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Commerce Authority may announce new CEO Tuesday

Arizona Commerce Authority President and CEO Don Cardon, Gov. Jan Brewer and developer/sports entrepreneur Jerry Colangelo pose for a photo at Stirling Energy Systems/Tessera Maricopa Solar Field. The group serves with 33 others as the newly formed Arizona Commerce Authority Board, which is charged with making recommendations on improving the state’s economy.

(From left) Arizona Commerce Authority President and CEO Don Cardon, Gov. Jan Brewer and developer/sports entrepreneur Jerry Colangelo pose for a photo at Stirling Energy Systems/Tessera Maricopa Solar Field. The group serves with 33 others as the newly formed Arizona Commerce Authority Board, which is charged with making recommendations on improving the state’s economy.

After a search that has spanned most of the year, the Arizona Commerce Authority may be ready to name its new CEO.

The agenda for the ACA’s Tuesday meeting includes public discussion and possible action on the selection of a new CEO. The CEO search is also listed as an executive session agenda item.

Gov. Jan Brewer and other members of the ACA board have been tight-lipped about the long-running search for a permanent replacement for Don Cardon, who announced his pending resignation in January and stepped down at the end of June, less than a year into his three-year contract. Sandra Watson, the ACA’s second-in-command under Cardon, has served as interim CEO since July.

Brewer spokesman Matthew Benson would not say whether the governor expected a decision to be made at the meeting.

“It’s possible,” he said. “That would be for the board to decide and announce at the time that they’re ready.”

Watson could not be reached for comment.

Tuesday’s agenda will be the first time since Cardon announced his imminent departure that the ACA will discuss the vacancy in its president and CEO position in an open meeting. During its last full board meeting in May, the board discussed the search behind closed doors, but did not publicly discuss the vacancy.

Lobbyist Marty Shultz said he has personally lobbied Brewer and businessman Jerry Colangelo, the ACA board’s two co-chairs, for Watson to get the job permanently. Shultz, a former executive at Arizona Public Service, said Watson has all the qualities the ACA is looking for in a CEO, is already in place and is familiar with Arizona’s business scene.

He said he suspects Watson will be named the permanent CEO.

“I can’t be sure that that’s what they’re going to do tomorrow, but I wouldn’t be surprised,” Shultz said. “I do know that there was a lot of interest … in going that direction.”

Benson would not comment on whether Brewer supported Watson’s candidacy for the position.

The board’s selection committee asked Watson to submit her résumé for the CEO search before she took over as interim CEO in July.

The search for a new CEO has taken a number of twists and turns, starting with Cardon’s surprising announcement in January. The authority initially said it would announce a new CEO from a list of nine or 10 candidates at its May 18 meeting, but reversed course several days before the meeting.

DHR International, an executive search firm, was hired by the authority to conduct the search. The ACA agreed to a $75,000 contract with the company in March.

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