The Children’s Board of Hillsborough County has selected five finalists for its executive director post after a four-month search.
Three are from the Tampa area; two come from other states. They include an assistant county administrator, a director of a child abuse prevention agency, a former psychology and social services professor, the president of a consulting firm and a clinical social worker.
“It’s a good mix of candidates,” said former Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio, who is serving as the interim chief executive director of the Children’s Board. “I think it’s a diverse pool.”
Iorio took over the troubled children’s welfare organization in August after former director Luanne Panacek came under fire from the board for awarding four no-bid contracts totaling $450,000, including $50,000 contract to a former board employee.
An independent audit found “an organizational structure marred in crisis” and a “crisis of confidence in executive leadership.” About 65 percent of employees told auditors they thought “key members of the executive leadership do not adhere to ethical standards of conduct.”
Three weeks after Iorio was hired, she streamlined the organization, cutting the number of employees from 55 to 36. The move saved $1.4 million, which went into a fund for more children’s programs.
“The agency is really doing well,” Iorio said. “Since I’ve taken on this job, I’ve seen so many staff members blossom and grow into leadership positions. Everybody is working hard for the children. The person who takes over will have a well-run agency.”
The Children's Board was created by taxpayers in 1988 and is supported by a property tax of 50 cents per $1,000 of a home's valuation. The board has a $35 million annual budget and distributes money to nonprofit groups who work on education, health care and social welfare for children.
The five candidates will be interviewed by the organization’s 10-member board from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on May 9, said Children’s Board spokeswoman Joanne Cheshire. Community leaders will get a chance to meet the candidates during a reception for them from 4 to 6 p.m. that day.
The board will meet again May 10 afternoon to select its new executive director. Iorio said she plans to step down as interim CEO on May 31.
Since January, more than 200 people applied for the job.
The five finalists are:
Carl S. Harness, the assistant county administrator for Pinellas County. Harness was also assistant administrator for Hillsborough County from 2008-10.
Kelley Parris, the current director of Prevent Child Abuse Alabama, an arm of the state’s Department of Child Abuse and Neglect Prevention. Parris’ background is in mental health.
Felicia Leona DeHaney, the president and CEO of the National Black Child Development Institute in Washington, D.C. DeHaney was a former psychology and human development professor at Howard University.
Melody Jurado, the founder and president of consulting firm The Profitable Group and was once the director of Florida’s Office of Early Learning from 2011-12.
Clara A. Reynolds, a licensed clinical worker from Tampa and former executive director of the nonprofit Success 4 Kids & Families.