Setting the record straight


Published: Tuesday, January 23, 2007 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, January 23, 2007 at 12:43 a.m.
I would like to respond to several assertions in the Jan. 19 Sun editorial about the city's process for selecting a new GRU general manager.
First, I would say that your editorial misrepresents former General Manager Mike Kurtz's departure. My sense was that Kurtz did not have to go, but wanted to go. The Commission chose a new policy direction, which was to hold off on building a new coal-burning power plant until we fully examined what we could accomplish through energy conservation and efficiency. Kurtz then decided that he would rather use his talents elsewhere on coal-powered energy generation (in Taylor County).
Second, I was surprised by your claim that I wanted Kurtz to resign, which wasn't the case. I did observe to him when he consulted with me about resigning that GRU would be responsible for implementing an enhanced energy conservation and efficiency policy if the City Commission chose such a policy. I am happy that to date GRU has been enthusiastically and successfully implementing the enhanced conservation and efficiency policy. But I would have been pleased if Kurtz had worked on that, too.
Third, I did not call for the current search to begin anew, as you reported. Rather I suggested that the City Commissioners should meet to consider whether we were willing to accommodate the general manager candidates' minimum salary expectations, which were much higher than we anticipated. If we weren't willing, why ask the candidates to come for interviews?
Fourth, you stated that Gainesville has a reputation for beating up on public officials. I would say rather that, as everywhere, the imperfections of human understanding coupled with the give-and-take of the democratic process result in sometimes impassioned interchange of differing views. Elected officials know that some buffeting comes with this ultimately effective process. But I would say that Gainesville is generally pretty civil.
Fifth, you quoted the GM search consultant that "Lack of resolution to GRU's power supply situation over an extended period" might be an obstacle to recruiting top-notch candidates. This seems dubious, because utility managers know that one of their essential assignments is to constantly engage in the ever-evolving responsibility of supplying power.
Sixth, in her letter to the editor on Jan. 19, Kendra Siler-Marsiglio reproved the City Commission for spending $75,000 on a consulting firm to facilitate our search for top GM candidates within and outside of GRU. But an outside consultant is commonly deemed important in the search for a utility manager, and the City Commission followed the wise custom of competitively selecting a consultant and setting the fee. As far as I know, there's no better way for us to carry out this necessary step.
Last, in the Speaking Out column for Jan. 19, Joshua Dickinson complained that, "The commissioners, as the GRU board, are not likely to question what GRU does as long as the cash keeps coming and the utility is run reasonably competently." The record shows a different story. Without neglecting GRU finances and competence, over the past 18 months this City Commission has halted plans for a coal-burning power plant, changed and redirected leadership at the utility company, established an enhanced energy conservation and efficiency policy, is examining economically and environmentally sound biomass power to serve us till still newer technologies arrive, and has been highly responsive to the many voices of our community.
I am writing this response two days before the City Commission is to make its decision on selecting a new GRU general manager. But regardless of our decision, I believe the record shows that this Commission is doing a very good job guiding Gainesville toward a healthy future for our public utilities and our citizens.

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