J. Thomas Gurney, author of the original OUC charter.
OUC Charter Drafted, First Meeting Held Drafted by local attorney J. Thomas Gurney, the Orlando Utilities Commission (OUC) charter created a five-member Commission. Four citizens of Orlando were named to serve as Commissioners along with the Mayor of Orlando, who was automatically an ex-officio member of the board. These individuals were to serve without pay and be appointed for staggered four-year terms. They could serve second terms if re-nominated by the Commission. The Commission was designed to function as a Board of Directors of a corporation. The individuals who framed the OUC charter took every possible precaution to set up the Commission in a manner that would effectively eliminate political pressure and influence. The first official meeting of the newly formed Orlando Utilities Commission occurred on June 25, 1923 at 10:30 a.m. in the board room of the First National Bank. City Attorney W.B. Crawford asked each member of the Commission to draw a ticket, sight unseen, which established the term of office each new Commissioner would hold. The results were: Judge W.T. Bland, one year; J.F. Ange, two years; L.C. Massey, three years; H.H. Dickson and H.L. Beeman, each four years. It was moved by Ange, and seconded by Massey that the Honorable W.T. Bland be elected President of the Commission for the ensuing year.
Navigating the Great Depression During the Great Depression, the federal government provided funds to help OUC install underground electric feeder lines.
of the General Manager and Assistant General Manager. A year later, OUC defended and won its
Completed in 1934, this project generated
legal authority to add the equipment and
250 jobs at a time when work was virtually
infrastructure necessary to provide reliable
impossible to find. That year, OUC offered
electric and water service to its customers
the lowest residential electric rates in Florida;
without approval from the Orlando City
in fact, the utility actually reduced electric
Council. In the 1937 Evans case, OUC got the
rates from 8 cents per kilowatt hour (kWh) to
go-ahead to spend $645,000 to build a new
6 cents per kWh in 1934.
turbine at the Lake Ivanhoe Plant.
Throughout the ‘30s, OUC promoted the
The late 1930s saw the addition of another
cost-saving benefits of using electricity with the
elevated water storage tank on Rugby Street
slogan “Cook Electrically and Save Money”—
in College Park and a second Lake Ivanhoe
even offering 120 electric ranges for just
power plant addition that brought OUC’s total
5 cents per month, added to a customer’s bill.
generation capacity to 19 MW.
OUC not only installed the stoves, but also maintained them free of charge. In 1936, OUC relocated its offices from
In 1936, Martin W. Brown, who began his career as the utility’s first plant engineer, was promoted to General Manager. The following
City Hall to its new office building at Wall and
year, the Commission formally adopted a policy
Main streets in downtown Orlando across the
of keeping the people fully informed about
street from the Southern Bell Telephone
utility operations and “Where the Money Goes”
Company Building and the Orange County
to benefit the taxpayers and the citizens of
Court House. The first floor was occupied by
Orlando. This included the publishing of annual
the cashier, sales and contract department,
reports and informational bulletins on various
credit department, reception room and Offices
subjects of interest to OUC’s citizen-owners.
M A R T I N
B R O W N In the early years, OUC had to
Florida native Martin W. Brown worked his way up through the ranks of the Orlando Utilities Commission on his way to becoming General Manager in 1936. The utility’s first chief engineer, he was promoted to plant superintendent in 1932. He served as secretary and treasurer of the Municipal Utilities Association of Florida, and during World War II, was secretary of the Florida Power Pool State Defense Council.
spend time and energy to educate customers about the advantages of electricity and promote the use of electric appliances in the home. Source: 1947-48 Orlando Utilities Commission Reports to the residents of Orlando.