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Field of PSC Candidates Includes Councilman Art Graham

Much of the attention about the possible replacements for former Florida Public Service Commissioners David Klement and Benjamin “Steve” Stevens has centered on two profile applicants, Sen. Lee Constantine and current PSC General Counsel and former state Sen. Curt Kiser.

But after the PSC Nominating Council interviewed nearly half the contenders last week and sent names to Gov. Charlie Crist, six other people are also in the running for the panel.

Constantine, R-Altamonte Springs, made headlines by resigning as chairman of the Nominating Council to apply for the $136,036-a-year job hours before the deadline to submit applications. Many of the other candidates’ recommendation letters are addressed to him. Kiser drew attention for lining up support from influential lawmakers like Sen. Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey, and House Majority Leader Adam Hasner, R-Delray Beach, shortly after being highly visible in the failed confirmations of Klement and Stevens.

Some of the other contenders’ names are similarly familiar to observers of utility regulation and state government. Others would be newcomers like Klement and Stevens were, though lawmakers showed in spiking the pair they had little appetite for freshness on the panel.

Two will be tapped by Crist by next month to join a commission that has undergone drastic changes in the past year. The non-Constantine and Kiser possibilities include:

Former PSC Executive Director Mary Bane
A native of DeFuniak Springs, Mary Bane led the PSC’s full-time staff from 2002 to 2009. She was an employee of the PSC since 1978, when members of the then three-member PSC were still elected in statewide elections. Bane served as Deputy Executive Director from 1993 to 2001 and worked various positions in the PSC’s Division of Research and Review before that. Despite the fact that Gov. Crist turned away from PSC insiders in picking Klement and Stevens, Bane touted her varied experience with the commission in her application. “My career with the Public Service Commission allowed me to apply my academic training in economics to the real world issues addressed by the commission,” she wrote. “The complexity and diversity of the issues kept the work challenging and real world application of my economic knowledge was rewarding both from an intellectual standpoint and from knowing of the positive impact decisions had on Florida and its citizens.”

State Rep. Ronald Brisé
The other sitting lawmaker in the mix is state Rep. Ronald Brise, who may seem a surprise applicant to the PSC since he was just elected to the Florida House in 2006. But Brise is a former telecom executive and he said his tenure in the Legislature showed him the importance of serving on the PSC. “As a policymaker serving on the utilities and telecommunications committee for three years in the Florida House of Representatives, I understand the challenges involved with balancing the need for energy and keeping rates reasonable while responding to the challenges of that everyday Floridians face,” he wrote. Brise, who is former vice-president of Miami-based voice-over-Internet provider IPIP Corp., turned in recommendation letters from North Miami Mayor Andre Pierre and the chairman of the Miami-Dade Chamber of Commerce.

Jacksonville City Councilman Arthur Graham
A native of the suburbs of Atlanta, Ga. and an environmental consultant by trade, Arthur Graham has served on the Jacksonville City Council since 2003 and held a seat on the Jacksonville Beach City Council before that. He ran to replace late Sen. Jim King last year in the special election won by Sen. John Thrasher. In his application to the PSC, Graham touted his role on the Jacksonville City Council in overseeing the city’s municipal electric company – JEA, as well as he his work with wastewater management at Georgia Pacific, where he served as an engineer. “A paper mill uses 15 – 50 million gallons of water per day to run the process,” Graham wrote to the Nominating Council. “A key objective is to optimize the system to use less fresh water. I was part of a team that helped decrease water consumption at Georgia Pacific’s Palatka mill from 50 million (gallons per day) down to 22 million.” Jacksonville Mayor John Peyton wrote a recommendation letter for Graham.

Former Missouri Public Service Commissioner Connie Murray
Connie Murray served on Missouri regulatory commission from 1997 to last year. Murray, who now resides in Hillsborough County, also served in the Missouri House of Representatives from 1991-1996. She said that the Missouri PSC was very similar to Florida’s panel, touting her record in the Show Me State. “I served twelve years as a Public Service Commissioner for the state of Missouri, as an appointee of two governors,” she wrote in her application. “My service was complete less than year ago and I was respected as a commissioner for my dedication to learning and attention to detail in cases that came before me the commission.” Murray also said that “Missouri regulates all of the utility sectors that are regulated in Florida,” saying she would “bring a background that is totally relevant to the position” if she were appointed.

Former staff director of the House Regulatory Reform Committee Charles Ranson
A lawyer by trade, Charles Ranson ran the House Regulatory Reform Committee in the late 1970s, as the PSC was transiting from an elected to an appointed body. Now running Tallahassee law firm Ranson and Associates, Ranson touted his experience with the committee in his application to the PSC. “As staff director of the Committee on Regulatory Reform…I lead the first sunset review of all FPSC regulatory functions, resulting in the updating the regulatory model for electric, gas, telecommunications and water/sewer services and in the economic deregulation of Florida’s interstate trucking industry,” he wrote. He also touted his legal experience as a plus, saying that he had “nearly 40 years of experience at the intersection of law, economics and public policy.”

Senate Communications, Energy & Utilities Committee legislative analyst Kevin Wiehle
An employee since 2002 of the Senate committee that handles most issues related to Florida utilities and the PSC, including the confirmations of gubernatorial appointments to the commission, Kevin Wiehle has worked in the Florida Senate since 1986. He was legislative analyst for the Regulated Industries Committee from 1998 to 2002 and started out as an attorney for the Judiciary Committee. Prior to moving to the Senate, Wiehle worked for the Department of Legal Affairs, serving as Assistant Attorney General in the Economic Crimes Litigation/Consumer Protection Agency. Like Bane, Wiehle embraced his technocrat background, making it central to his pitch to the PSC nominating council. “I worked extensively with energy and utility policy for almost 12 years,” he wrote in his application. “I understand the intricate issues involved, including the difficult economic issues of balancing ratepayers’ interest against those of the future and of making the transition from energy systems of the past to those of the future.”

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