- Orlando is incorporated.
- Orlando Water Company is incorporated.
- Construction of original waterworks is started.
- The Orlando Water and Sewerage Company is chartered.
- Orlando's first power
plant opens, owned
by Judge John M.
Cheney and sons.
- Twenty-four-hour electric
service begins in Orlando
- Orlando's water system consists
of 23 miles of mains and more
than 100 fire hydrants.
- Judge John M. Cheney proposes a bond issue that would enable the citizens of Orlando to purchase and municipally operate a public utility.
The foundation for what would eventually become the Orlando Utilities Commission was laid even before the 20th century began. In 1875, when Orlando was incorporated, Central Florida was just beginning to evolve from a rural, agrarian economy based on cattle ranching and citrus growing to a thriving center of commerce. Attracted by fertile farm land and warm weather, settlers arrived from all over the country, as well as from abroad. In 1880, the South Florida Railroad added Orlando as one of its stops — helping to spur the first of many building and land booms in the Sunshine State. By the turn of the century, Orlando had paved streets, as well as electricity and phone service. In 1908, it was officially dubbed “The City Beautiful.” By the time the World War broke out, the City had become a popular resort. The war generated additional industrial growth and real-estate development throughout Florida that lasted through the early ‘20s — creating the need for reliable water and electric infrastructure in the region ... and setting the stage for the birth of OUC.
The City of Orlando was incorporated in 1875 by a popular election in which 22 citizens cast their votes. Ten years later, the City received a charter by action of the Florida Legislature. At that time, the community’s only source of water was a town well located next to the Orange County Court House at the corner of Central and Main. On October 5, 1886, the Orlando City Council granted to A.A. Parker and his associates a 10-year franchise to construct, maintain and operate a water works within the municipality. The Orlando Water Company was incorporated on October 20, 1886 with initial capital of $150,000. Parker, Harry W. Lentz and Peter Herdic were the incorporators. They and their financial backers, who were from Huntington and Williamsport, Pennsylvania, had successfully negotiated franchise arrangements and built water works in other Pennsylvania communities as well as in Cairo, Illinois.
Actual construction of the original water-works — which consisted of a plant and a distribution
system — began on March 18, 1887. The source of water was Lake Highland, which at that time was located well outside the Orlando city limits.
In 1889, additional water mains were laid to serve most of the well-settled areas of Orlando with a safe domestic supply and fire protection. The additions increased the distribution system to about 13.5 miles of pipe.
As a result of the death of Herdic in 1890, a receivership took over the Orlando Water Company. John M. Cheney, an Orlando attorney at the time, represented the bond holders. The landholders foreclosed the property and turned it over to a new corporation, the Orlando Water and Sewerage Company, its charter being dated June 6, 1892. J.A. Beeber, President of the First Bank of Williamsport, Pennsylvania, representing the landholders, was President. Cheney became Secretary-Treasurer and Managing Director.
Cheney, who by then had become an Orlando judge, purchased the water works in 1893, serving as Secretary-Treasurer and principal owner. The new company, the Orlando Water & Light Company, was granted the right by the City of Orlando to pump water from Lake Highland and Lake Concord to supply water to the City.
By 1916, Orlando’s water supply system consisted of 23 miles of mains, which covered every part of the City, and more than 100 fire hydrants were installed in different parts of the town.
In 1917, the first filtrated treatment facilities were built near Lake Highland to treat water obtained from the lake before passing it into the City mains.
Founder, Orlando Water & Light Company
JOHN M. CHENEY
Judge John M. Cheney was the founding father and visionary for reliable electric and water service in Orlando. He was a private attorney, Orlando city attorney, United States attorney and judged for the southern district of Florida, Republican candidate for governer of Florida and for the United States Senate. He also served as judge for the Orange County juvenile court.
MARTIN W. BROWN
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 was secretary of the Municipal Utilities Association of Florida and the Florida Power Pool State Defense Council.
CURTIS H. STANTON
Curtis H. Stanton was born in Key West, Florida. He graduated from the University of Florida in 1940 with a Bachelor of Mechanical Engineering degree and was hired by the General Electric Company. He joined OUC in 1947 as Assistant General Manager, working for GM Martin Brown. Stanton, only 29 at the time, took the reins when Brown passed away.
Harry Luff had a distinguished 40-year career at Orlando Utilities Commission. With an engineering degree from Brown University, Luff began his tenure at OUC in 1946 at the bottom — chipping slag off the boilers. He worked numerous positions in the plant where his ability to effectively analyze problems caused management to take notice.
Although OUC conducted a nationwide search in 1984 for a new assistant general manager, they found their candidate right in their own backyard: Sanford native Theodore “Ted” Pope. A University of Florida graduate with a bachelor’s degree in Engineering and a Master of Business Administration, Pope had joined OUC in 1959 as part of the IRP team.
Troy Todd, a graduate of Virginia Polytechnical Institute, came to OUC from United Telephone (Sprint) where he was the CEO and former Vice President of Human Resources. A champion of “giving back,” Todd increased OUC’s involvement in the community. Under his leadership, OUC created the Community Relations area and organized “Community Crews.”
Bob Haven came to OUC on July 1, 1994 and passed away while in office in 2004. He brought with him decades of water industry and city government experience. A graduate of George Washington University, Haven arrived in Orlando in August 1981 as Central Florida was experiencing tremendous growth.
Ken Ksionek was named interim General Manager after the death of Bob Haven and given the permanent position October 12, 2004. Ksionek had served as Vice President of OUC’s Energy Delivery Business Unit from 1995 to 2004 — managing the engineering, construction, maintenance and operation of OUC’s electric distribution systems.
1923 - 1936
Martin W. Brown
1936 - 1947
Curtis H. Stanton
1947 - 1983
1983 - 1986
1986 - 1992
1992 - 1994
1994 - 2004
2004 - Present
At the turn of the century, Judge Cheney and his sons began construction on an electric generating plant on Lake Highland, renaming their company the Orlando Water & Light Company. The power plant opened January 1, 1901. Its lone generator, driven by a 150-horsepower steam engine, had a capacity of only 100 kilowatts. Initially, electricity was provided to homes, stores and street lights on a “dark to midnight” basis.
In 1901, the company was awarded a contract by the City of Orlando to provide 28 street lights “of 2,000 nominal candle power or their equivalent in incandescent lamps for $2,000 per annum.” The City of Orlando previously had granted the Orlando Water & Light Company a 20-year franchise to provide water and electric service starting January 1, 1901, and terminating on January 1, 1921.
In 1903, the enterprising Cheney built an ice plant (with an ice-making capacity of 60 tons per day and the capability to store 300 tons) at the Lake Highland site, adjacent to the power and water plants. Sold locally and shipped to neighboring towns, the ice was used to cool railroad cars and trucks that shipped fruit and produce. Water from the water plant and electricity from the power plant were used to produce the ice.
In 1905, the company purchased a coal gas plant and distribution network that had been in operation since 1889. The gas plant, located in the western part of the City, had a capacity of 300,000 cubic feet of gas per day, and the distribution network included 18 miles of gas mains.
More than 15 years later, in July 1921, Orlando was authorized by the state legislature to issue $1.5 million in bonds for purchase or construction of a water and light plant, subject to a referendum vote. In September of that year, the City made an agreement with the Orlando Water & Light Company to buy the electric and water plant, at a price to be fixed by a board of three arbiters.
By 1922, Orlando’s population had grown to about 10,000 and Judge Cheney — realizing a need for wider services than his company was able to supply — urged his friends to work and vote for a $975,000 bond issue to enable the citizens of Orlando to purchase and municipally operate his privately owned utilities. Orlando Utilities Commission was about to be born.
For the first time, water and electric utility service for the City of Orlando was consolidated under one organization — John M. Cheney’s Orlando Water & Light Company.
Judge John M. Cheney, “Founding Father and Visionary”
Who was John M. Cheney? In the “History of Orange County, Florida” published in 1927 by William Fremont Blackman, Ph.D., LL.D., it is said that “No other citizen of Orange County was more esteemed and beloved than John Cheney.” His resumé was, to say the least, impressive. He was a
private attorney, Orlando city attorney, United States attorney for the southern district of Florida, United States judge for the southern district of Florida, Republican candidate for governor of Florida and Republican candidate for the United States Senate. Cheney also served as judge for
the Orange County juvenile court and recreation superintendent for the City of Orlando. A section of the Dixie Highway in Central Florida was officially named the Cheney Highway in commemoration of his service to Florida.