French Market Corp. executive director expected to be selected in coming weeks

36 in running for post

The French Market Corp., which oversees the historic market and the Upper Pontalba Building on Jackson Square, should have a new executive director in the next two months, a search committee of board members charged with finding that person said Wednesday.

The Hawkins Group, a California-based search group hired to assist with the search, will spend the next two weeks evaluating the applications of the 36 people who have been narrowed down as possible finalists. About 250 people applied for the position, said Sandy Shilstone, who sits on the FMC board of directors and is leading the search committee.

Interviews with the top candidates are expected to take place within the next month, and the full board of directors will select the next director from two or three finalists within the next eight weeks.

Frank Pizzolato, who ran the market for just shy of two years, resigned in December.

Deputy Chief Administrative Officer Ann Duplessis has filled the executive director position on an interim basis and has applied for the position.

The names of the 36 people being further vetted for the position were not available on Wednesday.

Mayor Mitch Landrieu selected Pizzolato to lead the French Market Corp. in January 2011 after the departure of his predecessor, Kenneth Ferdinand.

Ferdinand was accused of using the corporation’s credit cards to pay for items not related to work. An Orleans Parish Criminal District Court judge last fall acquitted Ferdinand of the charges.

Of the 36 people being further considered for the executive director’s job, 16 people are strong contenders, while 20 are possible once they are reviewed further.

Those considered the strongest candidates are equally divided between in-state and out-of-state residents. The remaining 20 applicants all live in Louisiana.

Search committee members spent a good bit of Wednesday’s meeting discussing with the third-party search group the qualities they want in the next executive director, including retail, leasing, financial and marketing experience. Most of those aspects, however, are listed in the job announcement.

Asked by the search group if there are any challenges the FMC faces that would help to whittle down the number of candidates to finalists, selection committee member Ira Middleberg said that is not an issue. Instead, he said, the next director needs to be able to market the French Market to potential visitors.

The French Market attracts about 6.4 million visitors each year, according to the job announcement.

“I don’t think there’s a disaster sitting there,” Middleberg said. “It’s about looking forward.”

“We have recovered from the post-Katrina slump,” Shilstone said. “We are looking for the executive director of the future.”