TAMPA — The Public Service Commission Nominating Council narrowed down its list of candidates to replace ousted Commissioners David Klement and Benjamin "Steve" Stevens on Tuesday and agreed to interview 28 people.
Klement and Stevens were appointed by Gov. Charlie Crist in October but were forced out of their jobs in May after the Senate failed to confirm them to the state utility board.
The nominating council will meet again in Orlando on June 10 and interview the candidates deemed "most qualified" because they each received at least five votes from the 12-member nominating council. The council is made up of six legislators and six private citizens who are appointed by the House speaker and Senate president.
The top vote-getters from the legislatively dominated council were former state Sen. Curt Kiser, who was hired as the PSC's general counsel in November; and Kevin Wiehle, staff director for the Senate utilities committee. Each received 11 votes.
Receiving 10 votes each were James Baumstark, a retired nuclear engineer, formerly with Progress Energy; and Sen. Lee Constantine, a Republican state senator from Altamonte Springs who retires this year because of term limits.
Council chairman Sen. Mike Bennett, R-Bradenton, started the meeting by telling the council to be very careful to follow Sunshine Law rules because the PSC has been under scrutiny in recent months.
Seven candidates, including three African-Americans, didn't make Bennett's cut but were given a second chance because of a request by Sen. Arthenia Joyner, D-Tampa. They are:
• Gary Huff, a former NFL quarterback and now controller at Florida State University.
• Jason Fischer, manager of renewable energy initiatives and utility management for the U.S. Navy and Department of Defense in Jacksonville, who worked for Florida Power & Light in 2006.
• Vernice Atkins-Bradley, lawyer and a construction contracting consultant whose clients include the Orlando Utilities Commission.
• Benson Charles, owner of a real estate brokerage and financial consulting firm in Miami.
• Kevin Neal, lawyer and work force services director at the Agency for Workforce Innovation, formerly a staff aide to Gov. Jeb Bush and deputy executive director at the PSC.
• Michael Green, vice president of Duke Energy in Florida, who now resides in New Smyrna Beach.
• Ennis Leon Jacobs, Tallahassee lawyer and former PSC commissioner appointed by Gov. Lawton Chiles, who has represented the Natural Resources Defense Council and Southern Alliance for Clean Energy before the PSC.
Janet Zink can be reached at email@example.com.
The applicants chosen for interviews to the PSC include:
• John Ustica, a Fort Myers accountant who owned the Tamiami Village Water Company from 1994-2008, which was regulated by the PSC.
• Connie Murray, a lawyer and rate case consultant for Ameren Union Electric company and former member of the Missouri Public Service Commission from May 1997 through June 2009 who owns a home in Sun City Center Florida. The Missouri PSC paid $103,000 for a post that was appointed by the governor and certified by the Senate. Murray served two full six year terms after serving in the Missouri General Assembly from 1991-96.
• Gary Huff, a former NFL quarterback and now controller at Florida State University. His contract with the company ends in July. He cited among his qualifications that he earned a degree in accounting from FSU, has been CFO for the FSU athletic department from Sept. 2006 to Feb. 2010, was formerly vice president of operations with a Cellular South in Jackson, Miss., and has held positions in various companies. He played professional football from 1973-81 for Chicago, Tampa Bay and San Francisco.
• Eduardo E. Balbis, a licensed professional engineer and assistant city administrator of West Palm Beach.
• Julie I. Brown, lawyer with the First American title insurance company and former assistant city attorney for the City of Tampa.
• W. Brian Martin, an economist and president of Fishkind and Associates who works for utility clients, including FPL, preparing reports on the fiscal and economic impact of power plants on a community.
• Gerardo B. Fernandez, president of Fernandez Consulting Group who worked for 19 years with FPL. He said in his application that none of his clients "has direct ties to public utilities regulated by the Commission." He is a former member of the South Florida Water Management District and is being privately pushed by FPL.
• Vernice Atkins-Bradley, a lawyer and regional director for Turner Construction Company in Orlando until January. She said she resigned the job to start her own contracting company. Among her past construction contracting clients has been the Orlando Utilities Commission.
• Jason Fischer, manager of renewable energy initiatives and utility management for the U.S. Navy and Department of Defense in Jacksonville. Worked for FPL for eight months as a distribution design engineer in 2006.
• James Baumstark, nuclear engineer and retired vice president of Consolidate Edison's central engineering in New York. He was employed by Progress Energy at its Crystal River nuclear plant from 1996-98. He now resides in Crystal River.
• Felicia Banks West, a lawyer and legislative consultant with Clyburn Consulting in Washington, D.C. She was previously recommended by the PSC but rejected by Crist because of her previous work as a staff attorney at the PSC.
• Curt Kiser, former Republican state senator from Palm Harbor and current general counsel of the PSC.
• Stuart Pollins, research director at the Agency for Workforce Innovation and former utility analyst for former Gov. Jeb Bush.
• Angel M. Cartagena, lawyer who started his own leadership training company based in Maryland. Former general counsel of a Metromedia Communications, a phone company seeking to operate in Florida. Served for three years on the District of Columbia PSC.
• Reginald D. Hicks, assistant county attorney for Broward County but does not want to resign from his job if appointed.
• Benson Charles, owner of real estate brokerage and financial consulting firm in Miami.
• Arthur Graham, a member of the Jacksonville City Council since 2003 and president of an environmental consulting firm in Jacksonville.
• Kevin Neal, lawyer and workforce services director at the Agency for Workforce Innovation, formerly was a staff aide to Gov. Jeb Bush and was deputy executive director at the PSC.
• Ron Brise, a state representative from Miami, and CEO of a telecommunications company.
• Mary Bane, recently retired executive director of the PSC.
• Kevin Wiehle, legislative analyst for the state Senate Committee on Communications, Energy and Public Utilities.
• Charles Ranson, Tallahassee lawyer whose clients include telecommunications companies.
• Peter Williams, inspector general for the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration; appointed statewide prosecutor under Crist from 2002-2006; former assistant attorney general in antitrust section.
• Adriene B. Wright, director of development at Florida A & M University and formerly was with the Electric Power Research Institute in Washington, D.C. from 2000 to 2005.
• Michael Green, president of Mainline Homeland Security Products in Concord, North Carolina., which specializes in increasing awareness of threats to public water systems. Retired vice president of Duke Energy in Florida and personally appeared before the PSC. Resides in New Smyrna Beach.
• Ennis Leon Jacobs, Tallahassee lawyer and former PSC commissioner appointed by Gov. Lawton Chiles who has represented the Natural Resources Defense Council and Southern Alliance for Clean Energy before the PSC.
• Lee Constantine, state senator, resigned as chairman of the PSC Nominating council to apply for the job.
• Patrick Wiggins, lawyer who formerly represented clients before PSC and worked for the PSC now serves as executive director of the Neighborhood Health Services in Tallahassee, a charitable organization that provides health care services to the uninsured.