Photo courtesy JEA
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- JEA is the seventh largest utility in the nation and new CEO Paul McElroy is proud of its infrastructure.
"I view this as an opportunity to have an exchange of small businesses to come together with us to deliver to our consumers," he said.
JEA has 1,900 employees and nearly one million electric, water and sewer customers. One of them is Russell Smith of Russ-Doe's restaurant.
"I'd like to see them fight harder to keep our rates lower," said Smith.
McElroy said, in an exclusive interview, his focus is to be more transparent to JEA customers like Smith.
"We will consolidate most of the customer interfacing operations," said McElroy, "and will build a plan that will allows us to better know our customers and to serve them."
He said it means changing the culture within the JEA.
"We have to strive passionately to win our customers' loyalty every day," he said.
JEA generates over $1 billion a year. More than $200 million goes back into city coffers. McElroy wouldn't say if he's against or in favor of selling the JEA. He did say it's is smart to review it from time to time, as the City Council is now doing.
"I think when all is said and done, both from a number standpoint and a true contribution to the community," said McElroy, "JEA will be retained."
Some customers, like Smith, believe selling the JEA to a private interest would be the wrong move.
"Rates would go up,"said Smith, "We might be better off the way we are."
McElroy has been on the job three weeks and said they're following an aggressive plan to rebuild customer satisfaction, which includes a J.D Power customer framework.
"Our 'raison d'etre,' our reason for being is customer satisfaction," he said.
JEA has already turned to social media, like YouTube, to reach its customers, and the CEO said there will be more effort in that area.
McElroy truly believes the customer is integrated into the future success of JEA.
"The big thing is the customer and the customer comes first," said McElroy, "That is one thing that will change here."
He said they're creating a portal on the JEA's website so customers can actual view how much electricity or water they have used before the bill even hits the mailbox.
The benefit of that is it gives them a chance to make adjustments before the billing cycle is completed.
McElroy was not the JEA board of directors' first choice, but he was among the finalists.
When the first candidate refused the job, it was offered to McElroy with a starting salary of $400,000 a year. He said he believed it was too much for the Jacksonville market and negotiated a lower salary, $381,000 thousand a year.
He did not want his pay level to become a distraction from his goal of rebuilding customer satisfaction.
First Coast News