TAMPA — Former Tampa Electric CEO Gordon Gillette has been hired to lead the Early Learning Coalition of Hillsborough County.
Gillette will become the CEO of the $72 million nonprofit educational agency on March 12 and will be paid $180,000 annually. His hiring follows a four-month search that culminated in interviews with two candidates, coalition board chairman Aakash Patel said Wednesday.
Gillette, 58, retired from Tampa Electric on Nov. 30 after a 36-year career.
Following eight years at the top of the utility, Gillette left five months after an accident at the Big Bend Power Station that killed five workers. A month later, the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration fined the company $130,000, saying it ignored its own rules to have the workers perform a dangerous maintenance job.
OSHA: OSHA: Tampa Electric ignored its own rules in accident that killed 5 workers
Along with his work at Tampa Electric, Gillette has chaired the boards of the Children's Museum of Tampa, the Hillsborough Education Foundation, the Leadership Council of the Consortium of Florida Education Foundations and the University of South Florida Foundation, where he also co-chaired the second phase of USF's Unstoppable capital campaign.
With a "passion for education" and a plan to focus on reducing waiting lists for the coalition's programs and services, Gillette was the board's unanimous choice, Patel said. The coalition gets its funding from the Legislature as well as state and federal grants and provides early childhood care, education and advocacy for about 20,000 Hillsborough children and their families.
"A lot of business people respect Gordon," Patel said. "He's going to bring a lot of knowledge of the community ... The kids of Hillsborough County will definitely benefit from his experience and his leadership."
In a statement released through the coalition, Hillsborough school superintendent Jeff Eakins said Gillette's hiring will strengthen efforts to get more children prepared for kindergarten and "building the supports that all children need to succeed."
Gillette will replace Steve Knobl, who left the Hillsborough coalition after a 13-month tenure last year and now is the executive director of the Early Childhood Coalition of Pasco and Hernando Counties.
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