Gainesville’s Ed Bielarski published “The City That Lost Control” last week, a novel that chronicles the last couple of decades of the City Commission’s management of Gainesville Regional Utilities (GRU).
Bielarski served as general manager of GRU from 2016 to 2022, when the City Commission fired him, spurring him to run for mayor in a crowded field. He lost the mayoral bid in a runoff election with current Mayor Harvey Ward, and Bielarski said since the election he’s been working on the book.
But the beginnings of “The City That Lost Control” stretch back to when Bielarski still ran GRU.
“A couple years ago, I realized that there was a disconnect, if you will, between public perception and what was going on with the utility as well as the City Commission,” Bielarski said in an interview. “I started to accumulate the data, the information, the facts and kind of decided on an outline of how I’d weave a story around the facts.”
Bielarski fashioned the book as a novel and gives insight into his thoughts while working through the biomass buyout and when his job was on the line multiple times. Unlike a novel though, the characters are all real people—former and current city commissioners, mayors, GRU employees and city managers.
Bielarski said because his whole career happened in public, he could access the public records to use the exact wording of others. He says 99% of the dialogue used is quoted from public meetings, emails and even Facebook Messenger texts.
“Hopefully, it draws them in to read more of the story. Because, I mean, if you want to elicit the facts, you can write a white paper that’s 40 pages long,” Bielarski said. “But if you want to get the full flavor of the people and how they were involved and their personal interactions and things like that, you need to see that in a novel.”
The book starts with Bielarski’s entrance in Gainesville driving a U-Haul and chronicles the biomass buyout through today’s headlines, including the Florida Legislature’s decision to override the City Commission and form an independent board to manage GRU.
Bielarski said he plans to hold a book signing in the area. He’s not sure where the book would sell outside of Florida, but local residents, he said, will find it insightful into GRU history and how the city found itself under the current state law.