New law moves control of Gainesville’s publicly owned utility to Governor-appointee board
Gov. Ron DeSantis signs teacher pay raises into law on Wednesday, June 24.

DeSantis signing 6.25.20
Opponents predict the new, Governor-controlled board will vote to sell the public utility to an investor-owned power company.

After more than 100 years under the City Commission’s governance, Gainesville’s public utility will come under the authority of an independent, Governor-appointed board, according to a measure Gov. Ron DeSantis signed into law.

The signing of the bill (HB 1645) marks the end of a long fight waged between Tallahassee and the blue city in the north-central part of the state to keep Gainesville Regional Utilities (GRU) under City Commission control. The measure engendered almost unanimous opposition from Democrats in both chambers.

Republican Rep. Chuck Clemons, who filed the legislation, could not be reached for comment on the motivation for changing the governance of the public utility that was first established in 1912.

A staff analysis produced in mid-May, however, cites a 2013 report from the Gainesville Area Chamber of Commerce and Council for Economic Outreach that found cities with an appointed utility authority are more competitive than Gainesville in commercial and industrial customer class electricity costs. The analysis was written after it had already cleared both chambers, however.

This follows the botched effort to sell another public utility, JEA, as detailed in a Florida Times-Union investigation. The debacle played out with the indictment of JEA’s chief executive officer and finance chief, who were accused of trying to extract millions out of the city-owned utility before selling it off to a private operator. CEO Aaron Zahn and CFO Ryan Wannemacher are due for trial in October.

GRU is not as large as JEA, which is the largest publicly owned utility in the state, but it provides electric, natural gas, wastewater, and telecommunications services to approximately 93,000 customers in the city of Gainesville and surrounding areas. Throughout its history, it’s been governed by the City Commission, which appoints a general manager to handle the day-to-day operations.

Democratic Rep. Yvonne Hayes Hinson tried to amend the bill five times to limit the scope of the appointed board’s authority over the utility, but all the measures failed.

“Elections have consequences and those consequences may have long-reaching effects on the city of Gainesville and the people who live here,” said Hinson, who also fought to keep GRU under city control as a City Commissioner. “There are donors who have paid Republican legislators and now they are waiting for their payout.”

City Commissioner Bryan Eastman predicted the Governor-appointed authority would soon vote to turn GRU and its assets worth $2 billion over to one of the state’s investor-owned power players, such as Florida Power & Light.

Eastman noted in a Twitter thread that Gainesville voters soundly rejected appointing an independent authority to govern GRU in 2018.

“There is certainly something to sticking it to the libs in this,” Eastman said. “We have things we need to fix at our utility but we have double A (credit) ratings … I do not believe that a state takeover of a utility like ours that’s been running for more than 100 years is necessary for a utility that works as well as ours.”

Anne Geggis

Anne Geggis is a South Florida journalist who began her career in Vermont and has worked at the Sun-Sentinel, the Daytona Beach News-Journal and the Gainesville Sun covering government issues, health and education. She was a member of the Sun-Sentinel team that won the 2019 Pulitzer Prize for coverage of the Parkland high school shooting. You can reach her on Twitter @AnneBoca or by emailing [email protected].


  • JD

    June 28, 2023 at 8:52 pm


    The sure the f*ck scream states right, but local governance isn’t allowed.

    Vote the Fascist out next year people.

  • Annie

    June 28, 2023 at 9:14 pm

    There’s a long history of mismanagement of GRU by the City Commission. No mention in your article of the history that got us to this point. No mention of the 30 year PPA that an over ambitious Mayor convinced they City Commission to agree to allowing energy speculators to build a 100 MW Biomass Plant obligating GRU to buy 100% of the energy the plant generated for 3x’s the market price for 30 years. Oh and you left out the part about how the City Commission decided to pay over $750 Million to get out of this bad deal. Oh and you forgot the part that the City Commission has saddled GRU with over $1.7 Billion in debt, with no intention of ever stopping the bleeding.

    • Elliott Offen

      June 29, 2023 at 6:30 am

      Biomass is clean energy so it was a good deal. Also more jobs created and wealth redistribution though tax which is good. Now if we can just get a stiff federal income tax for the hogs and really get some redistribution going that would be great. Workers aren’t paid sht anymore so gotta rip it out of the hogs asses somehow…tax and minimum wage increases.

      • Annie

        June 29, 2023 at 8:38 am

        There is nothing clean about burning biomass. Our biomass plant puts out 1.5 times more CO2 than our coal plant. This does not include the carbon footprint from the endless stream of diesel trucks that have to fuel the plant, at least when it runs. Even though it’s GRU’s newest plant, it’s also its least reliable.

  • Next Mayor Pizzaboy

    June 28, 2023 at 9:54 pm

    The Gov knows better than to try this with City of Tallahassee. He has to live here and we will make sure his Mansion has brown outs like some 3rd world Asian country. Not going to happen here.

  • Annie

    June 28, 2023 at 10:17 pm

    Tallahassee hasn’t run their MUNI into the ground like we’ve done in Gainesville.

    • john quillman

      June 30, 2023 at 2:09 pm

      When the power goes out…….everybody sounds like a conservative.

  • Mr. Haney

    June 29, 2023 at 4:05 am

    Electing Republicans has consequences, bad ones for the people.

  • Ed Slaveen Dot Com 👍

    June 29, 2023 at 6:26 am

    The new utility company will be sure to donate to Republican campaigns and hire less people..put more money into fewer hands. Republicans are corrupt scoundrels and saboteurs of government. They should be behind bars and that shambling husk of a political party should be abolished using the force of law over the death and destruction we’ve seen over the last 20 years.

  • Earl Pitts American

    June 29, 2023 at 7:33 am

    Good morning America,
    The law is 100% non-political in nature so I, Earl Pitts American, may need to chastize any commenters who try and apply some fake indignant made up politics to this 100% commom sense law and/or it’s implemantation.
    This law was needed because leftist local politicians are mentally incapable of handeling such large sums of money aa from a utility without implementing their leftist methods of kickbacks and diversion of the receipts into inappropriate, often woke, non-utility expendatures.
    Again the new law is totally legit and non political. Now we are allowing the Gainesville politicians to continue their missappropriation of much smaller sources of income, so theres that, as proof the law is non political. It’s just the misappropriation of the really big stuff the State is focused on at this time. We are also looking into property tax missappropriations thru our Florida Department of Revenue in these leftist controlled Counties.
    Just to be clear: Leftist politicions missappropriations of funds and our controll of the big sources of revenue is NOT political its 100% necessary legit fact.
    We have tried and tried to make the leftist politicians in both Gainesville and Tallahassee to be honest good stewards of the public’s funds but have come to the realization leftist honesty can never be achieved without strict State of Florida oversight. 100% fact and 0% political.
    Thank you America,
    Earl Pitts American
    * at this time we will turn a blind eye to what we deam as “petty” leftist politician theft because The State does not have the ability to regulate what local voters condone by electing leftist idiots…they are 100% going to steal and missappropriate any and all funds you voters allow them to control*

    • WhatNow

      June 29, 2023 at 8:53 am

      – Nice little extremist right-wing facsist, calm down & take your meds please,

  • Dont Say FLA

    June 29, 2023 at 8:46 am

    Oh for f-ck’s sake. Sorry for your loss, Gainesville. You better get your solar shit going ASAP because this means only one thing: Electricity prices are going thru the roof ASAP after the correct Rhonda Buddy palms are fully greased. Everybody hates Rhonda, even the people using him to grift more money from citizens. They use Rhonda, but even they hate Rhonda. They’ll get paid. Rhonda will get hung, politically speaking, but what does Rhonda care? Rhonda already hung themself. Obviously Rhonda’s next job after he gives up the Governor paycheck will be a company office also on the board of the private utility company that will take control from Rhonda’s board in just about 2.5 years You heard it hear first. I seen it all before. Get out of Gainesville now. Shoot, get out of Florida now. Belize is English first, always warm like Florida, prices away from the beach are very low, and best of all, your relatives who drive to your house in Florida to go the beach, they ain’t driving to Belize!

  • EJason

    June 30, 2023 at 9:47 am

    Thank you Governor, after that last $506 bill for 1200 sf, I was about to go off grid. It’s unbelievable how mismanaged and financially irresponsible city of Gainesville Commissioners are, and then to misrepresent their incompetence as a good thing and offset it with charities paying for low income peoples bills, so they don’t protest is benchmark corruption.

Comments are closed.


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