Bielarski fires 2 top GRU officials, reassigns third

Ed Bielarski speaks at the June 12 meeting when the Gainesville Regional Utilities Authority voted to fire Tony Cunningham.
Ed Bielarski speaks at the June 12 meeting when the Gainesville Regional Utilities Authority voted to fire Tony Cunningham.
Photo by Seth Johnson

In a memo to Gainesville Regional Utilities (GRU) employees, new interim CEO Ed Bielarski announced a reorganization at the top, including the removal of the chief sustainability officer and the chief telecommunications officer.  

Bielarski wrote in the memo—obtained by Mainstreet on Thursday—that the changes promote the importance of affordability.  

“Earlier this week, I sent a message emphasizing the importance of becoming the utility our community can afford,” Bielarski said. “In accordance with that mission, I have made the following difficult but necessary organizational changes, effective immediately.” 

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Chief Sustainability Officer Eric Walters has been removed from his position, which will be eliminated as the Office of Sustainability and Reliance changes into Operational Planning and Support.  

Chief Telecommunications Officer Lewis Walton will also leave the utility, Bielarski announced. GRU Communications will now report to Walter Banks, the chief information officer.  

Banks will analyze the department in the coming months to see how it “can best serve the utility.” 

Chief Operating Officer Brett Goodman will take a new position within the water/wastewater department, the memo also announced.  

All changes will be effective immediately. All three men are featured on the executive leadership page of the utility. 

“Operating under the Gainesville Regional Utilities Authority affords us a generational opportunity to run the business differently than we have in the past,” Bielarski said. “I will continue to review our practices and procedures and make changes where necessary.” 

Bielarski took control of the utility last week after the GRU Authority reversed course and fired then General Manager Tony Cunningham. Bielarski voted in the affirmative to fire Cunningham and then resigned from the authority in order to take his position.  

Cunningham was appointed to the general manager position in early 2022 after the Gainesville City Commission fired Bielarski.  

Bielarski said employees have continued to provide services despite a turbulent and stressful few years.  

The turbulence hasn’t ended either. The City Commission finalized a vote to place the GRU Authority’s existence on the upcoming November ballot, letting Gainesville citizens decide who should control the utility.  

The GRU Authority has called the ballot referendum illegal and sent a letter to the supervisor of elections asking for its removal from the ballot.  

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Rob

Sounds like a wonderful place to work. (Not).

Raymond Mellott

I’m still waiting for rates and debt to go down. So far, its beenorganizational chaos, starting with a board appointed by the governor, it’s composition not according to the law he signed, followed by 2-2 votes and temper tantrums, followed by a mass resignation… Since Ed B. ran the utility before and since he called adding to our debt by buying out that stupid trash plant…. and it appears he’s approving of sending the City bills for IT services of some number, I’m doubtful the chaos will ebb.

BillS

Ray – This is the beginning of the process. It will take awhile to dig out of this mess. He has the backing now and will get results.

Juan

Sounds like a City Dweller that supports the ignorant leaders of Wokesville that created the massive debt , that to City owns. Enjoy your tax increases to the hilt. GRU and its customers will be fine without your decision making . Keep fighting the cure and soon Poof, Gru is dissolved and Gainesville still owes $1,6 Billion dollars plus the $68 million that was stolen. Is it really that hard to get past denial ?

Salary cap needed

In articles like this, media like MSDN would do the public a great service by listing the salary of the people fired. Instead of feeling sorry for people losing their job, the public would realize why GRU is broke: The pay for these burrocrats can only be described as insanely obscenely too high. The top 25% of GRU and City of Gainesville needs a massive pay cut to make these people face reality.

Juan

GRU’s financial dilemma is Totally owned by the Gainesville City Commission and Gainesville voters past and present. The top 75% of Gainesville’s staff needs a massive pay cut and leave GRU Employees alone. Right Little Bobby Mercer???

Mike

Microsoft Developer Network?

Debbie

Agreed, however the “new” Manager of GRU hired his own people to replace these fired managers. Doubt it’s going to end up being less expensive for those of us that pay their salaries. Instead of hiring new upper level, GRU needs to maintain the services for it’s customers through keeping the employees on the ground that really do the WORK!!!

The Buzz

And, the chaos continue.

Who’s going to use who’s services, and who’s going to charge who for so and so’s services. Or should we just create these services all over again?
Maybe in duplicate!

Oh, and can’t we fire people with ambiguous job titles and assign their duties to similar job descriptions already in the org.

Is there any light anywhere in this tunnel, other than litigation?

Derek

cool. when do our rates go down?