Gov. DeSantis fills out controversial new GRU oversight board

Former Gainesville City Commissioner Craig Carter and dermatologist Tara Ezell round out the controversial board.

Gov. Ron DeSantis filled the remaining seats on the new board lawmakers approved to oversee the public utility serving Gainesville and much of Alachua County.

The final appointees, announced Wednesday, are former Gainesville City Commissioner Craig Carter and dermatologist Tara Ezell. They join three appointees the Governor’s office announced last week: Phalanx Defense Systems CEO James Coats IV, retired attorney Robert Karow and HCA North Florida Regional Hospital CEO Eric Lawson.

A news release from the Governor’s office notes that Carter is a Realtor working for Coldwell Banker Commercial M.M. Parrish Realtors and is a member of the Gainesville Rotary Club. He is also the current Vice Chair of the Gainesville Regional Airport Authority.

Ezell, who earned her medical degree from the University of Florida, is a partner at Dermatology Associates. She is also the Assistant Secretary of the Parker Road Community Development District Board of Directors, a member of the Alachua County Medical Society, and the former Vice Chair of the Child Advocacy Center Board of Directors.

While the board Carter and Ezell are joining is new, and has yet to take any major action, there is already much public acrimony.

GRU has been controlled by city government, with an appointed manager overseeing day-to-day operations, since it was first established in 1912, and many area residents are vocally opposed to manner and method of the leadership change.

The bill preempting local control of the utility (HB 1645) was the brainchild of Newberry Republican Rep. Chuck Clemons, who asserted throughout the 2023 Legislative Session that non-city residents served by the utility deserved to have a hand in its governance.

City Commissioners say that’s a spurious argument meant to provide cover for the utility’s likely sale to an investor-owned utility, such as Florida Power & Light. Local electeds have continued to grouse as the gubernatorial appointments flow in.

“The GRU Takeover was sold as appointing ‘diverse’ people with ‘utility experience’ that are ‘within Gainesville.’ All five have been appointed, and they’re white Republicans from outside GNV with no utility experience #disappointing #flapol,” Commissioner Bryan Eastman wrote on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter.

Though Ezell works at a Gainesville-based medical practice, The Gainesville Sun confirmed that she is not a city resident, nor are Coats, Karow or Lawson. Carter does live within city limits. Meanwhile, about 70% of GRU’s customer base lives within city limits.

Throughout the legislative process, Clemons claimed Gainesville residents would comprise the majority on the board. The bill DeSantis signed requires four members to be a “qualified elector of the city” and the fifth to be a resident of the unincorporated area of Alachua County.

All five board members are registered Republicans, noteworthy given that Gainesville is among Florida’s few remaining Democratic strongholds — Alachua was one of just six counties that went blue in the 2022 elections and one of a dozen that went for President Joe Biden in 2020.

Drew Wilson

Drew Wilson covers legislative campaigns and fundraising for Florida Politics. He is a former editor at The Independent Florida Alligator and business correspondent at The Hollywood Reporter. Wilson, a University of Florida alumnus, covered the state economy and Legislature for LobbyTools and The Florida Current prior to joining Florida Politics.


  • Rick Whitaker

    October 4, 2023 at 8:55 pm

    every article i read about desantis’ lies and grift is beyond belief. after he is gone and a dem governor takes over, the healing can begin.

    • Sunshine

      October 6, 2023 at 5:28 pm

      DeSantis didn’t load GRU up with over $1.7 in debt with little to show for it other than a used wood burner. What is happening in Gainesville has been in the making for many years before most people even heard of DeSantis. Next the City Commission has to report back to the JLAC committee on the 18 issues that they were suppose to address and the you know what is about to hit the fan. Seems there are large sums of money our so called progressive City Commission still can’t account for.

      • Rick Whitaker

        October 6, 2023 at 7:24 pm

        no comparison to the maga cult grift. sounds like you fear or hate progressives. what a shame. the maga cult has demonized the progressives with lies and misinformation. sounds like they got you on a hook. progressives are for progress, not the upper 1%

  • Nate Toll

    October 5, 2023 at 9:18 am

    what has been done here is a travesty of justice and then to appoint an illegal board on top of the theft is just typical GOP – do it until a judge says no – then do it some more.

    • Rick Whitaker

      October 6, 2023 at 4:55 am

      maga cult is the crime cult, just look at their leader, a life long crook

Comments are closed.


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