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In leadership change, St. Petersburg Downtown Partnership CEO moves to hospital foundation

By Times Staff
Joni James is stepping down as CEO of the St. Petersburg Downtown Partnership and will take a leadership role at the Foundation for a Healthy St. Petersburg. [LARA CERRI | Times file photo]

St. Petersburg Downtown Partnership CEO Joni James is stepping down and David Metz, a former administrator for both the city of St. Petersburg and Pinellas County, will become the organizationís interim chief executive officer.

Metz, who will begin the job on Jan. 1, will oversee the private nonprofit business membership group while the board of directors seeks a permanent replacement. James is taking a senior leadership role at the Foundation for a Healthy St. Petersburg, the nonprofit charitable organization that owns a 20 percent stake in Bayfront Health St. Petersburg, according to a news release. Her new title will be "senior impact director," a new position in the foundation.

James joined the partnership in April 2015 during a period of "reinvigoration" for the St. Petersburg group, the release said. During her tenure, she supported the growth of the cityís marine science sector, the launch of the St. Pete Innovation District, and the facilitation of the Warehouse Arts Districtís ArtsXchange project. She also participated in multiple visits with Cuban officials during the diplomatic coordination with other economic development partners.

"Joni has provided strategic leadership during a key time at the partnership, including forging strong relationships in the community that will pay long-term dividends for our organization and St. Petersburg," said Melissa Seixas, vice president for Florida government and community relations for Duke Energy and vice chair of the Downtown Partnership. "We wish Joni much success in her new role and we look forward to seeing her continued positive impact on our city."

Prior to joining the partnership, James worked as a journalist for the Miami Herald, the Wall Street Journal and the Tampa Bay Times, where she was an editor in the news and editorial departments.

While working for the city, Metzís responsibilities included serving as deputy mayor for neighborhood services and the director of the downtown enterprise facilities department, which oversees the marina and the port, Albert Whitted Airport and Mahaffey Theater. Prior to retiring from the city in 2015, he was the interim city development administrator for Mayor Rick Kriseman.

Metz also worked as a senior manager for Pinellas County Economic Development and as director of the St. Petersburg-Clearwater International Airport. He currently works part time with the University of South Florida St. Petersburg, his alma mater, as an economic development officer.

"We feel incredibly fortunate that Dave will help the partnership through this transition," said Jeff Hearn, senior vice president for investments with Raymond James and chairman of the Downtown Partnership. "Dave has incredible integrity. He knows our city, our partners and our organization well and will keep our momentum going forward."