Committee searching for new downtown CEO

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by Eric Ginsburg

Downtown Greensboro Inc. has assembled a search committee for its new president and CEO, but Mayor Nancy Vaughan wants her role to be a voting one.

 

It hasn’t been that long since Downtown Greensboro Inc., the booster organization for economic development in the city’s core, conducted an executive search for a new president. The organization’s announcement last week that it had formed a search committee — to facilitate a nationwide search in the hopes of having someone “in place by mid-June” — comes fewer than two years after the previous CEO Jason Cannon assumed the role.

When DGI held its last search, then-councilwoman Nancy Vaughan and then-mayor Robbie Perkins both held voting roles on the committee. But this time around, Vaughan, who is now the mayor, only holds a non-voting role.

She holds one of the ex-officio positions on DGI’s board, and said that she believes that in her role on the search committee, she should have a vote.

Board Chair Gary Brame, who runs Jules Antiques downtown, said Vaughan’s non-voting position on the committee is in keeping with the larger board, adding that he wasn’t on the previous search committee and isn’t sure why the city previously held a voting slot.

“It certainly wasn’t personal in any way, shape or form,” he said. “We want her involved, but it would be inconsistent to have her vote on a committee like this and not vote on board decisions. The way the committee was put together, we just did it consistent with board rules. I didn’t see why we would change that.”

But Vaughan would like to see the rule changed in general, allowing city and county representatives to the board the ability to vote on all decisions, particularly because the city is such a large donor to the organization. According to DGI’s 2013-14 financial summary on its website, the city of Greensboro provided 94.6 percent of the organization’s funding — a total of $1.1 million.

Brame declined to name the other people on the search committee.

“I can’t say who is on the committee,” Brame said. “It’s a personnel issue. I am, I can tell you that.”

Brame added that DGI interim president Cyndy Hayworth is one of seven people on the search committee, but said she also has a non-voting role. The remaining committee members have a vote, he said.

A DGI press release about the committee said the group includes “board members and community leaders.”

Vaughan agreed to name the members of the committee; she said the list DGI provided her includes herself, Brame, Hayworth, past board chair Dawn Chaney, executive committee members Tim Sexton and Derek Ellington, board member Jeff Yetter and community member Donna Newton, who is the director of the Community Foundation of Greater Greensboro’s workforce initiative. Vaughan said the list might also include someone else, but she believed autocorrect might have mangled the person’s last name.

Vaughan suggested confirming the last with Hayworth, who initially directed comments to Brame and later could not be reached. Brame again declined to name other committee members, and said it isn’t fair of people to release the names of search committee members other than themselves because participants may feel outside pressure if their role was public.

Brame confirmed that the committee includes seven people, including himself and the two non-voting members, even though Vaughan’s list consists of eight or nine names.

Of the six board members who are also on the search committee, four are on the board’s executive committee while Yetter and Vaughan are not. Past board members Eric Robert and Simonne McClinton and others have criticized DGI for making all of its decisions at the executive committee level and excluding other board members. Yetter asked at the organization’s monthly meeting in February how someone could be involved in the search process. He declined to comment for this article.

Yetter is a partner at Iron Hill Investments and plays keys in local funk/soul group Doby. Sexton, who is the senior vice president of human resources at Lincoln Financial Group, is the board’s chair elect for 2016. Ellington is the Triad market president for Bank of America, while Chaney runs Chaney Properties, one of the city’s larger property owners.

Councilman Zack Matheny announced that he would apply for the CEO position even before the search began. DGI sent out a press release about the committee’s formation on April 7 and no other applicants are known yet.

City council has yet to name someone to a seat on the board reserved for a council appointee, though Vaughan said there is a name “in the databank.” While saying council would need to see if anyone else is interested in the position, Vaughan said she tentatively plans to nominate Aaron James, a “young, African-American musician” who has played downtown and worked security. James was formerly a part of the Urban Sophisticates. Several people, including Vaughan, have previously criticized a lack of diversity on the board.

But Vaughan said it is her fault that an appointment hasn’t been made yet.

“Quite frankly, I think we just put it aside for the moment,” she said.

[Photo: Derek Ellington, right, is one of the members of the search committee.]