The search for the next executive director to run the Pinellas Juvenile Welfare Board is down to three candidates, all of them people from the Tampa Bay area.
For a brief moment last month, the organization's job search became the center of political chatter after Pinellas County Commissioner Ken Welch, the most prominent Democrat in the county, applied to lead the board. Days later, Welch withdrew his name from consideration, citing political pressure. Since then, the hunt for a new leader has gone on as the organization assumed it would — inconspicuously.
From 11 semifinalists, the JWB's search committee has narrowed the list down to three people. Benjamin Kirby, a spokesman for the organization, said the finalists will be interviewed by each board member and, from these, the next director will be chosen on April 11.
A month ago, it looked a bit unfortunate for Marcie Biddleman, the JWB's chief operating officer, that she had listed Welch as one of her references, as he was suddenly and unexpectedly a competitor. But there was no harm done — Biddleman, who has worked for the JWB since 2009, and for several children's organizations before that — is one of the three finalists.
Duggan Cooley is another. Currently the president and CEO of the United Way of Pasco County, a position he has held since 2011, Cooley's letter to the board emphasizes that he has the "experience necessary to prepare JWB to survive the 2016 community referendum."
Board members have already said that the coming referendum, which will determine the JWB's future, is likely to play an important role in their decision-making.
The third finalist is Bobbi Davis, the resource development and program manager for the Children's Board of Hillsborough County from 2005 to 2012. Before that, she was the director of grant development and training for the Tampa Metropolitan Area YMCA, where she began working in 1984.
This story has been changed to reflect the following correction: The Juvenile Welfare Board will select its executive director on April 11, not in May, as was previously stated.