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With sellout talk silenced, Lakeland Electric stands tall


From the December 17, 2012 issue of Public Power Daily

Originally published December 17, 2012

Uncomfortable talk about selling the municipal electric utility in Lakeland, Fla., to a private company unnerved public power observers earlier this year. A local business executive, apparently driven by ideology, pushed city officials to ask voters for approval to sell the utility. But residents voiced their opposition to the suggestion and that talk now is history.

The dialogue offered a silver lining by raising awareness of, and appreciation for, the utility. Lakeland Electric today has the lowest electricity rates among Florida’s 33 municipal electric utilities. The utility’s power supply position is strong and its credit rating is the highest it has ever been, said City Manager Doug Thomas. The utility is a top-ranked diamond-level winner of APPA’s Reliable Public Power Provider award.

This year was not the first time the utility was a target of sellout talk. About a decade ago, when Lakeland Electric was under water in a power supply contract, the utility faced criticism. In response to a public outcry then, city officials formed an advisory Utility Committee to review and recommend positions on utility policies. That panel has helped the utility address concerns about giving a policymaking voice to customers who live outside city boundaries.

The Lakeland Electric story is recounted in a Public Power magazine article, "You Better Not Sell My Utility." The article is posted on publicpowermedia.org.

Subscriptions to the electronic and print editions of Public Power and all other APPA periodicals are free to all employees and governing board members of APPA member utilities and associate members. An online subscription signup form is on publicpower.org.

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