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BREAKING: GRU Authority hires Bielarski as permanent CEO

The GRU Authority met on June 26

BY JENNIFER CABRERA

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – In the opening minutes of the June 26 meeting of the GRU Authority, the board voted unanimously to make Ed Bielarski the permanent CEO of the utility.

During Chair Comment, new Chair Eric Lawson thanked former CEO/GM Tony Cunningham for his years of service to the board and to GRU, and he thanked the senior leadership team and staff of the utility for their service. He thanked Bielarski, who was appointed as Interim CEO at the June 12 meeting, for “accepting this new role on very short notice, and I’m excited about the things that you’re going to accomplish.”

Lawson said he wanted the board to “have a discussion about making [Bielarski] the permanent CEO.” He said Bielarski is a “seasoned industry leader” who has “proven himself here before. He’s proven that he can lead GRU through difficult times, and I’m confident that Mr. Bielarski can continue to serve in this role. I believe that GRU needs stable leadership during this time, and I also believe that when the time is right, that Mr. Bielarski will help assist us with succession planning for the CEO’s role.”

Director Craig Carter said he would not have made the motion to hire Bielarski as Interim CEO on June 12 if he didn’t have confidence in him, and he agreed that stability is important, adding, “I would personally have no objection to him being named, as long as he’s willing.”

Lawson said he had already discussed this with Bielarski, who had indicated he would be willing to serve in the role, “not into perpetuity, right? But he is willing to serve in this role.”

Motion

Carter made a motion to remove “Interim” from Bielarski’s title and make him the permanent CEO/General Manager of the utility. Director David Haslam seconded the motion.

During public comment, Jim Konish said he would be curious to know how much Bielarski is being paid, “but you know, it’s not a minimum wage job.”

Chuck Ross said it was “becoming a habit to put surprise items on the agenda… I think this is a bad practice, and maybe you want to consider deferring this item.”

Bobby Mermer, Coordinator of the Alachua County Labor Coalition, said the role should be subject to a national search, as the Authority planned to do when Cunningham was CEO/GM.

Jeffrey Shapiro opposed the motion because the Authority “totally disregards public input.”

Debbie Martinez and Ernesto Martinez simply said that they supported the motion.

Haslam: “We’re not going to find anybody better than Ed right now”

When the agenda item moved back to the board, Haslam said that hiring Bielarski was “the only reasonable solution… We’re not going to find anybody better than Ed right now… Look, Ed’s not going to live forever… so when Ed finds the right person, Ed’s gonna mentor that person, in my opinion, and put him in place. And meanwhile, we need someone who’s gonna fix this mess and not act like it’s a piggy bank or whatever.”

Director Chip Skinner said he had worked with Bielarski when he worked for the City of Gainesville, and “I think [he] is more than qualified.” He agreed that having a succession plan “is huge… I am in full support of that, with the understanding that Mr. Bielarski will not be in the role permanently, you know, that he will leave eventually, that we won’t force him to retire, and that there would be a succession plan in place.”

Lawson said he had been working on cleaning up the employment contract for the CEO because the prior agreement placed the role under the City Commission. He said he was working through the salary and compensation and would circulate the contract to the board after the attorneys review it.

The motion passed 4-0, with one vacant seat.

  • I hope this puts GRU on the right track to be able to lower the rates for the customers. Most importantly i was able to move out of this left wing county i now have Duke Energy with a home that’s 300 sq feet bigger than the one in hills of santa fe my may GRU bill was 496.00 my june Duke bill is 356.00

  • Good move, finally! The city fired him for political reasons…Always do the opposite of what unstable, overly-politicized psychos do

    As a city resident I say shove your thieving general transfers and your UN climate goals up you a$$, Gainesville. It’s now time to allow GRU to provide utilities without molesting them on a daily basis

  • Wow. Maybe he’s the best person for the job but no search? No interviews? We don’t even know what he’s getting paid?

    This is small town cronyism at its finest and makes our community look like a backwater joke. No wonder UF refuses to leave Duke and get service from GRU.

    • Sure, let’s spend $50000 plus and waste 3 – 6 months looking for someone who doesn’t have the experience or knowledge of GRU that Ed has. It’s not like he isn’t qualified to do the job.

      • Who in their right mind would want to move to Gainesville for this job? Think about it. Ed needs to get in there and get the job done. He knows what he is getting into.

    • We look like a backwater joke because we have a fat, smiling beta-male oaf of a mayor who doesn’t care about protecting businesses and the public. Now, basically as of 2024, we have feces and needles all over downtown, soon will come public sex on a regular basis. What a way to make downtown “vibrant” – right? Change Depot Park to DePoo Park. It’s like a disease with a very predictable course and outcome. But we have no serious doctors to help us, just fat clueless buffoons.

      UF may eventually change its collective mind since GRU is slowly decoupling from the insane city government that no one in their right mind would want to deal with on a regular basis.

      • I know we found you on a national search. You were supposed to do what I wanted and let me keep my hand in the cookie jar but after you slap my hand too many times so I had to get rid of you. Now you’re back trying to take money out of my pocket and put it in the hands of the citizens. I will not stand for this. Big Daddy Eddy B The war is not over.

      • If James Coats got a second on his motion early on to terminate Cunningham for very good reasons, you would of been rehired months ago and millions of dissipated ratepayer funds would still reside in GRU coffers.

  • The city has sued GRU again, this time with a demand for name change. Apparently the utility’s overtly Russian centric name has triggered the city commission time and time again. They’ve now decided it’s time for a real and meaningful change.
    “Sharing a common name with Russia’s military intelligence (GRU) is unacceptable and not equity based and only serves to harm transgender children.” stated Mayor Ward.

  • Jeffrey Shapiro opposed the motion because the Authority “totally disregards public input.”

    Of course he did. He’s another who has pledged fealty to Ward and Co.

    He seems to have a short memory. The City Commission is the entity that has for years disregarded public input.

  • While not the most important thing at the moment, it’s time for GRU to move forward by changing marketing.

    The logo, colors, website — everything public facing should be changed to signal a rebirth of the company.

        • Big Daddy Eddy B that is MY MONEY!!!!! Let the commoners I rule over, pay that debt bill with higher utility rates. That is the way it has worked for years until you came along and tried to stop me. The commoners I rule over are dumb and will pay it, just keep raising the rates like I do with their property taxes and fees.

          • This is so stupid haha. Curious how big Ed responded in this fictional conversation you concocted 😂

          • Don’t worry Laura, Big Daddy Eddy B won’t respond because he knows what I say is true. GRU was my piggy bank until he came along. I want my hand back in the GRU cookie jar!!!! Like I said make the commoners pay for the debt i keep running up.

  • Even if the board were to waste the time and money looking for someone else, they still won’t find anyone who’s more qualified. Go ED 🙂

    • Nobody of any great caliber is coming here while the inevitable lawsuit challenging the referendum goes forward.

      We’re lucky Ed decided to stay in Gainesville after his removal.

      • Thats one way of seein it. Another is that Ed stuck around cause he couldn’t find work anywhere else. He’s been unemployed for over two years because the utility industry knows what a joke he is.

        • NOT TRUE. Actually I turned down opportunities in several other states because my wife and I love Gainesville. In regard to the utility industry, I have spoken to the Florida Municipal Power Agency, Indiana Municipal Power Agency and been invited to APPAs national conference. No, I have quite a nice reputation in the industry sir.

          • Can’t be any larger than our lunatic leadership. At times it’s difficult to tell what’s bigger; Ward’s head, his ego, or his arse.

          • This exchange sums up social media pretty well

            Poster: He could not get a job anywhere else

            Response: Actually I turned down multiple jobs

            2nd poster: What an ego on this guy

          • Wrong crowd to say you love Gainesville in. They hate the city and the kind of people who choose to live here.

          • I disagree. I hate what the City has done and continues to allow to happen to the city I grew up in.
            I can’t stand what progressive liberal politics have done to the place. That may or not include some of the wack-a-doos who’ve decided to come in, get theirs, and do what they can to stop others from infringing on their new habitat. You know the types, the hypocrites who say one thing but act otherwise.

            Maybe you’re partially right…I used to love the city.

          • That’s the problem with political hacks, they assume the worst about anyone who don’t agree with.

          • I concur. The people that live in this county/town are looney weirdos. They leach off the taxpayers (ie UF and UF Health). The majority could never hold a job in the private sector.

            I’m outta here in the mid term . but will always be tied due to family. Until then, I’ll keep opining !

          • Actually, I like Gainesville.

            I don’t care for its politics and think the city needs to make some corrections.

            It has enormous potential. It just needs focus.

          • ED These idiots like robert and jazzman are so brainwashed by the idiots in office they believe anything they hear
            I felt you did a fantastic job in spite of the city commission

        • Ed told me when he was first hired that he was here to stay no matter what. He has demonstrated his concern for our community. Ed is 67 years old and this will be his last rodeo. Why not bring back Carlos Holt to quantify GRU SLA/MOU losses. Ed was merely fired for flimsy reasons. Holt was fired AND tarred and feathered.

          • You know, I don’t always agree with your thoughts – but that’s a great idea.

          • Carlos Holt is in Texas with a top secret clearance. I doubt he would consider taking a pay cut to return to this quagmire but it would be polite for Ed to make the offer, anyway. Who knows ?, Carlos might do it….In my opinion Holt was fired for blowing the whistle on the Reichert House… During that time in 2019, the media was reporting sexual activity between minors inside one of the R.House vans. Here is the CBS-4 link – tps://mycbs4.com/news/local/reichert-house-judgement-raises-more-questions-for-youth-sex-case

  • Jeffrey Shapiro opposed the motion because the Authority “totally disregards public input.”…..you mean like the City Commission?

  • Jeffrey (((Shapiro))) was all about contact tracing during the Convid scam:
    https://www.gainesville.com/story/opinion/columns/more-voices/2020/06/09/anne-shermyen-and-jeffrey-shapiro-expand-testing-contact-tracing-in-florida/112778726/

    Also the guy is all about the LGBTWTF: https://www.facebook.com/alachuacountylwv/posts/our-own-jeffrey-shapiro-and-gigi-simmons-from-the-local-issues-committee-contrib/6027530433927277/

    Any guess as to what else Jeffrey Shapiro, Anne Shermyen and Gigi Simmons have in common?

      • Seems I saw somewhere he owns a solar panel business.

        Hmm….

        Further, these solar people speaking at the meetings are concerned about one thing: losing their jobs. To that I say – learn to code !

  • As others have stated why spend time and money searching for someone when we have the most qualified person right in front of us. Ed is gonna do great things and get this utility back on track for its customers unlike our disloyal watch the citizens drown and laugh thieving city commissioner’s. Go ED!!!

  • I doubt that you could find anyone more competent than Bielarski for this role right now.

    He understands the business from the inside-out, he is aligned with the GRUA’s purpose & the will of the taxpayers, and he is not beholden to the corrupt local city government.

    He has demonstrated that he has the resolve to do what needs to be done, unlike the city commission which STILL has not dissolved the useless DEI department and other wasteful spending projects despite the city teetering on bankruptcy.

    • Except when he was doing the exact opposite serving his masters on the city council and bashing Perry and Clemons about the GRU bill.

      It is hilarious to watch the city council point out his hypocrisy using his own prior words and posts.

      • Not true. I pointed out that the Perry and Clemon’s bill would have created a monster – putting into law a mechanism where the CITY COMMISSION would appoint an independent board. How do you think that would have worked?

        The lessons learned from that experience spawned HB 1645, which is the successful architecture of the professionally managed board you are watching in action now.

        • Right now it seems the board is serving you and your interests. Curious to see what your salary and compensation package will be.

          My power bill for last month was over $500 – will be very disappointing to see you use a public board position to secure a comfy salary and CEO position while I shell out money fists of money to GRU

        • I sat with Keith Perry and watched the Perry GRU bill go down while Keith narrowly won reelection. Keith paid no attention to the GRU referendum and smiled at me when I approached him. When the Clemons bill was filed, I then understood that Keith’s bill was just a warning shot. Every time GRU state interventions return, they are harsher and more severe.

  • A friend of mine, told me their light bill was $850 this month! As i scroll down the comments of this post, I see others with similar amounts. My question is, how are people racking up this kind of bill? My wife and I spent $136 on this months bill and has never had a bill higher than $180…of course we adhere to the tips GRU gives to lower our bill, but still these numbers are outrageous! Mind blowing!

  • Finally, we have new board members serving on the GRUA board that are willing to take BOLD action to STOP the Financial Hemorrhaging of our utility caused to the GROSS mismanagement of GRU at the hands of the City Commission.

    Of course, the City Commission want their “cash cow” back to fund their Out of Control Spending ADDICTION on the backs of GRU customers. It’s their job to work their own recovery.

    This is a GREAT day for GRU customers and GRU employees.

    Thank you Mr. Bielarski for your willingness to serve and run GRU like a utility (focusing on reliability and affordability once again) and putting GRU customers first !!!!!!

  • It’s only fair. The mayor and GCC used his as a scapegoat when their wishlists didn’t magically happen: UF renewed use of Duke Energy, an Archer-prox solar farm tie in with a pvt. utility stirred up rural residents out there, etc. He wasn’t to blame for those PR mistakes, the politicians were (and prior GRU goofs).
    JUST LOWER THE BILLS no matter what. We are not a wealthy community like Portland or Seattle.

  • From GRU FAQs page, notice they put “police, fire… “ at top of the list of what the surcharge fees and taxes pay for — instead of Other on top:

    Q: What is the utility tax and surcharge?

    A: For customers living inside Gainesville City limits:

    Electric: 10% City utility tax
    Gas: 10% City utility tax
    Water: 10% City utility tax
    Wastewater: No City utility tax

    For customers living outside Gainesville City limits:

    Electric: 10% surcharge plus 10% County utility tax
    Gas: 10% surcharge plus 10% County utility tax
    Water: 25% surcharge plus 10% County utility tax
    Wastewater: 25% surcharge (no County utility tax)

    Utility taxes go to the City of Gainesville’s General Fund, which supports:

    Police
    Fire
    Recreation and parks
    Streets
    Other City services

    • The city residents need to keep paying the 10% in order to fund any permitting fees for GRU maintenance work in the city.

      The surcharges on county residents need to disappear.

  • I hope Mr. Bielarski stays on task and true to the mission at hand. It’s going to be a difficult road and unfortunately, probably painful for many. Just don’t forget, it was the fiscal incompetence and mismanagement of GRU profits by the City Commission that put us in this predicament. All of you liberal Democrats are partially responsible for continuing to elect such incompetence. Time to pay the piper and suck it up for a while.
    Again, wishing the best of luck to Mr. Bielarski and hoping at some point he gets to tell Harvey to “go screw himself.”

    • If the deck of cards are played right, Ed Belarski will remain on top and the person that will be out of the card game, will be Harvey Ward. Karma is a B. Harvey Ward has done more than enough for Governor Desantis to remove him under an executive order three times over. Maybe, Desantis is waiting for November to remove him from office because he knows how his evil agenda is.

  • Will GRU ever except United healthcare utilities for people to be able to use the card too pay some or all of there monthly bill.

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