Downtown's interim chief Oswalt says she's been 'asked by many' to apply for permanent job

October 26, 2017

A $190,000 a year job leading Downtown’s development agency has five hopefuls as an application deadline looms at 5 p.m . Friday, Downtown Memphis Commission chairman Carl Person said Thursday.

Whether interim chief executive Jennifer Oswalt is among the five was unknown; Oswalt wasn’t saying, and the headhunting process has been tailored to keep applicant names confidential.

“I have been asked by many to apply, prior to the deadline,” Oswalt said. “All I can say is all of the other candidates haven’t disclosed who they are, so we’re just respecting that process. But I have been asked.”

The month-long executive search, led by DHR International, attracted interest from nine locals and seven from out of town, Person said. Five applicants, including three locals, completed the two-step application process, Person said.

“Five very, very strong candidates are still in the running,” Person said.

The commission, formerly the Center City Commission, was created by Memphis and Shelby County governments 40 years ago to advocate for Downtown revitalization and serve as the governments’ partner with private businesses.

The agency works to attract development that brings more residents, businesses and visitors, offering incentives including grants and partial tax freezes. It also has overseen the Beale Street district for the city since 2014.

 

Previous president and chief executive officer (CEO) Terence Patterson resigned in July after less than two years on the job. He said he was pursuing other career opportunities.

Oswalt, the chief financial officer, stepped in temporarily, although she had already taken a job as CEO of Contemporary Media, publisher of The Memphis Flyer and other publications.

DHR led previous recruiting efforts that resulted in hirings of Patterson and his predecessor, Paul Morris. Having an outside firm take applications and vet candidates shields the names from disclosure under state open records law during the winnowing process.

Person said he expects the board to vote on a nominee Nov. 16. DHR will interview local candidates in person and out-of-town residents via Skype on Nov. 6.

Person said any additional local candidate that applies before the deadline will be interviewed Nov. 6.