A new law took effect on July 1, 2023, that creates a governor-appointed, five-member board called the Gainesville Regional Utilities Authority to oversee GRU. GRU remains a public utility and continues to provide safe and reliable electric, water, wastewater, natural gas and telecommunications services to our community. We are confident this transition will occur without impacting these services or how we do business with our customers.
Governor Ron DeSantis Appoints Three to the Gainesville Regional Utilities Authority
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Gov. Ron DeSantis announced the appointment of James Coats IV, Robert Karow and Eric Lawson to the Gainesville Regional Utilities Authority on Sept. 26. These appointments are effective Oct. 1, 2023.
James Coats IV
Coats is the Chief Executive Officer of Phalanx Defense Systems. Active in his community, he serves as a member of the Golden Key International Honor Society and was awarded the “Spirit of Gainesville” Award by the Alachua County Chamber of Commerce. Coats earned his bachelor’s degree and master’s degree in business administration from American Military University.
Karow is currently retired, previously serving as the Manager, Legal Counsel, and Contracts Manager for Oleoductos de Crudos Pesados. He is a veteran of the United States Marine Corps, retiring with the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. Earning his bachelor’s degree in economics and business administration from Chapman College and his juris doctor from the University of Florida, Karow has over 40 years of energy experience with an emphasis in oil and natural gas, pipelines, facilities, and power generation.
Lawson is the Chief Executive Officer of HCA North Florida Regional Hospital. Holding multiple executive leadership positions in hospitals over the past 30 years, he most recently served as the Division Chief Financial Officer for HCA TriStar. Lawson earned his bachelor’s degree in accounting from Tennessee Technological University.
Frequently Asked Questions
The following Q&A anticipates questions about the Authority and its oversight of GRU. You can find a link to HB-1645 — the bill that created the GRU Authority — here. We will continue to update this page as new information becomes available.
When does the GRU Authority take over?
The governor signed HB-1645 into law on June 28, 2023, and it took effect on July 1, 2023. Based on the law, the new board meets for the first time on Oct. 4, 2023. This first meeting will take place 6 p.m. at City Hall. This meeting and all future Authority meetings will be publicly noticed and open to the public. In the interim, GRU is focused on facilitating a smooth transition from the Gainesville City Commission to the Authority.
Who chooses the members of the GRU Authority?
The governor appoints five members to the board based on specific criteria detailed under article 7.04 of the new law. The nomination process is currently under way and remains open for at least 30 days from July 1. Those interested in applying or nominating a board member can navigate to the Gubernatorial Appointment link on flgov.com.
Does the transition to an independent board impact GRU rates?
The GRU Authority establishes and amends rates and prepares and submits an annual budget to the City Commission at least three months prior to the beginning of the fiscal year on Oct. 1.
Can the Authority sell the utility?
Not without the approval of city voters. This remains unchanged from the current structure. Disposing of all or a part of the electric, water, wastewater, natural gas or telecommunications system requires a referendum vote. To be successful, a majority of city voters must approve the referendum.
If I have a question about GRU, whom should I ask?
We would recommend calling GRU customer service at 352-334-3434 or emailing email@example.com if you have questions about your utilities. The GRU Authority also will meet at least once a month. These meetings will be advertised and open to the public. The first meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, Oct. 4, at 6 p.m.
Does this change how I pay my GRU bill or sign up for service?
No. GRU customers will still have the same service and payment options. If you have any questions about these options, please call 352-334-3434 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Is the city going to challenge the law that creates the Authority?
The city filed a complaint for Declaratory Relief to get clarification from the court on whether HB-1645 in its present form violates the State of Florida Constitution and Florida Statutes. If the court finds that HB-1645 is void because it violates either the Florida Constitution or statutory law, or both, then the city is requesting an injunction against the enforcement of HB-1645. No matter the outcome, GRU will continue to focus on providing safe and reliable services to our community.