DeSantis appoints 5 new GRU Authority members following resignations

Ed Bielarski speaks outside of City Hall
Former GRU General Manager Ed Bielarski is one of five new appointees to the GRU Authority.
File photo by Seth Johnson

Gov. Ron DeSantis announced Thursday the five new members of the Gainesville Regional Utilities Authority (GRU Authority), with several familiar faces.  

The five new members are Ed Bielarski, Craig Carter, Eric Lawson, David Haslam and Robert “Chip” Skinner.  

Carter and Lawson were appointed to the first GRU Authority in October 2023, but the whole board resigned in March following a lawsuit that challenged the validity of the board. DeSantis settled the case by having the board resign and opened a new round of nominations.  

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Besides the returning Carter and Lawson, Bielarski is also highly familiar with GRU after serving as its general manager until the city commission fired him in 2022. He ran for mayor later that year, losing to Mayor Harvey Ward in a runoff.

“I have to believe that my 30-plus years in the power industry along with seven years as the GM of GRU were compelling reasons for being chosen as a new GRU Authority Director,” Bielarski said in a text. “I’m excited to start the journey.” 

According to a release by the governor’s office, Haslam owns Campus Scooters of Gainesville, attended Santa Fe College and is an Air Force veteran. Skinner is president of Gainesville Area Lacrosse Inc. He is a coach and volunteer at Alachua County Public Schools and graduated from UF with an English degree.

GRU Authority Chair Craig Carter speaks at a joint meeting with Mayor Harvey Ward, right.
Photo by Seth Johnson GRU Authority Chair Craig Carter speaks at a joint meeting with Mayor Harvey Ward, right.

Lawson is CEO of HCA Florida North Florida Hospital, while Carter is a realtor and former Gainesville commissioner who served as chair of the previous GRU Authority.

Of the five appointees, four live within Gainesville city limits, according to voter registration records. Only Lawson lives outside city limits in unincorporated Alachua County that is serviced by GRU.

In a statement, Gainesville Residents United, Inc., which filed the suit, said it is “pleased” with the outcome.

“The price of freedom is vigilance,” the nonprofit said. “The previous illegitimately appointed board appointees resigned, the Governor’s Office appears to have now followed public notice requirements, and the new appointees initially appear to meet the law’s residency requirements.”

Gainesville Residents United said it will continue to oppose HB 1645, the bill that created the authority: “This law is an open attack on local political autonomy and home rule.”

HB 1645 has specific criteria for the makeup of the board, including residence and certain experience from the five members. One must be a residential customer of GRU with a substantial history of the utility and its operation. One must be a private, nongovernment customer, or its representative, consuming at least 10,000 kilowatt hours per month during the past 12 months.

The final three members must be “competent and knowledgeable in one or more specific fields substantially related to the duties and functions of the Authority, including, but not limited to, law, economics, accounting, engineering, finance, or energy.” 

On Thursday, state Rep. Chuck Clemons, R-Newberry, who filed the bill creating the authority, called on the new members to bring in a new general manager, not negotiate with the city, and focus decisions on helping GRU ratepayers.

“Let’s don’t make the mistakes of the past 6 months,” he said in a texted statement. “I trust this new board will make the hard decisions that will save our utility.”

The GRU Authority’s next meeting is scheduled for May 29, according to the utility website. The start date will give the new board a month to prepare the utility’s budget before it is supposed to be submitted to the Gainesville City Commission.  

The city of Gainesville has built two budget scenarios heading into the budget season. The scenarios revolve around whether GRU sends a transfer of funds to the general government side of the city and how much is sent.

The City Commission is working on a ballot initiative that, if it gains final approval, would put the GRU Authority before voters in November.

Editor’s note: This story has been updated as the relevant parties have issues statements of response.

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Marvin DeLiloca

Congratulations Mr. Bielarski,

It’s amazing how the world works!


Yes tatakky agree. Very glad there are adults and competent people on this board.


Outstandiny! I read the book Ed Bielarski wrote in which he did a deep dive on GRU and it was an education. The previous team was good – this one is even better. Good luck to you all and thank you all for taking on this challenge.


It is a shame many in Gainesville do not understand what proper and competent management is. GRU is not a piggy bank for mental 5 year olds to squander and bankrupt. Thank goodness for state law and DeSantis

Jan sugalski

Let us hope Lawson does a better job with GRU than he did at HCA. I have never been able to figure out why he wasn’t fired?


He will undoubtably focus on the issues with with surgical precisiojn (could not resist that-sorry) . Passs the popcorn- the next few months are going to be interesting. That piggybank is getting low-
harvey & Co. are getting desperate.