JEA linemen talk with mayor about potential sale

Both sides call private meeting productive

By Jim Piggott - Reporter

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Like many JEA employees, the utility's linemen have many questions about the city's potential sale of the JEA. In a sit-down meeting with Mayor Lenny Curry Tuesday, they were convinced the administration is not trying to sell the utility out from under them.

Seven linemen met privately with Curry to discuss the issue. News4Jax was not allowed inside.

Tony Herrera said the linemen asked the mayor explain the situation with the potential sale and wanted answers on where he stands. After 90 minutes, Herrera came out saying the mayor changed some minds and earned the linemen's trust.

"I can’t elaborate on everything we discussed, but for the most part we feel good that the mayor, No. 1 is not interested. He’s never said he was interested in selling JEA. He wanted to get a value, and that’s what they’ve been working on."

That is quite different from what the head of the union representing some JEA employees told News4Jax on Monday night. 

Valerie Gutierrez said the union supports a radio ad that slams the mayor and the proposed sale. 

Gutierrez was aware of Tuesday's meeting but did not attend. She told News4Jax that she would like to personally hear Curry say he is against the sale.

The workers who met with Curry said they heard what they needed to hear.

"There has been a lot of distrust, and once again it’s because of politics that has been played back and forth, Herrera said. "And it’s unfortunate, because there’s a lot of families and employees affected."

The mayor had repeatedly said he has not made up his mind about selling JEA and was still gathering more information. He also said he is not behind the push for the sale, which became an issue when it was suggested by the outgoing chairman of JEA's board late last year.

Curry told News4Jax he also felt Tuesday's meeting was productive.

"These are the guys, when the storms hit are putting their lives on the line every day," Curry said. "What matters to them and to their families is important to me, and I got good information from them. It was a positive meeting."

There are still many people, including many City Council members, who say they need more information about any possible JEA sale. A council committee will meet again Thursday to discuss the issue and there is a measure introduced that would call for the council to vote against a sale at this time.

The handful of workers who spent time with Curry Tuesday certainly believe the idea of a sale will be going away soon.

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