Ariz. Commerce Authority's interim head Watson name permanent chief - East Valley Tribune: Arizona

Ariz. Commerce Authority's interim head Watson name permanent chief

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Posted: Tuesday, October 16, 2012 2:31 pm

The Arizona Commerce Authority named Sandra Watson, its current interim director, to permanently head the agency.

Tuesday's unanimous vote came after a closed-door meeting of board members. Roy Vallee, who chaired the search panel, said in a prepared statement that Watson, who has been with the agency since 1996, when it was the state Department of Commerce, has been "instrumental in helping establish and promote our state's pro-business climate.''

But Gov. Jan Brewer, a member of the board, conceded after the session that the outcome was really no surprise. She said while an outside search firm produced several candidates "no one rose to the occasion.''

"They just didn't fit the criteria of what we had laid out that we wanted in that person,'' the governor said.

Potentially more significant, Brewer pointed out that Watson has been running the agency since Don Cardon left on July 1.

"Sandra has really stepped up as the interim,'' the governor said, saying "she would serve us well as president of the ACA moving forward.''

Still to be determined is how much Watson will be paid.

Cardon, who became the first president and CEO when the public-private agency was created out of the old Commerce Authority, got $300,000 plus a $50,000 signing bonus and a $30,000 "wellness/health allowance.''

And the board allowed Cardon to get $60,657 out of the $75,000 incentive package when he signed a three-year contract, even though he left after only one year.

Watson is currently making $218,000 as interim director.

"We will see what they negotiate,'' Brewer said. "That's the next step in this.''

The governor said the plan is to have a salary package in place by the end of the month.

Tuesday's vote also leaves open the question of how long a contract Watson will get.

One issue that arose during Cardon's tenure and likely will come up again is whether the public will know the sources of all the funds.

The authority gets not only $35 million in state dollars, most of that for grants to lure new businesses, but also has been taking money from a private group called Team ACA, which Cardon now heads. In fact, some of that was used to pay Cardon as authority president.

Watson promised that the source of any funds coming into her agency will be disclosed.

But she said it was not her concern which private firms and individuals contribute to Team ACA. And Cardon has never responded to requests for specific disclosure.

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