tampabay.com

Byrd now okay with institute's direction

He says the CEO presented to the board new goals, some of which are his ideas.

By KEVIN GRAHAM
Published February 7, 2007


TAMPA - Former state House Speaker Johnnie B. Byrd Jr. says he's now happy with the new direction of the Alzheimer's research institute named after his father, a month after his proposal to reorganize the center's leadership failed.

While serving as treasurer for the Johnnie B. Byrd Sr. Alzheimer's Center & Research Institute, Byrd Jr. questioned why hundreds of thousands in taxpayer money allocated for Alzheimer's research was being spent on lobbyists and a public relations firm.

He called for a reorganization that would have replaced the former Harvard University research scientist at the helm of the institute with a business executive. Byrd had hoped the change would switch the focus of spending toward more research.

But the board of directors rejected his plan in January, and Huntington Potter, the former Harvard scientist, remained as chief executive officer.

On Monday, Potter presented the board with an annual report and a set of goals that Byrd said incorporated some of his ideas. Among them, Potter wants to hire a chief of research business development, more scientists and a fundraiser. Other changes call for more people at the institute to report directly to the chief executive officer, Byrd said.

"CEO Huntington Potter presented a plan that I think is excellent for reorganization for the center. I'm entirely happy," Byrd said. "I think we've got a new board, and I want to support them and what they want to do going forward. We can have our heated discussion, but at the end of the day, we're all on the same team."

Byrd withdrew his name to remain as treasurer before a new slate of officers was elected, because he said he wanted someone else to use the position to learn as much about the institute as he had.

Sarasota lawyer Thomas Conklin was re-elected as chairman of the board of directors.

"My hope is all this hooha is over now," said Terri Jo Barron, a Tallahassee Alzheimer's educator who was elected as the board's secretary. "The new board has expressed itself in choosing leadership for the coming year, and we'll all get back to business."

Kevin Graham can be reached at 813 226-3433 or kgraham@sptimes.com.