group.

"We don't need to be hasty, but we need to move promptly," Shea said.

The board started the process by drawing up criteria for the job, with the overview then being forwarded to the council, which must approve it before the authority can move forward.

The criteria, introduced Nov. 13, will go before council committees beginning next week. A salary range for the position has not yet been set.

The document indicates the authority wants someone who has already spent some time in the field, looking for at least eight years of experience and four years as a supervisor. On the more intangible front, it wants someone with a strong economic development background, an ability to work well with others and experience "as a visionary with the ability to see beyond the present. …

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