Who’s Who: David Koliba

May 17, 2023

David Koliba
Commercial Accounts Administrator, Garland Power and Light

Can you tell me a little bit about yourself? 

I grew up in Corpus Christi, Texas and have lived in Texas most of my life, except for a few months when I was working in the deregulated market in Boston. I’ve been in the utility business since 1985 and have worked for a few different companies along the way. I’ve been married for 37 years and have a son that lives in Dallas with his wife. 

Tell me a bit about GP&L

GP&L is a municipal electric company. We’re one of about 72 municipalities in the state of Texas and the fourth largest behind San Antonio, Austin and Lubbock. A municipality is a city-owned public provider of electricity. Municipal electric utilities and electric cooperatives continue to be regulated while most other areas of Texas are deregulated. Unlike the retail electric providers in the deregulated areas of Texas, GP&L continues to be an integrated utility. The generation, delivery (ie: wires) as well as the retail piece continues to be owned and operated by the City of Garland.

Can you tell me more about your role? 

At GP&L, I’m the Commercial Accounts Administrator for Garland Power and Light. In my role, I’m responsible for several things. I’m the main point of contact for Garland’s 20 largest customers. I always make sure they have my number and I’m the person they call if they need to add more load, change the transformer, or if there’s an outage. We also keep them apprised of what the Texas grid is doing. Since deregulation there are a lot of new laws that have been put into effect and we try to keep customers up to date. We also try to find the customer state and federal incentives that they might be able to use. 

I’m also over the energy efficiency program, which offers utility bill credits for various efficiency upgrades including air conditioning replacements and insulation upgrades. For example, let’s say your A/C goes out, if you buy a replacement that has a certain level of efficiency, you can earn a credit for that. And lastly, I’m in charge of our Energy Response Service where we work with customers who agree to shed load in emergency situations. This helps maintain the electric grid’s integrity. 

Who else is on your team? 

I have a couple of employees on my team. Some work with residential customers, helping them understand their bills and how to save on electricity and water. They also focus on smaller businesses. We keep track of new businesses coming to town; my team’s job is to get out there and help them get set up, get on the right rate and then to become the single point of contact for any needs they might have. 

What are some of the biggest challenges you face?  

Deregulation started in 2002. It changed the energy market and made it pretty confusing for the customer to understand what’s going on, so our biggest challenge is keeping customers abreast of what the market is doing and why. It’s hard to help them see that the price they’re getting is competitive even if they had a choice. Every month, I do a comparison of our rates and all the other rates out there and that’s on our website. 

Another challenge is the weather. It seems like extreme weather (in the summer and winter) is becoming more prevalent in Texas. For the past 10-15 years, building fossil fuel power plants has slowed because of the push for more green energy alternatives like wind and solar. But as was experienced with the freeze of 2021, a majority of the solar panels were covered in snow and the wind turbines froze. We had to rely on fossil fuels, but since we had been developing so much renewable energy, the generation available from fossil fuels was so much lower than what was needed. 

Recently, the Texas Legislature has agreed we need to build more gas-powered power plants. But the challenge is: how do you get companies to build power plants when you don’t know if they’re going to be used all the time? When the return on investment may or may not be realized? One technology that would be helpful is battery storage. The big challenge moving forward is trying to figure out how to make batteries work on a larger scale. 

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How did you get started in this line of work?  

I had no idea what I wanted to do in college, but I had a friend who was going into electronics, so I decided to do something similar. I got a two-year degree in Electronic Engineering Technology. Then I got a job with Central Power and Light and started working on meters, fixing 80 a day. While living and working in Laredo, my mentor at work encouraged me to go into marketing. I took his advice, went back to school for a degree in Psychology and started working in the marketing department. After working for various companies over the past two decades, I came to GP&L in 2004. I’ve been with them for almost 20 years.

I always say that the majority of my job is in the relationship-building business. My degree in Psychology has really helped throughout my career, especially when establishing relationships with commercial customers. I like to get to know customers and not only help them with their business but get to know them on a personal level, to know what’s going on in their lives, where their kids are going to college. 

Building relationships and taking care of customers has been my calling if you will. It’s not always easy when their power goes out and they’re not happy. My job is to help them understand what happened and why. I keep them updated and help them get back up as soon as possible. Most of the time, outages are caused by birds, snakes and squirrels, or even a racoon or a possum. 

What advice would you have to new business owners coming to Garland?  

The first thing they should do if they don’t know if they want to use an existing facility or an empty lot, is go to the Garland Chamber or the Economic Development Department in Garland. Both places will be able to tell you what they have and help you find the best fit. They will also help you get connected to GP&L. 

What do you love most about Garland? 

The thing that’s cool about Garland is that we have some unique businesses here. For example, we have Hatco where they make Stetson cowboy hats. So if you’ve ever seen someone in a Stetson hat, it was probably made at this facility in Garland. Several famous bull riders go there. The plastics company they make water bottles, gatorade bottles and the large 2L bottles are here. They make BBQ sauces for Kraft-Heinz which is based here; they make BBQ sauce and lunchables…that’s unique. 

Callavo is here and they’re one of the biggest distributors of avocados. Sherwin-Williams is here, so is a plastics company that makes parts for Ford Pickups and another one that makes bubble wrap for FedEx. We also have Daisy Brand who makes sour cream and the company that makes metal detector wands for airports and stadiums! So many interesting things come out of Garland. 

What do you enjoy doing outside of work?  

One of my favorite activities is spending time with my family. My son got married a few years ago and he and my daughter in law live in downtown Dallas, so my wife and I like to meet up with them. I also have a sports car that I enjoy driving, washing and working on. I enjoy yard work, which might be surprising to some people, but in the industry I’m in, most projects are ongoing… electricity doesn’t take a day off. When you’re doing a project at home, most times you get to start and finish it. It’s nice. I also really enjoy barbecuing, watching movies and sports with my dog.

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