Power to the People
As two new PSC members change the tone, will Bush holdovers starting changing too?
The days of old
It brought to mind those thrilling days of yesteryear when Paula Hawkins, a Republican activist and self-described “Maitland housewife,” won election to the PSC and spent the better part of the 1970s as a thorn in the side of Florida’s utilities. Hawkins made quotable speeches, tipped off reporters and launched crusades. She made phone companies stop charging money at pay phones for dialing 911. “You need a dime to stop a crime,” Hawkins would say as her mouth twisted into a sarcastic grin. Her notoriety got her elected to a term in the U.S. Senate in 1980.
Argenziano cites Hawkins, now 80 and living with her husband in Winter Park, as a role model.
Joseph P. Cresse, a former state budget director with a Matlock manner, joined the PSC as Hawkins was leaving. He lacked Hawkins’ flair, but he was persistent. He told the PSC staff to offer its best judgment and be prepared to defend it.
Both new members were guarded in interviews. Argenziano repeatedly referred to “fairness.” Skop said he would “work hard to protect the interests of Florida consumers” and said “quality of service is very important to me,” but he deemed discussion of a case “inappropriate.”
People who have spent much of their careers around the PSC express concern about the lack of experience among current commissioners, who make $132,690 a year. Terry Deason left the PSC in January after 16 years as a commissioner and more than a decade of PSC-related experience before that. (He dissented on the $33 million for FPL.) Edgar, now the senior member, has been there less than three years. A lawyer, Edgar had been a deputy secretary in former Gov. Jeb Bush’s Department of Environment Protection since 1999.
In Deason’s place, Bush nominated former Rep. Ken Littlefield, who had voted in 2003 for legislation that cleared the way for one of the largest phone rate increases in Florida history. Crist abandoned Littlefield’s nomination and appointed Argenziano, who had voted against the phone legislation. She has no expertise in a utility field but is dogged and has political status as an ex-senator.
Bush appointed Matthew Mark Carter II and Katrina Tew (now McMurrian) to the PSC in January 2006. McMurrian had been on the PSC staff for 11 years. Carter had worked in the House. His career has morphed from the Army to political PR consulting to financial adviser, then law school. Carter moonlights as the preacher at Beulah Hill Missionary
Baptist Church in Gretna.
Skop is an engineer who also went to law school. He worked on airplanes for Boeing and nuclear subs for General Dynamics, then managed wind farms in California for an unregulated subsidiary of FPL.